Flames fall just short as Lightning move into top four with win

December 5, 2018 | Sydney Flames news

Having picked up their first win of the season last weekend against Bendigo, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames couldn’t quite make it two in a row as the visiting Adelaide Lightning emerged with an 82-72 victory in a physical contest that saw 49 fouls called and four players foul out. Brittany Smart led the way for the home side with 14 points, one of four Flames in double-figures.

From the outset, two vastly differing styles began to emerge as the Flames looked to use their perimeter shooting whilst the Lightning took advantage of their size advantage inside, with an intriguing battle ensuing in the early stages. The visitors’ first thirteen points all came from in or close to the paint, including an early Lauren Nicholson and-one, and with the Flames giving up an 8-0 run after taking an early 6-5 lead, Cheryl Chambers was forced into an early timeout with the scoreboard reading 13-6.

Scoring continued to be a problem for the Flames out of the timeout as the Lightning kept the pressure on the home side’s shooters as they extended the lead out to 16 points at one stage before the Flames reeled off a 9-0 run as Alex Delaney added a late tip-in in transition before Tahlia Tupaea rounded out the quarter with a pair of free throws in the final second of the term to see the quarter end with the score reading 23-15 in the Lightning’s favour.

Nicholson moved into double figures with the opening basket of the second quarter, but an immediate response from Graham kept the Flames within eight as the home side came out with plenty of momentum in the second quarter. Slowly the home side chipped away at the lead, with Shanae Greaves taking advantage of Kayla Alexander’s absence from the court with two fouls to find some success inside. Eventually, a plethora of offensive rebounds and defensive breakdowns proved too much for Chris Lucas to accept, and the Lightning coach called a timeout with the Flames back within four at 29-25 down just four minutes into the second term.

The Lightning certainly came out stronger after the timeout, but the Flames responded well to prevent the visitors from going on a run with some desperate defence in transition. But turnovers each way stifled both teams’ scoring potential before Nicole Seekamp attacked the basket hard to earn her way to the charity stripe and split a pair at the line. Although the Lightning called a timeout soon after to regroup for the final two minutes of the term, neither team was able to produce much of anything on offence as the first half ended with the visitors leading 38-34.

An early jumper for Tupaea looked as though it may send the Flames on their way early in the second half, but with Alexander back on court after sitting for much of the second quarter, the Lightning were able to defend the interior much more effectively. Then, with the Lightning up 45-34, Belinda Snell was called for a technical foul and although Adelaide couldn’t convert the free throw, the more pressing issue was that it constituted the Flames’ legend’s fourth foul of the contest as a lack of discipline crept into the home side’s game at times.

With the Flames’ shooting eluding them at times, a far more efficient Lightning side was able to quickly increase the lead, which hit the 20-point mark late in the third term. But once again the home side countered in the final minutes of the term, with a pair of threes from Brittany Smart cutting the margin to 58-46 at one point before the Lightning managed to regroup to take a 62-48 lead into the final term.

A trademark three from the returning Snell put the Flames within 11 with 8 to play, but the Flames found it tough to get any closer than that as the Lightning continued to respond. Flames coach Cheryl Chambers picked up the home side’s second technical foul of the night, but with the Lightning once again failing to convert the free throw, the damage was minimal. Smart moved to 16 with another three soon after, but Snell fouled out of the game on the next possession, leaving the Flames down 12 and also down their leader with six minutes to play. However, with the game becoming increasingly chippy, the Flames began to chip away at the Lightning lead until Nicholson added a basket for the visitors to calm things slightly, with the lead sitting at 71-60 with three minutes to play.

With Alexander back on court, points in the paint looked as though they would be hard to come by for the Flames, but Greaves defied her size disadvantage for a tidy finish. But as she had all night, Nicholson continued to torch her former club, earning and converting an and-one to seemingly put the game out of the Flames’ reach with just over a minute to play. But a three-pointer from Panousis combined with a pair of free throws for Greaves suddenly put the Flames back within 9 to force a Lightning timeout. However, the visitors would do enough in the final stages to hold off the home side and secure an 82-72 victory.

Four Flames finished in double-figures, led by Brittany Smart’s 14 points including 3 of 5 from beyond the arc, whilst Tahlia Tupaea hit 10 of 12 at the charity stripe to tally 12 points. Shanae Greaves added 13, whilst Vanessa Panousis chipped in an even 10. Former Flame Lauren Nicholson dropped 26 to lead the Lightning, whilst Nicole Seekamp added 14 points and 10 assists as well as the undoubted play of the night with a scintillating behind-the-back dribble to open up the space for a midrange stepback jumper.