The Flames fall to the Fire in a final second thriller
The Sydney Flames fell agonisingly short of causing one of the upsets of the season, a last-second buzzer beater securing Townsville their 10th straight win (73-72) and a top-two spot on Sunday at Townsville.
The under-manned Flames showed incredible heart and fight throughout the game and were one point up with 1.4 seconds remaining before Fire import Tianna Hawkins nailed the game-winner in what was one of the games of the WNBL season.
The Flames will now prepare for their final match of the season on Sunday against the Melbourne Boomers in Melbourne.
The Flames showed they were not at all intimidated by the WNBL’s ladder leader, getting off to a flying start. The Flames led 10-2 just two minutes into the game with captain Keely Froling turning it on in front of her hometown fans who were showing her little respect. Froling hit two first quarter threes and Kiera Rowe was doing some great work at the defensive end as the Flames set about ending the Fire’s nine-game winning streak.
The Fire were dealt a blow early with star Lauren Nicholson sustaining a foot injury, which put her out for the remainder of the game. The Flames led 23-17 at the first change with the difference being the Flames hitting 5-9 from deep compared to the Fire’s 0-2.
Townsville talls Karlie Samuelson and Tianna Hawkins kept the fire in the game with some tough work and extraordinary shooting, while Flames import Jocelyn Willoughby was hit with her third foul midway through the second quarter. Froling had a monstrous first half with 12 points and nine rebounds as the Flames held strong, 41-36, at the main break.
The Fire lifted their defensive intensity and managed to grab the lead for the first time in the game halfway through the third term. The physicality and intensity was on display from the gutsy Flames as they battled back and scrapped for every loose ball and point. Froling brought up her double double as the Flames led 58-57 going into the final change.
Both teams traded blows early in the last quarter and Tiana Mangakahia started to assert her influence at the offensive end with important assists. Likewise, the Fire were managing to find their way inside with ease at their end to maintain a slim lead. Former Flame Shyla Heal was held to just two points and a fifth foul with minute to play put her out of the game.
The Flames were down by a point with time running out late in the last quarter, before Mangakahia penetrated and dished to Froling who hit a jumper with just 1.4 seconds remaining on the clock. It looked as though the Flames would cement and unlikely victory before the Hawkins miracle.
Where the match was decided
The Fire managed to lift their defensive intensity in the second half and put a stop on the Flames offensive onslaught. The Fire outscored the Flames 37-31 in the second half and it was largely as a result of their defensive pressure.
The Fire had the ball inbounds with 1.4 seconds on the clock, found Hawkins on the block and the star import managed to nail a little jump hook floater to secure her team the win by a point as the final siren sounded.
Players of the game
Keely Froling was outstanding in her hometown for the Flames.
Froling was a handful for the Fire all night and finished with 22 points and 12 rebounds on 9-19 shooting.
The Flames, who are now 6-14 this season, will head south to Melbourne to take on the Boomers, in their final game of the WNBL23 season.
The round 16 fixture tips off at 1pm AEDT on Sunday, March 5 – which will be broadcast live on 9Now.