THEY no longer needed to win to book a finals spot but the Kalamunda Eastern Suns still delivered an impressive showing to beat the Joondalup Wolves at HBF Arena in overtime on Saturday night as both teams now prepare for the post-season.
Coming into the final round of the 2019 Women’s SBL season, there was every chance the Eastern Suns would need to come to HBF Arena on Saturday night and to beat the Lady Wolfpack to book in another playoff appearance.
However with the Perth Redbacks losing to the Cockburn Cougars on Friday night, that meant that no matter how they went against Joondalup, Kalamunda would reach the playoffs with the top eight teams locked in on the women’s side of the competition.
But both teams put on a tremendous show for the strong crowd in attendance at HBF Arena and they couldn’t be separated in regulation. It was all Kalamunda in the overtime period, though, as they outscored Joondalup 11 points to six to claim the 89-84 victory.
With Perry Lakes also beating Willetton on Saturday night and the Mandurah Magic beating the Warwick Senators, the positions within the top eight were set and the playoff match ups determined.
Despite losing their last couple of games, the defending champion Lakeside Lightning still finished on top at 16-6 in front of the Mandurah Magic (15-7), Joondalup Wolves (14-8) and Warwick Senators (14-8) who round out the top four.
The Willetton Tigers (13-9) finished fifth, Perry Lakes Hawks (13-9) sixth, Rockingham Flames (13-9) seventh and then Kalamunda Eastern Suns (11-11) eighth.
That sets up four fascinating quarter-final match ups with the Lightning against the Eastern Suns, Magic against the Flames, Wolves against the Hawks and Senators against the Tigers.
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While Kalamunda no longer needed the victory over Joondalup like they thought they likely would coming into the round, it didn’t mean the Eastern Suns didn’t want to take momentum into the playoffs.
But the Lady Wolfpack’s form had been building too having won their past three matches with Andee Ritter settling into the line-up along with Jasmine Martin since the loss of Kayla Steindl and captain Amy Kidner.
So it set the stage for a terrific contest between two teams preparing for the finals and it certainly didn’t disappoint.
The Suns started impressively and led by as much as 10 points in the first quarter before stilling being up 22-13 at quarter-time on the back of a Lauren Jeffers bucket on the buzzer.
Jewel Williams then put the Eastern Suns back up 11 with two free-throws to start the second quarter and again they were up 11 when she made a layup with 3:45 left in the half.
But the Wolves then caught fire to close the second half including Mikayla Pirini and Martin hitting threes as they managed to tie scores up by half-time.
The Wolfpack threatened to pull away several times during the third quarter but they only led by two heading into the fourth period.
Their lead did grow to seven early in the last term thanks to Pirini but the Eastern Suns weren’t going away and Rebecca Motroni hitting eight points in a minute saw scores back level with five minutes remaining.
Andee Ritter would put Joondalup up two with under two minutes remaining but Williams responded with a layup for Kalamunda. The Wolves had one last possession to break the deadlock but couldn’t get a shot off and then the Suns’ had a chance at the death to score multiple times but none would fall.
That set up an overtime period with Kalamunda scoring first thanks to Hannah King. Williams then put them four points up and despite Ritter hitting from deep for the Wolves, the Suns remained on top thanks to free-throws to Georgia Adams.
Rintala then stretched the lead and they prevailed 89-84 to head into the finals with some winning momentum.
Eastern Suns coach Tom Knowles couldn’t have been happier with the performance even if the pressure had been taken off from needing to win after the Redbacks lost to the Cougars 24 hours earlier.
“We’re really happy with that. We didn’t need to win, but we kind of did to prove a point I guess that we definitely deserve to be here. Together with Katie sitting out for half the game, it was pretty impressive. The girls fought pretty hard and I was happy with a lot of the stuff that we did,” Knowles said.
“Joondalup fired up in the second quarter and shot the lights out so to come back and get them in overtime was really so I’m pretty happy with that and that we got through a little bit of stuff that we wanted to get through ahead of the playoffs. It was good from that prep point of view too.”
Jennie Rintala put in a power of work for the Suns playing almost 40 minutes and delivering 22 points, 21 rebounds and two assists.
Jewel Williams stepped up too for 21 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists while Katie Yohn played scarcely after half-time but still had 17 points and four boards.
Lauren Jeffers produced 10 points, five rebounds and five assists, Georgia Adams nine points and 13 boards, Rebecca Motroni eight points, four boards, three assists and three steals.
Despite the loss, the Lady Wolfpack still ended up finishing the regular season in third position ahead of a quarter-final match up with the on-fire Perry Lakes Hawks.
Chelsea Belcher again top-scored for the Wolves with 17 points, four rebounds, four assists and four steals while hitting 4/7 from downtown.
Amber Land added 13 points, 14 rebounds, three steals and two blocks too for Joondalup while Jasmine Martin produced 13 points and five boards, Isabelle Miotti 11 points, three rebounds and two assists, and Mikayla Pirini 10 points and five assists.
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 20
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 66 lost to Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars 73
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames 76 defeated Lakeside Lightning 66
Willetton Tigers 51 lost to Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks 80
Round 1 Fitness Cockburn Cougars 107 defeated Schweigen East Perth Eagles 56
Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic 96 defeated Bethanie Warwick Senators 87
Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 84 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 89