THE Lakeside Lightning had to fight back from a stunning shooting display early on Saturday night by the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Ray Owen Sports Centre but the defending champions soon steadied to advance to the semi finals for a third straight year.
Coming off winning last year’s championship, Lakeside again finished on top of the table at the end of the regular season in 2019 but they had lost their last couple of games entering their quarter-final match with the Eastern Suns.
It was a Kalamunda team entering the finals in good form too having won eight of their last 11 games, and Game 1 last Friday night at Lakeside Recreation Centre was a tight affair with the Lightning just managing to prevail 85-77.
But the Eastern Suns deserved to feel like they were right in the battle against the Lightning, and in front of a packed house at Ray Owen Sports Centre with their home fans vocal, the Suns soon threw the gauntlet right down to Lakeside.
In a remarkable first quarter, Kalamunda hit seven three-pointers and put up 36 points to lead by 11 points at quarter-time. They then hit another triple to open the second term to lead 39-25 but then Lakeside locked in better defensively.
By half-time, the Lightning had closed to within two points and then once Suns centre Jennie Rintala fouled out with seven minutes left in the game, Lakeside took over with a significant advantage inside to end up winning 91-81.
It was a tremendous contest and strong showing by the Suns but ultimately the Lightning prevailed to advance to their third straight semi-final appearance to now take on the Warwick Senators.
QUARTER FINALS GAME 2 SPOTLIGHT | HAWKS FIRE AGAIN TO ELIMINATE WOLFPACK
MAGIC DETERMINED TO BRING GAME 3 BACK TO MANDURAH
CRAWFORD PUMPED FOR FLAMES’ CHANCE ON HOME FLOOR
CONFIDENCE TO AVOID SLOW START KEY FOR TIGERS
RECRUITING DEPTH PAYS DIVIDENDS FOR SENATORS
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 2 WOMEN’S SBL PREVIEW
QUARTER FINALS WEEK 1 WOMEN’S SBL WRAP
LADY HAWKS CLICKING BUT REAL WORK NOW STARTS
LIGHTNING STILL WORK IN PROGRESS ENTERING FINALS
EASTERN SUNS PRIMED FOR ANOTHER CRACK AT LIGHTNING
With Lakeside having only won five of their past nine matches to close the regular season despite finishing in top spot and Kalamunda in good form winning eight of 11, it was always going to be a fascinating series between two teams that know one another well.
Lakeside had to work hard to claim Game 1 on their home floor and then Kalamunda was welcomed home on Saturday night with a large and vocal crowd to cheer them on.
The Suns then went on to give them plenty to cheer about in a remarkable first quarter.
It became a three-point onslaught from the Eastern Suns starting with Jennie Rintala knocking one down to give them a 7-6 lead. Rebecca Motroni then joined in soon after before Katie Yohn converted a three-point play.
Motroni then hit another from beyond the arc, Rintala hit another too and Jewel Williams joined in the fun with Kalamunda hitting 30 points with more than two minutes remaining in the period.
Yohn was the next to hit from downtown for the home team with Williams hitting her second and the home team led 36-25 at quarter-time.
That became 39-25 with Alecia Knowles hitting a three to start the second term and then when Yohn hit a mid-range jumper, the Suns were simply on fire and leading by 16.
But with Hannah Stewart and Ash Grant in particular getting aggressive, Lakeside was able to keep scoring inside and then just down the Suns up the other to only trail by two at half-time.
Kalamunda then started the second half with a 7-0 to go back up by eight but Lakeside had picked up confidence and Courtney Mansfield hit a three to get them on track. When Ellyce Ironmonger scored too, they took the lead and they remained up by two at three quarter-time.
When Rintala picked up her fifth foul with seven minutes remaining, the game took a decided turn in the favour of the Lightning and suddenly the Suns had no match for the size of Ironmonger, Stewart and Grant.
Despite that, it was still a one-point game with five minutes left until Grant knocked down a three for Lakeside. Mansfield then did the same and when GeAnna Lualu-Summers scored inside, they were up nine and it appeared a task beyond Kalamunda.
