THE higher-ranked Stirling Senators and Mandurah Magic both claimed Game 1 quarter-final victories against the Willetton Tigers and Perth Redbacks in the Women’s SBL Finals on Saturday night.
The first two Women’s SBL Game 1 quarter-final matches happened on Friday night with the Perry Lakes Hawks defeating the Cockburn Cougars 83-68 and the Lakeside Lightning beating the Joondalup City Wolves 76-58.
Then on Saturday night, the Stirling Senators held off the defending champion Willetton Tigers to win 79-74 at Warwick Stadium and the Mandurah Magic downed the Perth Redbacks 66-59 at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre.
WEEK 1 FRIDAY NIGHT WOMEN’S QUARTER FINALS SBL RESULTS
WEEK 1 WOMEN’S QUARTER FINALS SBL PREVIEW
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SBL QUARTER FINALS SCHEDULE RELEASED
The Saturday night action got underway in Mandurah with the second-placed Magic hosting the Redbacks in Game 1 of their quarter-final battle.
Mandurah had won both games comfortably during the regular season, but Perth clearly has the talent and experience to be vastly more competitive.
The Magic made the flying start too. The Redbacks scored first but Mandurah then piled on the next 13 points to lead 13-2 after four minutes. The Magic remained in control leading 22-7 by quarter-time and 40-20 by half-time.
The game was effectively over as a contest but the Redbacks showed good fighting spirit in the second half to outscore the Magic 39-26. They did get back to as close as five points in the fourth quarter but couldn’t quite break that barrier.
The Magic will be happy with the dominant start but not so much the second half that gives the Redbacks some heart heading into Game 2 on Saturday night at Belmont Oasis.
The Mandurah back court set up the win for their team with Nici Gilday delivering 23 points and eight rebounds and Casey Mihovilovich 20 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Carly Boag added eight points, eight rebounds and five steals for Mandurah while Bree Klasztorny pulled down 13 strong boards.
Emilee Harmon battled hard for the Redbacks with 18 points and nine rebounds while Ajay Johnson added 13 points, four rebounds and three steals, and Bianca Donovan 12 points. Rebecca Benson had seven points off and three assists off the bench.
Then at Warwick Stadium, the stage was set for a tantalising quarter-final series before the fourth-seeded Senators and the defending champion Tigers, and Game 1 certainly didn’t fail to deliver.
The game did have a tense and tight feeling about it right throughout the high quality playoff game, but the Senators did hold the edge the whole way.
Stirling’s lead did grow to as much as 15 points early in the third quarter and despite Willetton losing Kate Malpass to a shoulder injury and already being without Emma Lobb, the Tigers never went away.
They did get as close to two points a couple of times down the stretch but the Senators answered the first challenge with a three-point play from Jasmine, and the second with Taylor Roberts at the line.
But the Tigers still had a chance late trailing by three but just couldn’t get a shot off and Stirling held on for the crucial five-point Game 1 win. Game 2 will now be Saturday night at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Kisha Lee ended up top-scoring for the Senators with 21 points, 11 rebounds, five steals and four assists.
Jasmine Martin added 20 points for Stirling while Taylor Roberts ended up with 14 points, five assists and five steals, Amber Land eight points and 10 rebounds, Hannah Throns seven points and six assists, and Rebekah Throns six points.
Stacey Barr did all she could to try and get the Tigers over the line desperate to try and taste that championship glory that most of her teammates did in 2016. She finished with 31 points, eight rebounds, five assists and three steals shooting 12-of-31 from the floor and 3-of-14 from deep.
Zoe Harper started in the absence of Lobb and had 13 points and six rebounds with Sam Norwood contributing 11 points and six rebounds for Willetton. Desiree Kelley also had seven points and four rebounds.
Senators coach Glenn Clarke is fully aware how big the win is for his team given they were on their home floor and coming up against a team with vastly more finals experience.
“It was like waiting for a baby to be born before the game because I was that nervous and Simon is a great coach. He’s been in the league for a long time, I know him really well and he’s a very smart operator in regards to strategy. But it’s Game 1 and now we have to take it into Game 2,” Clarke said.
“It’s a huge win for us and for it to be at home as well it takes that monkey off the back as well of having to win on our home floor. All we have to do now is get to that Game 2 and we know they will come out as a pack of wolves against us. We just have to be ready for it and be disciplined with what we do.
“I told the girls that they were going to keep coming and coming and coming at them, and they had to stay in what we were doing and make sure that we keep disciplined on the screens, make good passes and stay with the game plan. They did all that and it worked out for us.”
FRIDAY NIGHT QUARTER FINAL GAME 1 WOMEN’S SBL RESULTS
Perry Lakes Hawks 83 defeated Cockburn Cougars 68
Lakeside Lightning 76 defeated Joondalup City Wolves 58
SATURDAY NIGHT QUARTER FINAL GAME 1 WOMEN’S SBL RESULTS
Stirling Senators 79 defeated Willetton Tigers 74
Mandurah Magic 66 defeated Perth Redbacks 59
Photo by Sports Imagery Australia