Mangakahia’s magnificence down the stretch proves the difference

IN A weekend full of upsets in the WNBL, the Sydney Flames have arguably delivered the most impressive of them all, spoiling Lauren Jackson night and handing the Southside Flyers a one-point loss in Round 13.

In the first ever WNBL match at John Cain Arena, there was a sense of disappointment, with Jackson sustaining a season-ending Achilles injury in the opening 60 seconds of the match on her tribute night.

The Flyers found themselves bested by a determined Flames side which rallied behind an excellent performance from Tiana Mangakahia, with the talented guard posting an exceptional showing in crunch time. She nailed numerous timely buckets in the final quarter, and produced a match-winning showing to lead Sydney to a marvellous upset on Saturday night.

Southside Flyers (67) def. by Sydney Flames (68)

Tiana Mangakahia – 26 points, five rebounds, six assists

Mangakahia was the difference in one of the closest games of the season, stepping up in the most important stretch of the match to drag her side over the line.

Her 26 points were the most of anybody on the court by a considerable margin (Maddison Rocci was the next best with 19), and although it was not the most accurate performance, she showed that she can capably lead an offence.

With the recent departure of Shyla Heal, the Flames suddenly found themselves with a vacancy at the point guard position, having lost their leading scorer. Coming up against the form side of the competition, the odds were heavily stacked against the visiting side, but it was Mangakahia who got them over the line.

Her story continues to impress, having beaten breast cancer in 2019 and continuing to thrive on and off the court. The 27-year-old’s performance echoed the mentality that has driven her through life.

Although she shot 9/22 from the field, it was the timing of her buckets that proved to be the difference. She scored the final five points for the Flames, single-handedly securing the result with her clutch performance at the free throw line.

Mangakahia was also a timely facilitator in the last quarter of the match, finding her teammates with some crafty passing with the game in the balance. Her six dimes were also the most of any player in the match, fully embracing the primary ball-handling responsibilities.

In one of the biggest upsets of the season, it was a feel-good story that stepped up to the plate. Mangakahia contributed across all four quarters, but it was her work in the clutch that elevated the guard above her peers.

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