Spirit defeat Flames on George’s historic night

November 25, 2023 | Sydney Flames news

The Sydney Flames suffered their third loss of the season on Saturday, going down 82-66 to the Bendigo Spirit at Red Energy Arena.

The match which saw Cayla George become the WNBL’s all-time leader in rebounds, also marked Australian Opals captain Tess Madgen’s first in Sydney colours – seeing her become Flame #220.

Match summary  

Ally Wilson scored Bendigo’s first four points but buckets from Cayla George and Tess Madgen (her first as a Flame) put Sydney in front. The reigning WNBL MVP George etched her name in the record books soon after by becoming the competition’s all-time rebounds leader with 3230 boards. Scores off the bench from Paige Bradley and Bendigo product Ahlise Hurst pushed Sydney’s ad to seven (16-9) but an 8-2 record to end the term made it 18-17 at quarter-time to the Hoops Capital club.  

2023 WNBA champion George opened the scoring in the second with a pair of triples, forcing the hosts to call a time-out. Another three by Hurst pushed the lead out to nine (29-20) before Vanessa Panousis joined in on the act from downtown. Scores from Bradley, Lara McSpadden (following an excellent screen and roll with Madgen) and Emma Clarke kept the scoreboard ticking over. A number of triples by Bendigo, from Mehryn Kraker, Abbey Wehrung and Casey Samuels saw them stay within striking distance late in the half. Eight quick points from Clarke ensured the harbour city side held a 46-37 at the main break. 


The Spirit opened the half on a 10-3 run, following back-to-back triples by Wehrung, to close the margin to 49-47. Without George on the court due to foul trouble, Madgen settled the Flames with a timely bucket before Bendigo hit the lead with an Alicia Froling and-one. Six straight free-throws by Froling (who had 11 for the term) sparked the hosts to a massive 28-9 quarter win – seeing them lead by 10 going into the fourth. 

Both teams struggled to score in the opening exchanges in the fourth but a bucket from Lauren Nicholson ensured the Flames stayed in the hunt. This was followed by four quick ones by George before she was fouled out by the officials with 3.37 left to play. A triple by Clarke reduced the deficit to 11 with just over two minutes to play. In the end, the Spirit chalked up the first win of WNBL24, downing the Flames 82-66. 

Where the match was decided  

Apart from the huge second half, the Spirit won the game thanks to statistical victories in field goal percentage (41-30), free-throw percentage (78-61), assists (17-11), points in the paint (34-18), second-chance points (16-5) and bench points (37-30) – while committing four less turnovers (13-9). 

Key moment  

The dominant third quarter by the Spirit, in which they outscored Sydney 28-9, set up the round four win – in Kennedy Kereama’s 100th WNBL game as coach. 

Player of the game 

In a historic night for her, George was the standout for the Flames, finishing with 14 points, 13 rebounds and four blocks. 

The only other two Flames to score in double-figures were Bradley and Clarke, who both finished with 11. 

What’s next  

Molloy’s side, who are now 2-3, now head to Newcastle for the first ever Harvey Norman roadshow, which will saw the Hoops Capital club visit the Hunter Region from December 1-3. 

Following that, they head to Adelaide for a round five clash on Wednesday, December 8 against the Lightning at Adelaide Arena from 6.30pm AEDT. 

The Flames’ next home game is on Saturday, December 16 against Townsville at Quaycentre, with tickets for the 6pm clash still available here.