Flames fightback to secure huge comeback win over Lightning

January 12, 2023 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames have fought back from as many as 23 points down to defeat the Adelaide Lightning 81-77 on Thursday night at Adelaide Arena. 

The win marks the Flames’ second on the road in WNBL23 and first in Adelaide since 2017. 

Match summary 

Adelaide, wearing their Pride Round uniforms, started the stronger of the two sides – jumping out to an 11-2 lead, as the Flames missed eight of their nine seven shots. Despite a couple of buckets by US import Hannah Sjerven, the Flames fell behind by 11 midway through the opening term. But that closed to just eight (23-15) by the end of the opening period. 


South Dakota alum Sjerven continued to be the shining light for the Shane Heal’s side (in the absence of skipper Keely Froling) offensively, keeping the Hoops Capital side within striking distance. But with the Lightning scoring 10 of the first 16 points of the term, the lead grew to double digits once again. Despite craft playmaking by Jocelyn Willoughby and a pair of Tiana Mangakahia triples towards the end of the term, the harbour city side trailed 49-32 at the main break – thanks to 15 points from Isabel Borlase and a superior 62 to 27 per cent from the field by the hosts. 

Despite the return of Froling from her head knock, Adelaide scored the first six points of the term, as the lead ballooned to 23. But Willoughby wasn’t letting her go down that easy, scoring eight quick points for the Flames, to cut into the deficit – which was clawed back to just 10. Three quick triples by Kiera Rowe, Willoughby and Emma Clarke made it a four-point game with just one minute left. A late three by Clarke capped the Flames’ incredible 30-12 period, to lead 62-61 at the final change. 

Buckets by Mangakahia and Froling, combined with the Lightning going scoreless to close to five minutes, saw Sydney move up by five. Adelaide briefly retook the lead but another Clarke three put Heal’s side back in front. Mix that in with determined play by Froling on both ends kept Sydney’s nose in front, including a clutch jumper from the free-throw line to make it 77-73 with 49.1 to play. In a high-drama finish, late free-throws by Mangakahia sealed the four-point win. 

Where the match was decided 

Despite shooting poorer from the field (37 per cent compared to Adelaide’s 49) and collecting less rebounds (46-36), the Flames secured the win by recording more assists (23-19), steals (8-1) and points off turnovers (16-6) – while turning the ball over on eight less occasions. 

The Flames also hit six more triples and hit 83 per cent of their shots from the charity stripe, compared to 69 per cent from the hosts. 

Key moment 

The turning point for the match was easily the third term, where Willoughby sparked the Flames into a 30-12 10-minuute stretch. 

Player of the game 

Leading the way in the Flames’ fourth win for WNBL23 with New York Liberty star Willoughby, who tallied 21 points, eight rebounds, six assists and three steals. 

The US import was well supported in the triumph by Mangakahia (16 points), Sjerven (13), Clarke (12) and Froling (11). 

What’s next 

After two straight road fixtures, Heal’s side, who are now 3-8 in WNBL23, will return to Sydney this Sunday to take on the Townsville Fire for the first time this campaign. 

The fixture, which tips off at 1.30pm AEDT at Qudos Bank Arena, is the first part of the Hoops Capital double-header on January 15 – with the Kings taking on the Hawks following the WNBL fixture. 

Tickets for the hoops extravaganza are still available here