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WNBL TotW9: Going up in Flames

THEY were desperately unlucky last round not to snare our WNBL Team of the Week honours, Canberra deemed just that smidgeon more worthy. But there was no way around it and the Flames enter 2024 as our most outstanding outfit of Round 9.

Southside, which humbled Lightning by 25 points in Adelaide, and Bendigo, which threw Melbourne's playoff plans into disarray, both stood out as contenders.

But ultimately Sydney got the nod when it held out league-leading Townsville 77-74 in an overtime thriller, Didi Richards with 21 points at 57 per cent, eight rebounds, four assists, a steal and two blocks producing her best game of the season.

While her shooting was not of its usual standard (6-of-19), Lauren Nicholson enjoyed a big double-double with 15 points and 10 assists, Cayla George adding a 17-point, 11-rebound double.

A gruelling first quarter saw the Flames ahead 10-8, an amazing scoreline made even more frightful by the fact Townsville led 8-0 before George broke Sydney's drought after four minutes of offensive futility.

Emma Clarke gave the Flames the lead, closing their 10-0 run, and she tied it up again in the second quarter at 22-22. This time it was Townsville peeling off the next 10 points to go into halftime ahead 32-22 after a 24-12 period.

Early in the third, Firebrand Steph Reid punched the lead out to 14 (39-25) before Nicholson, Richards, George and Kiera Rowe produced the game's third 10-0 run, Sydney back in it at 35-39.

By three-quarter time, there was only a point between them and it was clearly going to the wire.

Townsville led by five during the last but it eventually took Reid to tie the game at 64-64 inside the final minute, Nicholson, Richards and sami Whitcomb all missing shots to win it for their teams in regulation.

Richards, who had eight of her 21 points in the extension, opened it with a 3-pointer, but Whitcomb's triple with 1:41 left gave the Fire a 71-70 lead.

It would be their last, Richards, Nicholson and Clarke leading Sydney to the W, despite a further 3-pointer by Whitcomb.

Sydney now has beaten Melbourne, Bendigo and Townsville in its past three outings and is looming as the championship threat many had it pencilled in as preseason.

And all of that was achieved without injured Opals captain Tess Madgen.

Team of the week? You bet.

Round 9 Sydney Flames
Round 8 Uni of Canberra Capitals
Round 7 Townsville Fire
Round 6 Melbourne Boomers
Round 5 Perth Lynx
Round 4 Townsville Fire
Round 3 Adelaide Lightning
Round 2 Melbourne Boomers
Round 1 Perth Lynx

Jan 1

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