Sydney Flames players line up for the National Anthem. (Photo: Cameron Lucas)

Heartbreak for Flames as Spirit rise

It came down to one final play for the win, but an intercepted pass left the Sydney Uni Flames shattered at the final buzzer. Again.

In a gripping match where the lead never got out past seven points, the Bendigo Spirit played host to the luckless and winless Flames. The final score read 66-64 in the Spirit’s favour, with a 14 point game from Nadeen Payne nudging the Spirit over the line.

The Flames came out firing , with Ally Wilson hitting back to back 3s to give them a 6-0 lead before the Spirit knew what hit them. Alex Bunton worked hard but was struggling in the paint, eventually finding redemption on the stripe, hitting five of six free-throws.

Vanessa Panousis hit a three on the quarter time buzzer and the Flames were up at the end of the first.

On her farewell tour, Captain Belinda Snellgave the Flames breathing space by hitting a three to open the second quarter. But nothing was coming easily for the visitors as they continually ran into a rock-solid Spirit defence.

Going into the big break, the Flames had their noses in front and, despite the smothering Spirit defense, they were still finding avenues to the basket. Shooting 30 per cent from the perimeter and 75 per cent from the free throw line, they were making the most of their shots.

Enter Nadeen Payne. Grabbing the game by the scruff of the neck, Payne swung the balance back the Spirit’s way, working both ends of the court.

“We wanted the ball to do the work and not force stuff,” Payne said. “We had some really great subs come in. Marena Whittle came in had four boards and just real high energy.”

Payne was in everything, with four points, two assists and one defensive rebound as the teams finished the third quarter level on 47 points.

Driven by constant momentum swings, the lead changed 10 time sin the fourth quarter.

Where Payne had sparked the Spirit in the third, Ally Wilson provided that for the Flames in the last, hauling in six points (including a timely three), and assist and a block. Wilson ran herself into the ground for the Flames, playing all 40 minutes of game time.

Britt Smart continued her superb form for the Flames with 17 points, four rebounds and four assists.

“We definitely thought this was our game,” Smart said. “I thought we completed well, we came out with a vibe and rebounded, we backed up strong after our last game.”

“Just couldn’t get over the line.”

The Flames will now return home to prepare for the Spirit in a return game.

“Look it was really close,” Flames coach Cheryl Chambers said. “We had our opportunities. We missed on a few. You know I think there are a few things that didn’t go our way which are, I think, game changing.”

Chambers says preparation is key to breaking out of the team’s losing streak.

“We’ll just do it because that’s what you do when you’re in battle, you just go back,” she said. “It’s not really about the losses. It’s about how you respond after you have them.”

The Flames will have a six day break now before the take on the Spirit on Sunday afternoon at Qudos Bank arena. Bendigo will host the Dandenong Rangers this Friday evening before flying to Sydney to take on the Flames.