MANDURAH Magic coach Randy Miegel wanted to make sure he had a strong Women’s SBL team this season to coincide with the opening of the redeveloped home stadium and to make the community proud, and now two games from a grand final berth it’s hard to argue with the results.
In each season that Miegel has been in charge at the Magic they have made the playoffs and been a more than competitive outfit, but it’s this group in 2017 that looks capable of giving the club the best chance perhaps ever of bringing a title to Mandurah.
That might be saying a lot considering the Magic have played in grand finals in 2003, 2005, 2005 and 2009 but this team has been tremendous all season long finishing in second place and then cruising through the quarter finals against the Perth Redbacks.
The arrival of Carly Boag and Nici Gilday has obviously played a big part in the success of Mandurah so far in 2017 but so has the continued efforts of Casey Mihovilovich, Rachell Halleen, Kelly Bailey, and Emma Klasztorny, Rachel Pettit, Morgan Ballantyne and Kasey Miegel along with Bree Klasztorny back heathy and getting through a full season again.
Knowing that there was the chance to build excitement around basketball in Mandurah again with the opening of the redeveloped stadium, Miegel wanted to give the community something to be proud of and he has enjoyed the support the club has received in response to their efforts.
He now hopes that home court advantage can work in their favour in the semi-final battle with the Lightning.
“One thing I spoke about earlier in the year was that I wanted to make sure we were successful in our new stadium to get basketball in the news down in Mandurah and it’s worked out well so I have been pretty happy with the response from the Mandurah public,” Miegel said.
“The couple of times we’ve been in this position, I don’t think you can overestimate the home court advantage.
“We were in the semi finals a couple of years ago against Rockingham and they went on to win and were obviously a pretty awesome side, but one thing that I noted was the actual home court advantage all the way through.
“It does make a difference and it’s not a huge factor, but when you get to a Game 3 to be in a comfortable environment with your home supporters there makes it a nice feeling. Hopefully it helps us.”
The Magic were locked in a battle for top spot with the Perry Lakes Hawks for most of the season but they ended up in second place and then a last round 20-point loss at home to the Stirling Senators left Miegel a little unsure about his team’s form entering the playoffs.
But he felt they matched up well with quarter-final opponents the Redbacks and now after two strong wins against them, he feels the Magic are primed for the semi-final contest that awaits against a hot Lakeside outfit.
“We played Cockburn probably six weeks before that and they did worry us a little bit with their height and if it came down to those two teams, I probably preferred the Redbacks match up,” Miegel said.
“When I saw Stirling come out and beat Willetton in Game 1 it reassured me that our loss to them wasn’t that bad because they were a good team and had a good game.
“For us to come back and win two-zip against the Redbacks with Saturday night being pretty comprehensive was pleasing and I think we’re in a pretty good space now.”
Miegel was happy overall with group he had at his disposal at the end of 2016 but he was just looking to swap over his restricted players and then hope that could turn them from a playoff team into a championship threat.
In the end the arrival of Boag and Gilday combined with Bree Klasztorny being back out on the floor has been the only changes in terms of personnel that was required by Miegel to now have the Magic within two games of a fifth Women’s SBL grand final appearance.
When Miegel was looking for a restricted player to have a strong inside presence, it was WNBL championship winner with the Sydney Uni Flames who quickly stood out.
He was able to entice her away from playing in Queensland and the result has been a dominant season with her averaging 18.8 points and 12.6 rebounds a game to be a genuine MVP contender.
But what has impressed Miegel the most is that there is much more to her than just those impressive numbers.
“When I looked at her scores when she was playing with Bundaberg she was putting up some pretty big numbers and I knew she could score some points and rebound, but it’s her quickness and the way she plays in other aspects that has definitely surprised me,” he said.
“I think she’s leading the league in steals and there wouldn’t be too many girls who have won the rebounding and steals title so that show how versatile she is.”
Miegel also desperately wanted to recruit another guard who could take some of the load off Mihovilovich in the back court at both ends of the floor.
There’s no question that Gilday has done exactly that with 20.5 points, 5.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists a game while also taking over some of the big defensive jobs that Mihovilovich would have had to put her hand up for in the past.
“She is a smart player and importantly her defence has got better as the season has gone on,” he said.
“That’s something that she does a really good job at and she’s had some big jobs this year and shut down some really good players. Besides averaging 20-odd points a game, she’s also done an awesome job on the defensive end.”
As for Mihovilovich, whether she gets that elusive championship or not she will go down as an all-time great of the Women’s SBL.
Having gone so close so many times in the past, Miegel would love to help her achieve that dream but he feels the whole basketball community would love to see her reach that goal as well.
“We probably don’t talk about it a lot but I hear it a lot from outside of our group from talking to people involved who wish us luck they always finish by saying they want to see Milo be able to finish with a title,” Miegel said.
“The broader community of basketball fans would like to see that happen and obviously we would as well.”
Photo by Sports Imagery Australia