Flames survive Lightning strike with overtime victory
By Lachy France
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames have secured their finals spot for 2017/18, but not before a thrilling game against the Adelaide Lightning which required overtime to decide the outcome. Eventually the Flames secured a 104-97 win, led by Asia Taylor’s 35 points and Jennifer Hamson’s double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds.
The Flames started the game well, getting the ball inside on multiple occasions as Asia Taylor and Jennifer Hamson led the early scoring for the home side. However, Abby Bishop was able to do the same for the Lightning, converting an early and-one opportunity to tie things at 8-8 early in the first quarter as both offences fired in the opening stages.
Scoring slowed a little as the quarter wore on, but the contest remained tight through to the first media timeout, with the scores at 12-12 as the teams went to the benches. Asia Taylor and Abby Bishop traded baskets, but Nicole Seekamp gave Adelaide a 15-14 lead after drawing a foul on Katie-Rae Ebzery and splitting a pair of free throws. The Flames continued to work inside for the majority of the first quarter, but Belinda Snell hit a deep two to regain the lead as the teams kept pace with each other.
A well-crafted pick and roll saw Snell find Carly Boag wide open on her way to the basket with time ticking away, but Sarah Elsworthy knocked down a deep two in the final seconds of the quarter to tie things up at 21-21 with ten minutes in the books, and surprisingly only one three-pointer between the two teams, courtesy of Lightning guard Aimie Clydesdale.
Clydesdale knocked down her second three of the game to open the second quarter scoring and deliver the Lightning a 24-21 lead, before picking off an errant pass and opening the lead up to 5 points on the next possession. Fortunately for the Flames, they were able to get a basket courtesy of a putback from Hamson on the next possession. Despite that basket, the Lightning opened the quarter on a 9-2 run to establish a 30-23 lead before Ebzery knocked down a three.
The Flames remained in touch down the stretch, but some excellent passing inside to find the open player around the basket from the Lightning combined with Clydesdale’s continued accuracy with her jumpsuit ensured the Adelaide side held the lead into the final four minutes of the half. However, with the Flames cutting the deficit to 40-37 through an Alex Wilson three, Lightning coach Chris Lucas called a timeout to set his side up for the last few minutes of the half.
An and-one for Clydesdale on the first possession out of the timeout could have doubled the Lightning lead, but the 2017 World University Games representative couldn’t connect on the free throw. Adelaide continued to build their lead though, as the Flames offence stagnated slightly at times before coach Cheryl Chambers called a timeout down 46-37 with two minutes remaining in the first half.
Bishop drew a foul on Hamson, her third of the game, to earn a trip the line and promptly convert the pair of free throws. Soon after, Taylor returned the favour, but Clydesdale followed up with a basket to take her first half tally to 17. Despite Taylor knocking down another pair of free throws to end the quarter, the Lightning remained up 52-42 at halftime, with Clydesdale leading all scorers with 17 points.
The Flames needed an early basket in the second half, and immediately found it through Hamson before scoring dried up at both ends as missed open looks and shot clock violations ended the next three possessions. Eventually, it was Abby Bishop knocking down a midrange jumper to re-establish Adelaide’s double-digit lead two minutes into the half.
As the Lightning lead ballooned out to 13 points at 59-46, the Flames came up with a couple of errant passes as they looked to spark the offence, but fortunately for the home side the Lightning were unable to capitalise, and soon enough, Snell was able to get a basket to fall before Taylor earned a trip to the line whilst going up in transition before making it four points in quick succession with a fast-break lay-up. Suddenly, the Flames were within seven at 59-52 as the media timeout was called midway through the third period following an unsportsmanlike foul which gave the Flames two shots and possession, with the home side trimming the margin to five in the process.
The teams traded baskets as the margin hovered around the seven point mark deep into the third quarter, with Sarah Graham knocking down a vital three as it looked as if the Flames’ offence was about to break down to trim the margin to four. An Ebzery pull-up jumper then moved the home side to within two points as the third quarter ended 68-66 in Adelaide’s favour.
