05/03/2024

The Townsville Fire extended their winning streak against the Sydney Flames to nine games. (Photo: Townsville Fire)

The Townsville Fire came back from an eight-point deficit at halftime to defeat the Sydney Flames 82-78, in a thrilling encounter that went down to the final minute.

In front of their home crowd, it seemed like the Sydney Flames were going to exact retribution on the Townsville Fire after their loss to them two weeks ago. However, it was the Fire who extended their winning streak to nine against the Flames in a match that went down to the wire.

Trailing by eight points at half-time the Queensland side put on a valiant effort in the second half, getting to a lead of 15 before the Flames came back into the game. Although it was too little too late as the Fire excelled in their late-game shooting.

“I think if we had maybe another five minutes we probably would’ve got over the line,” Sydney Flames captain Keely Froling said post-match, who scored a game-high 24 points.

The statement by the Flames forward sums up the game to perfection. It was a back-and-forth battle in which whatever team outlasted one other would walk away with the win, with the defence of both teams at the forefront.

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The last time the two teams went head-to-head, Townsville captain Mikaela Ruef had a night to remember. Ruef scored a game-high 26 points and 12 rebounds obliterating the Flames’ frontcourt. However, this afternoon she didn’t get going until the final quarter.

Instead, Townsville had to rely upon its other frontcourt players with Ruef only scoring 10 points and Australian Opals superstar Stephanie Reid managing only eight points. Townsville was led by Tianna Hawkins and Karlie Samuelson who contributed 29 points of the frontcourt’s 60.

Despite the father-daughter duo Shane and Shyla Heal remaining absent from the court, Sydney still had a great start to the game. Although, just like most Flames games they failed to be consistent throughout all four quarters.

“I think that’s really been the story of our season and it’s been one quarter always that lets us down. So, we’ll go back in and try to work on that,” Froling said.

However, despite the lacklustre third quarter with the home crowd behind them, the Flames came back into the game and didn’t give up, something that is rarely seen from them.

Captain Keely Froling was impressed by her team’s performance, especially defensively and by coming back into the game. She coined that if the game had lasted a little longer an upset of the Fire could have prevailed.

“I think at the start of the year we kind of get out of games and then we’ll let it go like that. Now we’re fighting back and fighting back. I think if we had maybe another five minutes we probably would’ve got over the line,” she said.

“Our defence was probably one of the better games we played tonight and we’re moving the ball so well. (The) last couple of games we started to move the ball well and see that scoring spread which is great.”

The Sydney Flames will have a six-day break before taking on Lauren Jackson’s Southside Flyers, while the Townsville Fire will travel to Western Australia to take on the Perth Lynx to begin February.

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