THE Lakeside Lightning and Mandurah Magic played out quite the semi-final series in the Women’s SBL in 2017 and now they are both one game away from a Grand Final berth in 2018 after Game 1 victories respectively over the Kalamunda Eastern Suns and Perth Redbacks on Friday night.
Going back 12 months and the Lightning and Magic were locked in quite the memorable semi-final series against one another that went all the way to three games with precious little between the two teams.
Eventually Mandurah prevailed on its home floor to advance to the Grand Final before they both tried to back it up again in 2018 to remain in the championship race.
Lakeside’s 2018 couldn’t have gone better losing just once and then after conceding a 14-0 run in the first quarter against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Lakeside Recreation Centre on Friday night, the Lightning dominated.
Even with the absence of two-time MVP Ali Schwagmeyer, Lakeside outscored Kalamunda 53 points to 12 in the second half to beat the Suns 92-41. The Eastern Suns came into the game minus Alex Ciabattoni and Jewel Williams before losing Jennie Rintala to an ankle injury during the game.
It was a much tighter affair at Belmont Oasis with the Mandurah Magic continuing their charge back towards the Grand Final beating the Perth Redbacks 73-72 in a heart stopper.
Both Game 2’s will take place next Friday night at Ray Owen Sports Centre and Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre respectively.
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The Women’s SBL semi finals got underway at Belmont Oasis and it always had the makings of a cracking battle between a Redbacks team desperate to capitalise on its resurgence in 2018 and a Magic team out to make up for a challenging season to put themselves back in the title hunt.
The Redbacks cruised through the quarter finals beating the Stirling Senators comfortably in two games while the Magic upset the third seeded Rockingham Flames in two games after finishing in sixth position.
The Magic had been challenged for personnel all season and that included on Friday night with Emma Klasztorny, in some of the best of her career, missed the game due to attending a wedding in the United States.
That meant sister Bree had to fight through and play 18 crucial minutes while Rachel Halleen had to shake off injury too to provide an important six minutes for a Magic team struggling for depth but not heart or quality.
The Redbacks were full of confidence too having kept a core group together this season but then added to with the additions of coach Charles Nix and star trio Kayla Steindl (nee Standish), Mikayla Pirini and Makailah Dyer.
So the stage was set for a tremendous contest and it didn’t disappoint with no more than eight points separating the two teams throughout the night and no team going on more than a 7-0 run.
The Redbacks did win the possession battle on the back of five more rebounds and three fewer turnovers, but they couldn’t get their shooting going. They went 23/74 from the field at 31 per cent and 2/19 from three-point range at 10 per cent.
They did get to the line 31 times, though, and hit 24 of those while the Magic did shoot better at 29/69 at 42 per cent despite just 4/15 from long range. But they shared the ball well with 25 assists.
But it was a game destined to go down to the wire and Kayla Steindl had a chance at the winner on the buzzer for the Redbacks, but her layup rolled out and the Magic held on to win by a point and be one win away now from consecutive Grand Final appearances.
Anita Brown was the star of the night for the Magic with 33 points, seven rebounds and four assists on shooting 12/20 from the field, 3/5 from three-point range and 6/6 from the foul line.
Regina Palusna added 19 points, eight rebounds, five assists, three steals and three blocked shots with Casey Mihovilovich contributing nine points, eight assists and five boards, Kelly Bailey six points, three rebounds and two blocks, and Bree Klasztorny four points, five rebounds and five assists.
Kayla Steindl had a strong and efficient night for the Redbacks with 28 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals on 8/12 shooting from the floor, 2/3 from beyond the arc and 10/11 from the charity stripe.
Jess Jakens also had 16 points and five rebounds, Alix Hayward seven points and four boards, and Makailah Dyer seven points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals.
The other Game 1 on Friday night took place at Lakeside Recreation Centre with the Lightning hosting the Eastern Suns, with Lakeside coming off beating Perry Lakes in two games in the quarter finals and Kalamunda did the same to the Willetton Tigers.
Both teams suffered a big blow pre-game with the Lightning without two-time MVP Ali Schwagmeyer with a knee complaint and the Eastern Suns missing star playmaker Alex Ciabattoni with a shoulder injury along with absent guard Jewel Williams.
That led to a scrappy start to the game but Lakeside got the better of proceedings early racing to a 13-4 lead. But the Eastern Suns then got on a roll hitting 14 straight points to lead 18-13 before a pair of Ash Grant free-throws for Lakeside just before quarter-time.
The Suns were still in the battle just a point down with the Lightning leading 28-27 with four minutes left in the second quarter.
What happened from there was remarkable with the Lightning scoring the last 11 points of the first half including a four-point play from Courtney Byrnes on the buzzer when she was fouled by Jorjah Smith.
The Lightning led 39-29 at half-time before they would go on and keep the Eastern Suns scoreless until there was under a minute left in the third quarter and Smith made a layup.
In that time, Lakeside piled 30 points of their own to really ram home their dominance especially after Jennie Rintala went off after colliding legs with an opponent driving to the basket. She didn’t return and would have to be in doubt for next week.
After 32 points to two in the third quarter, the Lakeside carried on in the fourth with another 21 points to 10 to win by 51 points.
From the moment Kalamunda got back within a point in the second term on a three from Chanah Crugnale, the Suns went on a 41-2 run before the Smith layup late in the first quarter. They went 64-14 up until the final buzzer in a remarkably dominant showing.
Sydnee Fipps finished with 31 points, eight rebounds and five steals for Lakeside on shooting 12/18 from the floor and 5/7 from long range.
Ash Grant added 23 points and four rebounds, Sam Roscoe 12 points, 11 boards and three assists, and Courtney Byrnes 11 points, seven assists and six rebounds.
There’s no hiding from how much the Suns missed Ciabattoni, Williams and then Rintala.
Jessie Edwards top-scored for the Eastern Suns with 13 points and eight rebounds with Jorjah Smith adding eight points and six boards, and Chanah Crugnale eight points and seven rebounds.
Lightning coach Craig Mansfield was happy with how his team responded after quarter-time.
“I thought they played us really well in the first quarter. We messed up some defensive stuff that we had walked through but maybe hadn’t covered for a long enough period of time. But as the game went on and we got more reps, we got better at our coverages,” Mansfield said.
“Sam had some foul trouble but sometimes the scoreboard can be misleading and we might not have started that bad. They hit three or four threes from players we wouldn’t have as shooters in the scout and we missed quite a few two-on-ones or open 10-footers and threes.
“I felt like we started really well to jump them and then out of that first time out they were good the rest of the first quarter and we were a bit jumpy. It took us a little while to work out what they are doing defensively and we had to get a feel for that, and what we needed to get done.
“We hit a three right before half-time to stretch it to 10 and they are always deflators. Our defence in the third quarter was our best defensive quarter of the year, and then just as we got on top Jennie went down and that deflated them further. We were able to get the ascendancy and run away from there.”
SEMI FINALS WEEK 1 WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES
GAME 1 (Best of 3)
Perth Redbacks 72 lost to Mandurah Magic 73 (Mandurah leads 1-0)
Lakeside Lightning 92 defeated Kalamunda Eastern Suns 41 (Lakeside leads 1-0)