The Flames opened the final quarter scoring through another Graham three, but Bishop responded with a solid post move to restore Adelaide’s advantage. However, it was the home side with the momentum, even as Clydesdale took her tally to 24 with yet another basket. Momentum is a funny thing though, and when Clydesdale made it 26 points for the afternoon soon after, the Lightning had taken a 74-73 lead with 7 minutes to play. The former Dandenong Rangers point guard then drove to the basket to move the margin out by two more and Chambers was forced into a timeout with just over six minutes to play.
A basket each way opened proceedings following the timeout before Alex Wilson tied the game with a three from the top of the arc, but Colleen Planeta responded immediately from point blank range. Graham moved into double digits with a corner three, and once again the home side had the advantage. The game see-sawed back and forth, with neither team able to establish a lead of more than one or two points before a timeout ensued with just over three minutes to play.
Asia Taylor earned and converted an and-one to move the Flames to an 86-84 lead, but Abby Bishop followed up with her own as Belinda Snell fouled out in the process and the game headed into the final two minutes with the Lightning up 87-86. Seekamp and Ebzery traded baskets, before Graham followed up Taylor’s missed lay-up on the break to see the Flames take a 90-89 lead with just over a minute to play.
Former Flame Lauren Nicholson managed to finish a tough lay-up, but Ebzery earned a trip to the line with the chance to put the Flames up with 17 seconds to play. The Rio Olympian missed the first, but made the second to tie the game with the ball in Adelaide’s hands. The Lightning had a chance with an inside pass, but the ball failed to find a pair of hands, and with the buzzer sounding in the background, the teams were destined for five more minutes to decide this one with scores tied at 91-91.
Baskets each way opened the extra term before Taylor drew contact and earned an and-one, but the 2017 WNBL All-Star Five member couldn’t convert the extra opportunity. However, the Flames earned a stop at the other end before Taylor found Hamson for a close-range basket to push the home side out to a 97-93 lead and force Chris Lucas to call a halt to proceedings.
Following the timeout, some outstanding defence from Hamson caused Bishop to leave her close-range shot short, giving the Flames an opportunity to extend the lead to six with under three minutes to play. Again, the Taylor-Hamson combination worked like a charm, but Nicole Seekamp’s pull-up jumper negated that basket.
A poor offensive set from the Flames gave the Lightning a chance to trim the lead, but the pass to Planeta failed to go to hand and the home side retained a 101-97 lead into the final minute, and when a foul was called on the Lightning in the rebounding contest, Taylor went to the line for the bonus shots. The American split a pair, but Wilson reeled in the rebound before an offensive foul was called to give the Lightning a slim chance. Clydesdale’s shot fell short, just her second miss of the day, giving Taylor yet another trip to the line. This time, she hit both, moving to 11-14 from the line for the game. Adelaide had a couple of late chances, but neither fell as the Flames ran out 104-97 winners, coming back from 13 points down to secure the win.
Asia Taylor led all scorers with a mammoth 35 points, whilst Jennifer Hamson added 19 points and 10 rebounds for yet another double-double. Katie-Rae Ebzery was outstanding to finish with 18 points and 8 assists, whilst Sarah Graham added a vital 13 points. Aimie Clydesdale was scintillating for Adelaide, shooting 12-14 from the field to tally 28 points, whilst Abby Bishop added 24 points, 14 rebounds, and 8 assists for a near triple-double.
The Flames will now seek to improve their position in the standings in the final week of the regular season, hosting Townsville on Friday December 29 at 6pm before travelling to Bendigo for their final game of the season on New Year’s Eve.
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames 104 (Taylor 35p, 6r; Hamson 19p, 10r; Ebzery 18p, 8r)
Adelaide Lightning 97 (Clydesdale 28p, 5a; Bishop 24p, 14r, 8a; Seekamp 15p, 4a)