Flames ignite season with victory against Capitals

December 10, 2022 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames ignited their WNBL23 campaign on Saturday by downing the Canberra Capitals 92-80 at the National Convention Centre. 

The victory ends a five-game skid for Sydney and represents their highest-scoring output in WNBL23. 

Match summary 

Needing a fast start, the Flames – who started Kiera Rowe instead of Hannah Sjerven – got just that, scoring 12 of the first 16 behind strong play by wing Jocelyn Willoughby. But Shane Heal’s side didn’t have it all their own way, as the hosts rattled off a 9-2 run, to close within three points. Late scores by Sjerven and Tiana Mangakahia ensured the visitors held a 27-23 lead at half-time. 

Five quick points by guard Mangakahia sparked a 7-2 for the Hoops Capital side, to lead 34-25. The Flames’ hot shooting (hitting six of their first seven attempts from downtown) saw their advantage stretch to double digits. Late scores by Capitals’ Emilee Whittle-Harmon and Nicole Munger brought the host back into it before a Shyla Heal triple late on gave the harbour city side an eight-point lead (48-40) at the main break – thanks largely to hitting 67 per cent of their shots through the first 20 minutes. 

It was the hosts who jumped out of the blocks fast in the third, closing the margin to just two points thanks to a 13-7 run. The two sides then traded baskets, as the match stayed within a two-possession game for the next few minutes before the lead grew to eight following three free-throws by Emma Clarke. Late in the term, the screen and roll play by Heal and skipper Keely Froling caused plenty of headaches for the Caps, as the Flames led 74-63 at the final change. 

In the fourth, timely buckets from Froling and Willoughby kept the Flames in charge, despite Jade Melbourne doing all she could for the hosts. Clutch free-throws down the stretch by Heal down the stretch held off a spirited comeback by Canberra, as Sydney chalked up their first win of WNBL23 92-80. 

Where the match was decided 

The biggest factor on Saturday was the Flames’ impressive shooting, including 55 per cent from the field (compared to 46 of the Caps) and hitting 11/21 of their triples. 

Sydney also won the rebound count (34-29), blocks (2-0) and second-chance points (12-8) in the victory. 

Key moment 

The start of both the first (12-4) and second quarters (7-2) laid the platform for Heal’s side, with their determined defence unlocking their offense – both on the break and from downtown.  

Player of the game 

Leading the way for the Flames was captain Froling, who posted an impressive double-double of 22 points and 16 rebounds – to go along with two assists and one steal. 

The Townsville product was well supported by guard Heal (21 points, six boards and six dimes) and wing Willoughby (19 point, five rebounds and three assists) – with Mangakahia (14) and Clarke (10) also scoring in double-figures in the triumph. 

What’s next 

Another road trip awaits Heal’s side, who are 1-5 on the season, in round six, heading to Bendigo for the second time in WNBL23 to play the Spirit for the third and final time this campaign. 

The fixture at Red Energy Arena tips off at 5.30pm AEDT on Wednesday.