Lynx Extinguish Flames
By Lachy France
Still missing star forward Asia Taylor, Brydens Sydney Uni Flames couldn’t quite make it two wins from two games this weekend, going down 84-79 to a fast-starting Perth Lynx side despite cutting the margin to a single point late in the game. Alex Wilson top scored for the Flames with 22 points, whilst Jennifer Hamson picked up her second double-double of the round with 11 points and 16 rebounds.
The Lynx opened the scoring with a three through Sami Whitcomb after both teams missed their opening attempts, but Alex Wilson immediately responded in kind for the Flames as two of the premier three-point shooters in the competition showcased their talents early. With Courtney Williams finding players in good position with aplomb, Kayla Standish grabbed two quick buckets, and Sami Whitcomb added one not long after as the Lynx took an early lead.
Whilst Williams was dishing at one end, Belinda Snell was doing a similarly outstanding job of facilitating for the Flames. Her first assist of the contest took the Opals legend into 7th position for career assists in the WNBL, but the Lynx remained in control through the early stages to hold an 11-7 lead going into the game’s first media timeout.
Williams continued to create, this time for herself, out of the timeout as her ball handling skills allowed her put the Lynx six clear. Carly Boag retrieved her own miss to keep the Flames in touching distance, but the Lynx continued to steadily build their lead. Alice Kunek had the chance to extend the lead to double-figures, but a block from Jennifer Hamson put paid to that. However, Kunek stepped out to the perimeter on the inbounds play and drained a three to take the score to 24-13 in the visitors’ favour. Katie-Rae Ebzery earned a trip to the line and drained both free throws, and with Whitcomb’s last-second three only catching front iron, the first quarter ended with the Flames leading 24-15.
The second quarter started with Hamson earning a trip to the line but the American was unable to convert either attempt. However, some quick passing on the Flames’ next trip down the floor allowed Susi Walmsley to find Belinda Snell open for a three which trimmed the visitors’ lead slightly. Kunek responded with a basket of her own, before Walmsley split a pair at the line after driving with the shot clock winding down and drawing the foul.
Snell was the next player to make her way to the line as the Flames continued to draw fouls, but she also could only make one from two as the home side left vital points at the charity stripe. With the Lynx penetrating the Flames’ defence almost at will at times, the visitors built their lead to 36-22 at the media timeout midway through the term.
Williams had the chance to put the Lynx 18 up but her three-point attempt missed everything, and when Wilson knocked down a three at the other end, the Flames had reduced the margin to 12. Williams quickly atoned for her error with a midrange shot from the baseline. Sarah Graham then knocked down her first basket of the game, getting rid of her defender and draining a three. Shanae Greaves earned a trip to the line and split a pair as the Flames showed real aggression on the offensive glass, but Kunek continued her outstanding first half by knocking down yet another shot to take her total to 17 points before halftime.
Some outstanding passing on the break between Snell, Ebzery, and Wilson saw the latter finish with a nifty lay-up in traffic, and with yet another buzzer-beater from Whitcomb missing, the Flames went into half-time down 43-34, with Wilson leading the team with 10 points. However, the team’s 11 turnovers were a real point of concern at this point.
The second half started in the best way possible for the Flames as Belinda Snell finished a tough look, drawing and converting the and-one opportunity in the process. Hamson made it five points in a row for the Flames shortly after and suddenly the margin was down to four at 43-39. However, Kunek split a pair from the charity stripe to immediately extend the visitors’ lead.
Whilst the Flames were able to score more readily than in the first half, the defence continued to have trouble preventing the Lynx from finding their way to the basket. Fortunately, the rebounding prowess of Hamson kept second-chance looks to a minimum for the visitors and the margin hovered around the nine-point mark for much of the early stages of the third quarter.
Hamson knocked down a pair of free throws, but Sami Whitcomb responded with a trademark three to immediately negate any impact the Flames’ scoring may have had. Whereas the Flames were the team hitting the offensive glass hard, in the third quarter it was the Lynx who were scrapping to find second chance looks at any opportunity. However, a Sarah Graham three to kick off the final minute trimmed the Lynx lead to 7. With no further scoring in the quarter, the teams went into the final ten minutes with the Lynx leading 65-56.
Williams and Ebzery traded baskets to open the final quarter scoring, before each team then drained threes, bringing the Flames within three and in possession. However, Williams picked off a pass but Whitcomb couldn’t nail the transition three which would have moved the Lynx six ahead.
Whitcomb did manage to draw contact and earn a trip to the line shortly after though. An errant Flames pass then allowed the 2016-17 All Star to add two more to the score via an easy lay-up on the break and quickly the score was back out to 74-67 heading into the final media timeout.
Snell was the first to score out of the timeout with a three that took her personal total to 15 and trimmed the margin to 4. The Flames’ skipper then came up with a block and hit another three on the next possession to make it a one-point game and force Lynx coach Andy Stewart into a timeout with just over three minutes to play
Williams took it to the rack on the first possession following the timeout, but the lay-up was off target and the Flames took back possession with a chance to hit the lead for the first time. The home side had three looks on one possession, but couldn’t get a shot to fall. However, neither could the Lynx as the scoring dried up for both teams until Whitcomb got open in transition and knocked down the wide-open three to give the Lynx a 77-73 lead with just over a minute to play, forcing a Flames timeout.
The Flames needed a basket immediately, and Alex Wilson provided from beyond the arc. However, Whitcomb continued to hit trademark threes of her own, hitting another to keep the margin at four. Wilson responded in kind yet again as the game came down to the final few seconds. Williams managed to drive to the hoop and lay the ball in to extend the Lynx lead to three with 21 seconds to play. Unfortunately, Graham’s three was off target and with the Lynx picking up the rebound, the Flames were forced to foul. Williams was the player who was sent to the line, and the American drained both shots to secure an 84-79 victory for the Lynx. Alex Wilson led the Flames with 22 points, whilst for the Lynx, Alice Kunek and Sami Whitcomb finished with 23 points apiece.
Brydens Sydney Uni Flames 79 (Wilson 22p, 5r; Snell 18p, 9r, 4a; Hamson 11p, 16r)
Perth Lynx 84 (Whitcomb 23p, 5r, 5a; Kunek 23p, 5r, 3a; Williams 18p, 7r, 5s)