Stars guard Lauren Mansfield. Photo: Joshua PatersonThe South East Queensland Stars won an intense WNBL clash with the Sydney Uni Flames in overtime, 97-89, on Friday night at the Logan Metro Sports Centre.
The Stars were made to work hard for their fourth win by a skilled Flames side who jumped out to a 13-point lead in the first quarter.The Stars rallied following a timeout by coach Shane Heal, but the Flames took a 32-25 lead into the second quarter.
The Stars continued to trail through the second quarter, but closed to within three at the half, 46-43.
The Stars stalked the lead in the third quarter, but the Flames hot shooting enabled them to stay in front, 69-65, with the final quarter ahead.
Substitute Nadeen Payne was crucial to the Stars third quarter effort, scoring a number of key baskets, finishing the quarter and the match with 15 points, nine of which came in the third.
The Stars finally drew level at 69-all on two Denesha Stallworth free throws with eight minutes left, Rachel Jarry putting her team ahead 76-73 with a massive three pointer soon after.
The Flames fought back to snatch back the lead 84-83 with less than a minute to go but Ify Ibekwe was able to tie the match from the free throw line with five seconds left.
Jarry, Ibekwe and emerging star Lauren Mansfield steering their side home in the overtime with a number of clutch plays to the delight of the home crowd.
Stars captain Jarry said the fast break style her coach has instilled in the team has been key to the teams 4-1 start.
“That’s how we have got to attack teams, and we play that up-tempo style, Shane has kind of brought a boys style to our game, which had us getting fit really quick, but it’s winning us games,” she said.
The Opals star was full of praise for the consistency of young point guard Mansfield.
“There is quality point guards in every team so for her to come and play huge minutes, she is doing so awesome, I hope that the Opals coaches are looking out because that’s the kind of form that she is in, we certainly wouldn’t be 4-1 without the class that she is showing,” she said.
Heal echoed her thoughts on the young Mansfield who is leading the team in the absence of injured star Erin Phillips.
“I’ve spoken to Brendan (Opals coach Brendan Joyce) about her development over this 10 week period, and people are aware of her now, but the key is being able to do it for the long haul, and that’s a really big challenge but we believe in her,” he said.
Jarry finished with 27 points while Mansfield had 16 points and five assists. Towering Sydney import Carolyn Swords led Sydney with 25 points.
The Stars’ next game is on the road against Bendigo on November 7.
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