The Sydney University Flames have claimed a major upset against the ladder leading Be Active Western Stars, splitting their Round 5 series while the Red Dust Lady Heelers took care of the Kilsyth Cobras in their series over the weekend.
The Stars hit the court with just five active players on Friday night, missing import Chihiro Kitada and Sydney University took advantage with a 23-8 opening quarter.
They only had six active players themselves but a double-double from Annabelle Lindsay (15 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) led five Flames’ on the scoreboard and four in double-digits including Liesl Tesch (13 points, eight rebounds) and Hannah Dodd (11 points, five assists).
Not going down without a fight, the Stars began to reel in the Flames following quarter-time though and they trimmed the margin to ten points inside the last eight minutes.
The hosts then went on a 12-2 run, led by Amber Merritt (39 points, 11 boards) and aided by Natalie Alexander and Sarah Vinci (six points, three assists) but they could never get in front and Stephanie van Leeuwen (ten points, four assists, three steals) proved the heroine, nailing the game-winner with just ten seconds remaining to give Sydney University just their second win of the season.
On Saturday night, the Flames again got the jump on their opposition to move in front by five points at the first break.
The Stars responded again but this time, did not leave their run too late as a 22-14 second period gave them the lead and they then owned a 12-point advantage heading into the final term.
Merritt recorded another 34 points, 12 rebounds and three assists while Georgia Inglis fell just short of averaging a double-double with 9.5 points, 14 assists and 3.5 steals for the weekend.
However, the Flames were desperate to finish Round 5 with a sweep of the ladder-leaders and they cut back a game-high 17-point deficit with a 21-9 run to finish the contest.
They still trailed by eight with a minute to go but Lindsay (23 points, 17 boards, four steals) scored four quick points, followed by a basket from Tesch (14 points, six boards, seven assists) before the Stars were able to secure the 65-60 victory from the free-throw line in another thriller.
Red Dust had a similarly tight two-game series against Kilsyth and on Saturday night, found their 18-point half-time lead dwindle to three at three-quarter time.
The Cobras had all the momentum at that stage and then moved in front with six minutes remaining but the likes of Clare Nott (16 points) and Kathleen O’Kelly-Kennedy (14 points, ten rebounds) steadied the ship while Shelley Chaplin (ten points, ten assists) also hit a big shot late to give Red Dust a four-point edge inside the last two minutes.
Leanne Del Toso (17 points, 11 boards, seven assists) responded to make it a one-possession game but Kilsyth could not get another look at the basket as the Lady Heelers prevailed 68-66.
Teisha Shadwell did her best to pull the Cobras over the line with a game-high 23 points and Tina McKenzie added 12 points but a 14-point performance from Red Dust’s Taylah Parry helped hold the visitors off.
The following day, the Lady Heelers again opened up a substantial lead, extending a six-point lead at quarter-time to 20 at three-quarter time.
They had completely shut down Kilsyth’s offence up to that point, holding them to 7-24 shooting from the field but the Cobras again came at the home side late, finishing the game with a 22-10 quarter while hitting 11 of their last 14 shots.
Del Toso finished with 20 points and Jamie Villalon scored eight off the bench but the efforts of O’Kelly-Kennedy (16 points, eight rebounds), Nott (16 points, four assists) and Chaplin (six points, 12 assists, three steals) meant the margin was too great to overcome.
With just two rounds remaining in the regular season, the Stars are locked in a finals position but the performances of the Flames this weekend will give them confidence they can continue to make their way up the ladder.