THE 2017 Women’s SBL Grand Final takes place Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre and it’s only fitting the top two teams all season, the Perry Lakes Hawks and Mandurah Magic, will be battling over the championship.
The Lady Hawks and Magic were locked in a battle over first place most of the way through the 2017 regular season and in the end Perry Lakes took it out with a 20-2 record to finish ahead of the 19-3 Mandurah.
They will now meet in a tantalising Grand Final on Friday night for the second time in history. Their first Grand Final clash was back in 2003 when Perry Lakes beat Mandurah to complete a championship three-peat.
The Lady Hawks will play in their 13th Women’s SBL Grand Final on Friday night and first since 2010 attempt to win a seventh championship and first since 2008.
The Magic, meanwhile, are yet to win a championship in the SBL with the women preparing for a fifth Grand Final appearance having previously made it in 2003, 2005, 2006 and 2009.
The two teams met twice during the regular season with Perry Lakes beating a Carly Boag-less Mandurah by 20 points at Bendat Basketball Centre and then also winning in Mandurah by six points later in the season.
The Hawks went on to beat both the Cockburn Cougars and Willetton Tigers in two games in the first two rounds of the finals. The Magic beat the Perth Redbacks in two games in the quarter finals and the Lakeside Lightning in three in the semi finals.
There will be fascinating match ups all over the floor and Perry Lakes great advantage does appear to be with its bigs made up of Nat Burton, Sarah Donovan and Emily Burton with Carly Boag and Bree Klasztorny with a big job to do for Mandurah in that area.
But in the back court, Nici Gilday and Casey Mihovilovich have been tremendous all season for the Magic meaning the Hawks trio of Kate Anthony, Lauren Jeffers and Gabby O’Sullivan will have their hands full.
Toni Farnworth also appears capable of being a match-winner for the Hawks meaning the job Magic captain Rachel Halleen can do on her will be pivotal.
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FARNWORTH CHASING FIRST CHAMPIONSHIP SINCE LEAVING NZ
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SMITH FOCUSES ON BUILDING CHAMPIONSHIP BELIEF IN HAWKS PLAYERS
Lady Hawks coach Deanna Smith is in her first season in charge after retiring as a player following last year’s semi-final loss for Perry Lakes to the Joondalup Wolves.
She has full confidence in her team but is fully aware that the Magic and Casey Mihovilovich will put up quite the fight.
“I just think that we need to be strong defensively, follow the scout and for us we’ve really built our game around defence and running. If we defend, rebound and run then I think we’ll put ourselves in a really good position come the end of the game,” Smith said.
“I said to Milo that it’s great to see that she’s still going and still killing it, and I have a lot of respect for her. Her experience in a Grand Final situation and leading her team is going to be really helpful for them. She is definitely a player we have to look out for and hopefully do a good job on because she is one of the keys to their successful season.”
Magic coach Randy Miegel is chasing the first championship of his career either as a player or coach and he hopes that the expectations of Perry Lakes being favourites can be used to Mandurah’s favour if they start the game well.
“I think if we didn’t get a good start to the game and put them under pressure then it will make life difficult for us,” Miegel said.
“But if we can start well there’s every chance the pressure might start to build on them and they are the logical favourites to win. We need to make sure we start well and turn the heat up on them a little bit if we can. That’s our aim going in, but we’ll see how it works out on Friday night.”
Perry Lakes guard Lauren Jeffers won an SEABL championship in 2006 and now is looking to repeat that dose in the SBL 11 years later and she is backing her back court to get the job done despite knowing the challenge that awaits.
“Depth is one of our great strengths in each position and then having Gabby helping us out in the guards positions is great even though we don’t have Mia now who we did have most of the year,” Jeffers said.
“But Gabby adds that extra element and she’s such a great spark off the bench. I don’t think anyone else in the league has that same depth through every position that we do and I think it’s freed us all up to play our games to our strengths.
“I’m definitely looking forward to the challenge and we are expecting big things from them on the day, but we’ll go through our scout and lock into our jobs mentally and what we need to get down, and go through all our usually process. Hopefully we can get it done and they done score more than us.”
Mandurah legend Casey Mihovilovich will be playing her fifth Grand Final with the Magic and chasing a first title, but she knows it’s a great achievement to get to the championship decider and anything from here is a bonus.
“I play basketball to win so I think every year we can make a Grand Final, but it is really hard to do,” Mihovilovich said.
“When we were playing Game 2 and 3 last week I was thinking that you don’t get this far without having a shot at it and it’s such a hard thing to do to get to a Grand Final that you don’t want to miss any opportunities.
“Losing in the semi finals would have meant it was a missed opportunity so I am really excited for Friday night and I am going to play on next year, and I’ll think we can also do it then too. It’s a huge achievement to make a Grand Final and it’s really exciting for our club and I couldn’t be happier.”
WOMEN’S SBL GRAND FINAL 2017
Perry Lakes Hawks v Mandurah Magic – Bendat Basketball Centre 7.30pm
Photo by Mick Cronin