Flames roar to spoil O’Hea’s home farewell
SYDNEY Uni Flames have spoiled Jenna O’Hea‘s final home Women’s National Basketball League (WNBL) game by defeating Southside Flyers by two points last night. O’Hea announced her retirement from the WNBL during the week, and with the Flyers heading interstate to round out the season, the clash at Dandenong Stadium was set to be her last home match with the reigning champions unable to qualify for finals. The Flames were in a similar boat heading in, and funnily enough sentenced the Flyers to the bottom of the table – at least temporarily – with the victory, an in the process strung their second straight victory together with the 68-66 win.
Sydney Uni Flames
Fresh off a win against Perth Lynx over in the west, the last placed Sydney Uni Flames had found some form, and young gun Shyla Heal, and fellow backcourt talent Funda Nakkasoglu would be returning to the side after missing the Flames win over the Lynx. Heal certainly helped straight back into the starting lineup, but it was Keely Froling who burst away scoring 10 of her side’s 21 points in the opening term as the Flames took a six-point lead into quarter time, 21-15.
That turned around in the second quarter as the home team started to get on top. Though the Flames got out to as much as an eight-point early in the term when Heal made a driving layup, Rebecca Cole stepped up. She made six consecutive points, with Sara Blicavs and Aimie Rocci both scoring baskets – with O’Hea involved off an assist and then a steal – to suddenly take the lead minutes into the term.
The teams traded baskets over the next couple, with Froling still cooking, but then Maddison Rocci joined the party to tie the scores twice with pull-up jump shots, including one straight off a steal. The Flyers were doing well in reading passes from the Flames and forcing turnovers. Maddison Rocci and O’Hea three-pointers later and the Flyers were up by their largest margin of five. Kalani Purcell and Froling clawed back to level with just over a minute on the clock, but a Blicavs jumpshot in the final minute handed the Flyers the half-time lead, 36-34.
The retiring O’Hea showed why she ha been such a champion over many years, scoring six of the first eight points of the third quarter to help the Flyers to a 42-36 lead. Froling and Heal were starting to get going for the Flames however, cutting the deficit back to one, only for a well-time Cole triple to extend the Flyers lead back out to four, 45-41. Flames development player Katie Deeble hit back-to-back baskets to make her presence felt, driving one layup then pickpocketing Rachel Jarry and converting the steal into a layup.
Maddison Rocci steadied the ship with a couple of free throws for the home team but Kiera Rowe levelled the scores again, then Deble produced an And-One chance for three more, with Nakkasoglu coming on to replace Heal and immediately having an impact with a triple. In the final minute, the Flames lead by six points (53-47), and held it until the end.
Cole continued to be a nuisance for the visitors, with back-to-back triples in the opening minute, including one just nine seconds into the match. Purcell’s And-One chance straight after was immediately countered with an O’Hea triple. Nakkasoglu (four) and Deeble (two) added more points to the cause to go up by six, as the match approached the halfway mark of the final term. Yet again a Rocci – this time Aimee – and O’Hea would cause more headaches for the visitors with back-to-back triples to tie the game.
A frantic final five minutes saw both teams trading blows, making mistakes and putting up defensive stops with Blicavs and O’Hea producing blocks for the home team, and Purcell and Froling rebounding for the visitors. With two minutes remaining Maddison Rocci hit two free throws to level the scores at 64-apiece. Froling responded with the three-point play to go a handy 67-64 up. O’Hea was fouled in the final 11 seconds but would only be two points worth at the line, and when Nakkasoglu delivered one of two from the charity stripe up the other end with 10 seconds remaining, it was the end of the game and the Flames had won 68-66.
Froling (21 points, 10 rebounds) and Purcell (12 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and five steals) both finished with double-doubles for the winners, whilst Heal (14 points, three rebounds, three assists) and Nakkasoglu (10 points, five rebounds) made solid returns. Deeble showed her ability to impact on her way to nine points and two steals for the Flames.
For the Flyers, O’Hea did what she could in her farewell home match, putting up 19 points – including three of 11 from long-range – four rebounds, three steals, two blocks and two assists. Maddison Rocci (13 points, eight rebounds, four assists, four steals) and Cole (17 points, five rebounds and two assists) both put up some good all-round numbers as well.
Both these sides hit the road for matches tomorrow, with the Flames remaining in Victoria to take on Bendigo Spirit in Bendigo from 5pm, whilst the Flyers make the dash North to take on Townsville Fire at Townsville Stadium.