Hot-shooting Lynx down Flames
The Sydney Flames fought hard on Wednesday but lost their WNBL nail-biter to the Perth Lynx 80-72 at the Bendat Basketball Centre.
Both teams traded early triples, including one from Flames’ Jocelyn Willoughby, to start the fixture before the visitors’ pace saw them gain the ascendancy (11-7) midway through the term – a lead which quickly extended to seven (18-11) with 2.50 on the clock. A couple of late defensive lapses by the Hoops Capital side and magic by the Lynx’s Sami Whitcomb saw the hosts finish the term on a 7-0 and take the lead at the first change 19-18.
The scoring drought of Shane Heal’s side extended into the second term until Willoughby hit a fade-away jump shot with 6.50 on the clock. Thankfully Sydney’s resolute defence kept them in the fixture and helped them draw level (26-all) towards the end of the period. A barrage of threes by the Lynx late in the piece – coupled with Sydney turnovers – put the hosts up by four (39-35) at half-time.
Tough plays on both ends of the court from bigs Keely Froling and Hannah Sjerven early in the third kept the Flames within striking distance, as scoring proved hard to come by both sides. A 7-0 run by the Flames, capped by a fastbreak connection between Tiana Mangakahia and Kiera Rowe, saw Heal’s outfit draw level (47-all) with 2.45 to play. A Willoughby offensive masterclass late in the term put Sydney up 54-53 at the final break.
A 7-0 run, including four quick ones from Shyla Heal, saw the Flames extend their advantage to eight. But the Lynx then rattled off six straight themselves, to make it 61-59 and force Heal to call a time-out. The hosts regained the lead as their onslaught from deep continued, powered by guard Robbi Ryan. At the death, Willoughby and Heal did all they could but clutch baskets by the Lynx secured them the eight-point victory.
Where the match was decided
The biggest discrepancy on the stat sheet was the three-point shooting, with Perth landing 13/31 (41 per cent) from downtown, compared to just 4/18 (22 per cent) for the Flames. The Lynx also won the rebound count (43-37), assists (20-13), second-chance points (10-4) and bench points (16-4).
Just when it appeared the Flames were making their move in the fourth quarter, crucial triples by Amy Atwell and Ryan, helped the hosts finish the game on a 9-3 run – which clinched Perth the round three showdown.
Player of the game
Jocelyn Willoughby was an absolute standout for the Flames, using her speed and athleticism to impact the game on both ends. The New York Liberty WNBA star finished the round three clash with 26 points, including three triples, five assists, three steals and one rebound.
The US import was well-supported by Flames skipper Keely Froling, who tallied 15 points, nine boards and three dimes.
Shane Heal’s side, who are now 0-2 on the season, will play their third straight road game to open the season when they travel to Adelaide to take on the Lightning on Saturday.
The round two fixture at Adelaide Arena tips off at 7.30pm AEDT and will be broadcast via 9Now.