THEY have been the top two teams all season in the Women’s SBL and now the Mandurah Magic and Perry Lakes Hawks will meet in the 2017 Grand Final after closing out their respective semi-final series’ on Saturday night.
While the likes of the Lakeside Lightning, Stirling Senators, Willetton Tigers and Joondalup City Wolves were among the teams who looked capable of threatening at different stages of 2017, it was the Lady Hawks and Magic who remained the top two teams throughout the season.
They were locked in a battle over top spot for most of the regular season and now it feels only fitting that they will meet in the 2017 Women’s SBL Grand Final Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Perry Lakes Hawks won their way into the big dance by beating the Kate Malpass-less Willetton Tigers 90-62 in Game 2 of the semi-final series at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
It was then Game 3 between the Mandurah Magic and Lakeside Lightning at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre. The terrific, hard fought series continued right until the finish but it was the Magic who prevailed downing the brave Lightning 67-61.
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It was Game 2 between Perry Lakes and Willetton with the minor premiers looking to end the season of the reigning champions with the Lady Hawks coming off a strong Game 1 victory last Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Tigers started well enough on their home floor needing the win to force a Game 3 and they did go on a 6-0 run to lead by five points during the first quarter.
It wouldn’t last, though, and Perry Lakes delivered a remarkably dominant performance from there to ensure they head into the Grand Final in some ominous form.
Willetton just couldn’t mount enough resistance the rest of the night with Perry Lakes at one stage scoring 20 straight points and leading by as much as 29 points before going on to win by 28.
The Lady Hawks have won all four of its playoff matches after losing to Lakeside in the final game of the regular season.
Toni Farnworth was once again an unstoppable force for Perry Lakes with 24 points, six rebounds and five assists shooting 10-of-18 from the field.
Point guard Lauren Jeffers also did well for 16 points, seven assists, four rebounds and three steals shooting 7-of-10 from the floor and 2-of-4 from downtown.
Nat Burton contributed 12 points, eight rebounds and three steals for Perry Lakes while Sarah Donovan added nine points and four boards, Emily Burton eight points, three rebounds and three steals, Gabby O’Sullivan eight points and four boards.
Captain Kate Anthony also had five points and four rebounds for Perry Lakes.
Willetton’s hopes were made more challenging with the absence of Kate Malpass and fellow multiple championship winner Zoe Harper playing less than six minutes.
Stacey Barr top-scored for the Tigers with 22 points, eight rebounds and four assists with Desiree Kelley contributing 16 points, six steals and five boards, and Carla Drennan eight points.
It was then Game 3 time at Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre between the Magic and Lightning. The opening two games had delivered two outstanding contests between two evenly matched sides and Game 3 certainly lived up to the billing as well.
It was a fitting occasion for the newly opened stadium in Mandurah and supporters from both clubs ensured there was a terrific atmosphere in the building with a Grand Final berth on the line.
The Lightning were coming off the Game 2 win on their home floor on Friday night and then started on fire in Game 3 racing to an 8-2 start.
But Carly Boag and Bree Klasztorny then got going for Mandurah to turn that around with the Magic hitting the next nine points to lead 11-8.
It would prove a night of fluctuations and again Lakeside got back on top to lead by three at quarter-time and then five to start the second term with a jumper from Sam Roscoe.
Then it was Bree Klasztorny who made a strong and-one play, hit another jumper and then fellow veteran Casey Mihovilovich drilled a three to see the Magic lead 21-18.
That became 23-18 with another Bree Klasztorny basket but once more Lakeside steadied and by the time Alex Bell nailed a triple, the Lightning were back in front heading towards half-time.
The fluctuations continued, though, and it was a Morgan Ballantyne three-pointer for Mandurah that helped the home side lead 32-30 at half-time.
After Schwagmeyer levelled scores for Lakeside to open the second half, Mandurah took over scoring the next six points. Bree and Emma Klasztorny again steadied the Magic to a six-point lead after the Lightning had closed to within two.
Again though, a pair of free throws to Schwagmeyer had the Lightning back within two points by three quarter-time.
A Sydnee Fipps three and then jumper from Schwagmeyer put Lakeside back in front to start the fourth quarter before Rachel Halleen drilled a triple to regain the lead for Mandurah.
Yet another Bree Klasztorny jumper threatened to see the Magic pull away again but the Lightning responded with an Ash Grant three to remain just a point down with just under six minutes left.
But it was then time for Mandurah to make the deciding run in the game with back-to-back threes from Boag and Mihovilovich.
The Lightning never gave up the ghost and kept fighting hard but they just couldn’t close the deficit with the Magic winning to advance to the Grand Final.
Despite again hurting her troublesome ankle, Carly Boag came up huge for Mandurah with 18 points and 17 rebounds to go with three assists and two steals.
Bree Klasztorny was outstanding with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists nailing 7-of-10 from the floor.
Nici Gilday contributed 15 points and four rebounds with Casey Mihovilovich contributing eight points, seven rebounds and six assists.
Reigning MVP Ali Schwagmeyer finished with 26 points, seven rebounds and four assists shooting 9-of-19 from the field and 8-of-8 from the charity stripe, but 0-of-8 from downtown.
But she was the only Lightning player to score in double-figures with Ash Grant scoring nine points to go with nine rebounds while Sydnee Fipps had eight points and seven boards, Sam Roscoe seven points and six rebounds, and Jess Van Schie six points and five rebounds.
Magic coach Randy Miegel couldn’t be happier to have now seen his team rewarded for their season with a Grand Final appearance.
“The excitement levels are pretty high right now and it’s just a relief in one way after finishing one-two that there’s a bit of expectation to get to the Grand Final. It’s not easy to get there so we are all stoked,” Miegel said.
“The support we have received all season has been outstanding and I think we had another 600 people here again tonight. I mentioned earlier about having the home-court advantage all the way through and it definitely played a part tonight in us getting the win.
“Full credit to Lakeside, they were rolling coming into the playoffs and Game 1 was a real arm-wrestle to get the win and Friday was a great spectacle as well. They have some great players on their team and I have no doubt if Craig keeps that squad together they’ll be back there next year.”
It’s the tale of two clubs with different fortunes in history in the Women’s SBL with the Lady Hawks preparing to play in a 13th Grand Final and chasing a seven championship, and first since 2008.
Meanwhile, the Magic are yet to taste that championship glory coming into what will be a fifth Grand Final appearance.
WOMEN’S SBL GAME 2 SEMI FINAL RESULTS
Lakeside Lightning 86 defeated Mandurah Magic 78
WOMEN’S SBL GAME 2 SEMI FINAL RESULTS
Willetton Tigers 62 lost to Perry Lakes Hawks 90 (Hawks win 2-0)
WOMEN’S SBL GAME 3 SEMI FINAL RESULTS
Mandurah Magic 67 defeated Lakeside Lightning 61 (Magic win 2-1)
Photo by Belinda Pike (Croc Photography)