That would prove the case with Lakeside going on to win 91-81 but they were certainly made to earn it over the two games.
Lakeside’s size advantage came to the fore with them gathering 17 more rebounds and scoring 46 points in the paint to 28. Despite Kalamunda’s hot start shooting, the Lightning ended up shooting better too with 34/74 at 45 per cent from the field and 9/23 at 39 per cent from three.
The Suns finished up going 30/83 at 36 per cent from the floor and 10/41 at 24 per cent from long-range.
Lakeside coach Craig Mansfield was happy with the adjustments his team made defensively after quarter-time following that onslaught from the Eastern Suns.
He was happy with the Lightning’s offence all night and then as it turned out, their size advantage was a big factor in the result particularly after Rintala fouled out with so much of the game remaining.
“There’s a correlation between shot quality and shot making, and we did a lot of things wrong defensively in the first quarter and that led to them getting really good looks,” Mansfield said.
“But in saying that, even with really good looks 8/12 from three is still really, really good shooting and they could probably line them up with no one on the court and 8/12 would be a stretch. We definitely did a lot better in the second quarter defensively and followed scouts better.
“They weren’t driving and getting into the lane and forcing us into rotations that we couldn’t cover, leaving people open.
“Jennie did a really good job early and then struggled a bit with foul trouble and the other thing was that as fantastic as she played, and Katie did as well, but we have three girls that are Jennie’s size and Katie is giving up size and the longer the game goes on it has a bit of a wear down fact.
“Then once Jennie fouled out, we had a significant advantage and Yohn had to really go and Jewel Williams had to get even more aggressive.
“They were 8-3 in their last 11 games so they weren’t your typical eighth seed and they play a game style which can hurry you up and push you into spots on the court you don’t want to be, but I thought offensively aside from a bit of a patch in the fourth they didn’t do that to us. I was happy with us offensively and then after quarter-time the defence came together.”
Ash Grant ended up with a huge night for the Lightning with 27 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and two blocked shots on a remarkably economical 11/13 shooting. Hanna Stewart added 19 points, eight rebounds and four assists, and Ellyce Ironmonger seven points, nine boards and three assists as the trio of bigs came up big.
GeAnna Lualu-Summers added 18 points and four assists for Lakeside, and Courtney Mansfield 16 points, eight boards and seven assists.
Katie Yohn battled hard all night for Kalamunda finishing with 22 points, nine rebounds, four steals and two assists while before fouling out, Jennie Rintala had 19 points and eight boards.
Jewel Williams contributed 13 points, six rebounds and three assists, Rebecca Motroni 12 points and five assists, and Lauren Jeffers 10 points, five assists and three rebounds.
Mansfield was happy ultimately to have been tested in the quarter finals in two games last year by Perry Lakes on the way to the championship and it’s a similar feeling having come through Kalamunda this time around ahead of a semi-final battle with the Senators.
“Hawks really pushed us last year in the first round and it went two games, but in Game 2 it was tied up with two minutes to go and we made a three so we were really pushed. My thing was that I thought it put us in good stead for the semis particularly not having to play Game 3,” Mansfield said.
“Suns now really pushed us as well over these last two weeks which I think helps to harden us and prepare us. Then playing on the road here we didn’t have that much of a crowd because our men were playing at home tonight as well even though the people who turned up were amazing.
“But Suns had a big crowd and it was loud in their favour so we had to do things like use signals to communicate which we don’t always do. But I think the fact this was a tough series helps us moving forward if anything.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – QUARTER FINALS GAME 2
Scarboro Toyota Perry Lakes Hawks 103 defeated Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 59 (Perry Lakes wins 2-0)
Willetton Tigers 58 lost to Bethanie Warwick Senators 88 (Warwick wins 2-0)
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames 65 defeated Cachet Homes Mandurah Magic 64 (Rockingham wins 2-0)
Kalamunda Eastern Suns 81 lost to Lakeside Lightning 91 (Lakeside wins 2-0)