IT was only fitting that the official opening for SBL action of Joondalup’s HBF Arena saw something special but it was Sami Whitcomb in a Willetton Tigers uniform that did the lighting up while Mandurah Magic also scored a measure of revenge over the Perry Lakes Hawks.
The 2018 Women’s SBL season got underway with three matches on Friday night that saw the Cockburn Cougars beat the East Perth Eagles, the Rockingham Flames defeat the Stirling Senators and the Lakeside Lightning down the Perth Redbacks.
There were then two big clashes on Saturday night featuring teams all no strangers to Grand Finals and championships in the Women’s SBL in recent years.
That ended up seeing the Sami Whitcomb-inspired Willetton Tigers beating the Joondalup Wolves 86-67 at HBF Arena and the Mandurah Magic getting one back over the Perry Lakes Hawks for last year’s Grand Final, winning 69-45 at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The stage was always set for a memorable opening night at HBF Arena as the Lady Wolfpack played their first official SBL game at their new home venue.
While it didn’t quite go the home team’s way, having Sami Whitcomb back in the Women’s SBL after a past 12 months in the WNBA at the Seattle Storm and WNBL with the Perth Lynx was indeed a treat.
She delivered Willetton the 19-point victory on the back of a dominant second half where the Tigers outscored the Wolves 52 points to 23. The Wolfpack did lead 44-34 at the half.
Whitcomb showed her class for the Tigers finishing with 34 points, 14 rebounds, five assists and five steals on the back of shooting 13/23 from the field.
Ajay Johnson, coming across from the Perth Redbacks this season, had a good game too for Willetton with 18 points, four steals and three assists to provide quite the dynamic back court for the Tigers.
Zoe Harper also had 11 points, three rebounds and three assists inside while Tayla Hepburn contributed 12 points and seven rebounds.
The ever-reliable Nikita Martin put up 22 points and five assists for the Lady Wolfpack with Chelsea Belcher adding 12 points and the returning Amy Kidner 12. Ellyce Ironmonger finished with six points, 14 rebounds and five assists.
It was then the Grand Final rematch from last year at Bendat Basketball Centre to open the new season for both Perry Lakes and Mandurah, and it was the Magic who put in a dominant performance to run out 24-point winners.
Mandurah really put the clamps on the defending champions through the second and third quarters, holding them to 14 points, to end up winning by 24.
Anita Brown led the way for the Magic with 19 points while Carly Boag added 14 points and seven rebounds.
But it was the depth of the performance that was key for Mandurah with another four players scoring six or more points led by Emma Klasztorny with seven points and 10 rebounds while Bree Klasztorny had eight rebounds, six assists and three steals along with two points.
Emma Clarke top-scored for Perry Lakes with 12 points while Lauren Jeffers added 10 points. Grand Final MVP Toni Farnworth had a tough night, though, with six points on 2/11 shooting to go with five rebounds and four assists.
WEEK 1 WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES
Cockburn Cougars 85 defeated East Perth Eagles 56
Rockingham Flames 80 defeated Stirling Senators 73
Perth Redbacks 73 lost to Lakeside Lightning 84
Joondalup Wolves 67 lost to Willetton Tigers 86
Perry Lakes Hawks 45 lost to Mandurah Magic 69
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