WNBL Grand Final Preview
Thursday February 15, 2007
It all comes down to this, the 88th and final game of the season, where one faces two - the defending champions up against the minor premiers.
Sydney Uni and Canberra have built up one of the fiercest rivalries in the WNBL in recent times and having already played each other four times this season this game is expected to be no different to the physical and intense clashes of the past.
In round 6, the Flames ended the Capitals’ undefeated start to the season with a convincing 84-67 win at home. In round 12, just before the Christmas break, Canberra responded to beat the Flames 72-66 at Southern Cross Stadium, levelling the head-to-head season series at 1-all. A fired up Sydney Uni then crushed the Capitals in round 17, running out convincing road winners 77-52 before they claimed the minor premiership and a home Grand Final with a 74-65 win in the major semi final.
As a result, both teams now possess a wealth of knowledge about the other’s strengths and weaknesses.
Throughout the regular season, Canberra were the best defensive team in the League and despite the loss to Sydney Uni in the Major semi final, they did restrict the Flames (who are the best offensive team in the league) to 15 points less than their average total score of 89.
In that Major Semi Final, Canberra’s 202cm centre Tracey Beatty proved a nightmare for the Flames, scoring all of her 14 points and pulling in five of her eight rebounds in the first half before she was denied possession in the second half.
Although Canberra has a number of speedy point guards – Jess Bibby (15.3ppg), Natalie Hurst (8.9ppg) and Kellie Abrams (10.8ppg) – they were outpaced by the Flames in the second half, limiting them to just 21 points.
The physical match up between Donna Loffhagen and Nat Porter has been a highlight of the head-to-head clashes this season while Eva Afeaki will again have her hands full against Beatty and young tall Abby Bishop.
Sydney Uni’s depth of the bench is a worry for Canberra.
In 18 head-to-head games, both teams have won nine times, while Canberra Captain Abrams needs 1 assist for 500 career assists.
Canberra’s Carrie Graf – “Sydney is a great team and we are a hell of a team and basketball, like all sport, is a game of momentum. It’s how you can withstand pressure, how you can apply pressure and how you can ride with and control momentum. When it comes down to that final game, it’s all on the line. They are tough, physical affairs with people playing for the prize and playing for their life.”
Sydney Uni’s Karen Dalton – “We have followed our usual training plan and everything has been pretty much our normal routine…I don’t think we followed the game plan we had against them in the first half of the major semi final. They are a good defensive unit, they have a very experienced outfit with some very experienced players.”
PLAYERS TO WATCH:
Canberra’s point scoring dynamo Jess Bibby lit the Capitals’ fuse against Adelaide last week, scoring a game high 23 points, including 12 points in a decisive third quarter. Despite several quiet games against Sydney Uni this season, the high energy point guard has the skill and experience to post a match-winning haul of points.
Inspirational World Champion Opal Tully Bevilaqua is Canberra’s floor general. The four-time Robyn Maher Defensive Player of the Year poses a threat to Sydney Uni at both ends of the court. During the major semi-final, she bagged 13 points, including two clutch 3-point bombs, but went off for three minutes with a calf cramp that allowed the Flames to break away.
185cm Sydney Uni power forward Nat Porter has been in career best form this season. She posted a game high 19 points to go with 8 rebounds and 3 blocked shots against Canberra in the Major semi final. The Flames go-to-girl has the experience, fitness and talent to single handedly dismantle the Caps.
Retiring Opals legend Trish Fallon has been the vital link in the Flames surge to the 2006/07 Grand Final. Her offensive class and ability to constantly be in the right place on defence shows why she still is one of the best female players in Australia. She tallied 11 points, 8 rebounds and 2 assists against Canberra in the Major semi. The game will be her 251st WNBL game.
PLAYOFF HISTORY: Head-to-head - Canberra 3, Sydney Uni 2.
Sydney Uni Flames: 6. Alicia Poto, 8. Eva Afeaki, 9. Trish Fallon, 11. Mikaela Dombkins, 12. Melissa Smith, 13. Rachael Herrick, 14. Natalie Porter, 15. Michelle Musselwhite, 22. Georgia Woodyard, 32. Kristen Veal. Head coach: Karen Dalton.
Canberra Capitals: 7. Natalie Hurst, 9. Peta Sinclair, 10. Abby Bishop, 11. Jessica Bibby, 12. Michaela Dalgleish, 13. Kellie Abrams, 22. Donna Loffhagen, 25. Tracey Beatty, 32. Kylie Langi, 44. Tully Bevilaqua. Head coach: Carrie Graf.
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