By Marcus Uhe
A pair of round two wins has kick-started the Southside Flyers’ new WNBL season and vanquished demons of the 2022/23 campaign in the process.
Most significant was a thrilling 75-74 defeat of Townsville Fire in Queensland on Saturday night in a rematch of last season’s one-sided grand final series.
The Flyers trailed at every interval in the contest but clawed their way back into the game from an eight-point deficit at the beginning of the final term, thanks in large part to young star wing Nyadiew Puoch.
Puoch scored eight of Southside’s final 10 points in the come-from-behind win, including a crucial free throw to edge her side ahead with 10 seconds remaining, in what was her side’s first lead since the opening minutes of the contest.
With 3.36 remaining on the clock, Carley Ernst nailed a three-point shot to cut the lead to six, before Puoch took over down the stretch.
She made a layup with just under three minutes remaining as the lead fell to four and cleaned up her own miss with another layup a minute later, earning a foul in the process and nailing the resulting free throw to make it a one-point game.
Courtney Woods answered for the Fire with a three, to restore a four-point buffer, which was brought back to two points thanks to a pair of foul shots from Mercedes Russell.
A Puoch interception on the next Townsville possession was converted on the other end, tying the scores at 74 with just shy of a minute remaining.
A frantic final minute saw missed and blocked shots, timeouts and a jump ball, eventually resulting in Puoch heading to the free throw line once more.
She made the critical first to give her side the lead and missed the second, but the Fire was unable to make her pay on the other end, missing a mid-range jump shot with three seconds remaining that would have given them the lead.
Russell led the Flyers in scoring with 22 points on an efficient 64 per cent shooting and secured six rebounds in the win as five players scored in double figures.
Southside made the most of its opportunities all game, winning the second-chance points count 14-6 and points off turnovers battle 18-7.
Earlier in the week, a brief stopover in Canberra saw the Flyers notch their first win of the new campaign, downing the Capitals 104-79 on Wednesday night.
Southside extended its lead at every break in the contest, hammering its ascendency in the third term with a 28-15 period to grow the nine-point advantage to 22.
It was the Russell and Maddison Rocci show in the nation’s capital as both filled the stat sheet with substantial performances.
Russell is making her presence felt upon her return to the competition, registering a 20-point, 11-rebound double-double to go with four assists.
Rocci, meanwhile, did a bit of everything in her 35 minutes, scoring 28 points, grabbing seven rebounds and dishing seven assists.
Through the rounds the Flyers have been one of the best shooting teams in the competition, leading the league in three-point shooting percentage and a close second for overall field goal percentage.
Southside next takes to the court on Saturday night to face Adelaide.