WNBL Round 11 Recap: Flames fight through adversity

Round 11 started with some dramatic Sydney Flames news, but was overshadowed by a few strong wins, depth was exposed as several star players sat out the round, while some players had to dig deep and show what they are truly made of. It's hard to tell who will feature in the top four and in what order, but it's bound to be a competitive race to the finish.


It was no ordinary week for the Sydney Flames with the team handed another set of difficult circumstances to overcome. Less than 24 hours before tip-off, the Flames had lost their head coach and star point guard and were thrown in the deep end before their clash against the Southside Flyers. Mystery surrounds exactly why both Shane and Shyla Heal were unavailable for either game this round, however it has been stated by the club as 'personal reasons.' No one would have blamed the Flames for collapsing internally and losing badly to the much higher ranked Flyers team, but it was in fact, the opposite that happened. Playing with plenty of energy, likely fired up from emotion, the Flames played some of their best basketball of the season. Tiana Mangakahia stood out, showing us how good she is from the point position and leading her team from the front - she had 26 points, five rebounds and eight assists. But it was a team performance, they stunned the Flyers and took the game to the wire, it was only a few rash decisions at the end that let them down and allowed the Flyers to grab the win.


The outcome of this game was less clear when it was announced that Steph Reid would not be playing, especially with Steph Talbot back in the Adelaide Lightning line up, suddenly, the Townsville Fire didn't look as strong. From the get-go, it was clear that Talbot was there to win, she led her team on the scoring front, Lauren Mansfield and Izzy Borlase backing her up. Despite it being a close game at the half, the Lightning could not stem the flow of scoring from the Fire. Without Reid running the offence, attacking the rim, and finding open players, Lauren Nicholson was given the job. She's not your standard point guard, but she didn't have to carry the load, as sharpshooter Karlie Samuelson lit up from deep, scoring 5-11 threes, not to mention, 7-8 from 2pt range. The unrivalled scoring from Samuelson, Tianna Hawkins and Nicholson was too much for the Lightning, the Fire finishing the game ahead by 29 points. The Fire's spot on the ladder has been in jeopardy with a few teams in rhythm and hot on their heels, however, it's hard to imagine them going anywhere if this is what they're capable of.


Given the results of the Bendigo Spirit's games lately, it's hard to believe they started the season with eight straight wins. Coming to play at a loud Boom Box on Sunday, against the top team and without their best player in Kelsey Griffin, it was always going to be tough. And that's how it started, the Melbourne Boomers were making it look easy, their offence was flowing and their shots dropping. Miela Goodchild had a quick five points; Cayla George was in rhythm and Tiffany Mitchell drove to the basket with ease. The same couldn't be said for their opposition. Alicia Froling was struggling to finish under the ring, Anneli Maley was kept off the boards and the Spirit team were hard to recognise. Although improving throughout the game, the Boomers remained in control and confident. That was until the momentum took a turn. Abby Wehrung's stellar three point shooting continued and then it was Tessa Lavey's turn to join the party. Between getting a handout to those players, Kristy Wallace and Cayla George in foul trouble and Kelly Wilson intent on finishing at the rim, the Boomers were caught out of rhythm and looking stagnant. Despite some good shots not dropping when it counted at the end, they were not able to stay with the Spirit who stole the win by five points.


Flyers 96 def. Flames 91

Spirit 86 def. UC Caps 74

Fire 92 def. Lightning 63

Lynx 87 def. Flames 68

Flyers 97 def. UC Caps 81

Spirit 81 def. Boomers 76