Second half struggles doom Flames in loss to Rangers

December 17, 2018 | Sydney Flames news

A tight first half gave way to a lopsided second as Brydens Sydney Uni Flames fell to a 106-73 loss to the playoff-chasing Dandenong Rangers, who were led by Rebecca Cole’s 31 points. Lara McSpadden impressed for the Flames with a double-double off the bench, tallying 12 points and 10 rebounds, whilst Tahlia Tupaea top scored with 16 points.

A fast-paced start to the game saw both teams get up and down the court at a rapid rate, but that didn’t necessarily lead to points in the early stages before a scintillating assist from Brittany Smart’s close-range finish and a runner for Sarah Graham in the space of less than a minute helped the Flames on their way. Belinda Snell created havoc with some dynamic post moves to earn her way to the line, but the Rangers retained a slender lead throughout the opening stages as Rachel Jarry opened up with 8 early points before a Flames timeout with the team down 13-10.

The Rangers threatened to break the game open in the second part of the opening term, but Smart cut a 20-14 deficit in half by earning an and-one with some outstanding dribbling and a tidy finish before adding the extra point at the line. Soon after, a Vanessa Panousis three eliminated that deficit entirely before Carley Mijovic responded with a hand in her face to restore the Rangers’ advantage. Betnijah Laney and Tahlia Tupaea traded baskets to end the quarter, leaving the game evenly poised at 25-22 in the Rangers’ favour after 10 minutes.

A tough close-range finish from Shanae Greaves opened the second quarter, and when Smart slipped Greaves a pass on the Flames’ next possession for a far easier shot, the Flames were humming along and it wasn’t long before Rangers coach Larissa Anderson decided a timeout was required. The chance to reconvene worked wonders for the visitors, who went on a quick 5-0 run and soon after it was the Flames needing to put a stop to things with a timeout of their own.

However, the timeout did little to stem the flow of points as the Rangers moved within sight of a double-digit lead before McSpadden finished through contact and went to the line. The Flames’ young starlet couldn’t convert, but Greaves’ offensive rebound led to a three from Smart and suddenly the momentum had shifted. But another Rangers timeout led to another run from the visitors as the Flames picked up a number of fouls. However, with Lara McSpadden doing well off the bench and Tahlia Tupaea earning a late and-one to join Smart in double figures, the Flames remained in touch down 50-41 at halftime.

The Flames came out aggressively on defence to open the second half but couldn’t prevent Tessa Lavey from knocking down a corner three as the Rangers’ lead grew to 14 points in quick time. With the Rangers shooting 50% from deep to the Flames’ 13% clip, even the absence of Rachel Jarry with four fouls couldn’t slow the hot-shooting visitors as the Flames called a timeout four minutes into the second half.

The stoppage slowed the Rangers’ momentum slightly, but with Lavey continuing to put on a clinic from deep and the visitors’ offence generally in good rhythm, the lead continued to escalate until Amanda Johnson picked off a pass late in the piece to dish to Vanessa Panousis in transition, who found a trailing Shanae Greaves for what looked to be the final basket of the quarter until Laney knocked down a buzzer-beating midrange jumper to put the Rangers up 71-54 with a quarter to play.

As she had all night, Rebecca Cole’s ability to drive to the rack posed problems for the Flames as the Rangers continued to push the pace. The Flames responded to just about every Rangers basket in the early stages of the final quarter, but just hanging with their opposition would not be enough to chip away at the margin, which continued to hover just shy of the 20-point mark. Jarry returned to the game and immediately added to the Rangers’ score with a jumper, before Flames rookie Maddy Norris knocked down a midrange shot of her own shortly after her first foray into the contest. But a couple of long-range plays from the visitors forced Chambers into a timeout after defensive lapses allowed the Rangers some easy baskets.

The Flames were valiant in the final term, but with Cole putting on an outside shooting clinic after getting to the rack with ease earlier in the game, the margin escalated at an alarming pace as the Rangers’ score moved into triple digits. A late Maddie O’Hehir three gave the Flames fans something to cheer about, but a 56-32 second half turned a game that was close at halftime into a comfortable 106-73 victory for the Dandenong side.

Tahlia Tupaea led the way for the Flames with 16 points, with Lara McSpadden adding a highly impressive 12-point, 10-rebound double-double in just 19 minutes off the bench. Vanessa Panousis and Brittany Smart also finished in double figures with 11 and 10 points respectively. Rebecca Cole’s 31 points led five Dandenong players in double figures, with Tessa Lavey, Carley Mijovic, Rachel Jarry, and Betnijah Laney all clearing 10 points, with Laney also adding 9 rebounds and 6 assists.