WSBL Grand Final Preview Willetton v East Perth

Where and When: WA Basketball Stadium, Friday August 26, 7.30pm

Tickets: www.ticketmaster.com.au or 1300 136 122

Form: Willetton - WWLLLWWLWW East Perth - WWWWWLWWWW

Road to the Grand Final: Willetton - Beat Lakeside 2-1 in QF, beat Wanneroo 2-1 in SF. East Perth - Beat Kalamunda 2-1 in QF, beat Perry Lakes 2-0 in SF.

Meetings This Season:

Round Eight: East Perth 67 (Jorre St Jorre 24 points, Norwood 12, Fielding 10) Willetton 65 (Malpass 23, Hooper 23, Harper 8)

Round 19: East Perth 82 (Norwood 27, Jorre St Jorre 17, Fielding 16) Willetton 68 (Malpass 26, Hooper 18, Marsh 8)

Summary:

Southlands Boulevarde Willetton Tigers will become just the second team to win three-consecutive women's State Basketball League titles if they beat Australian Central East Perth Eagles in Friday's Grand Final.

The Tigers have comfortably prevailed in the last two Grand Finals and will join Perry Lakes as the only teams to win three in a row if they beat the Eagles at the WA Basketball Centre.

Victory would also see Willetton move clear of the Hawks as the team to have won the most championships, with both sides victorious on six occasions.

But the minor premiers will face a huge test in third seed East Perth, which has won 13 of its past 14 games after comfortably getting past Perry Lakes in the semi-finals.

Willetton's path to the Grand Final was far trickier, as it narrowly overcame Lakeside in the quarter-finals and Wanneroo in the final four, but Tigers coach Glenn Clarke said he was confident they could get back to their best basketball.

"We have a great bunch of girls. If they can all gel together during the game, they're a great team to watch and tough to beat," he said.

"The club is so proud of having made it to what is now our fourth-straight Grand Final and there's nothing we'd love more than a three-peat."

East Perth women's team has struggled for most of its history and is appearing in the title decider for the first time, which coach Anthony Fletcher said was a tremendous achievement.

"I thought if we could keep this side together for two years, we could be in this position next year," he said.

"It's been absolutely fantastic to get to this position already and it's been great for the club and a reward for everyone involved."

Young forward Sam Norwood has helped lead the Eagles to the Grand Final with an MVP-calibre season, but she faces a tough test against fellow West Coast Waves player Zoe Harper.

The Tigers also have WNBL experience from the likes of Melissa Marsh, Kate Malpass, Jasmine Hooper and Ebony Antonio, which they'll hope will help them secure their fourth championship in seven years.

Word From The Teams:

Willetton coach Glenn Clarke on the keys for the Tigers (from Sports Breakfast on SportFM 91.3): "Sam Norwood is playing very good basketball so she's a 'must-stop'. And also Nicole Jorre St Jorre, she seems to be knocking the ball in from all over the place at the moment. So those are the main two we have to shut down and if we can just maintain the rest we'll hopefully get the win."

East Perth forward Sam Norwood on Grand Final nerves (from Sports Beat on SportFM 91.3): "For a lot of the girls this is their first Grand Final and it's my first too, so we're pretty nervous. But we're all trying to stay focused and trying not to let the hype get to us too much. We're working hard and we're really excited."

Burning Questions:

Can Willetton recapture its best form? The Tigers won their first 10 games of the season but their finish to the year wasn't as convincing. They dropped their final two games of the regular season and had to overturn 1-0 series deficits in both rounds of the finals to make it through. During their 10-game winning streak, the Tigers conceded just 56.6 points per game, but in their last eight games they have given up 68 points per game. Willetton can't afford to have the defensive lapses it has had in recent weeks against an offense as potent as East Perth's.

How do the Tigers contain Sam Norwood? The West Coast Waves forward has been in tremendous form throughout the playoffs. In her five finals matches, she is averaging 23 points and 11.4 rebounds per game. If you take it back even further, since June 11 she has averaged 21.2 points per outing. Her rise in form is right around the time the Eagles improved dramatically and started to rise up the ladder and there's no doubt she was a huge part of that. Willetton must find a way to limit her impact, in terms of both scoring and on the boards. With Zoe Harper and Emma Lobb, they have the size to do it, but Norwood could still be good enough to overcome that.

Expert Tips:

Dave Herbert (West Coast Waves coach) - East Perth

Shawn Dennis (Perth Wildcats assistant coach) - Willetton

Rob Beveridge (Perth Wildcats coach) - Willetton

Jacob Kagi (SBL.asn.au writer) - East Perth

Scott Hood (SBLtv commentator) - East Perth

Steve Mills (6PR broadcaster and SBLtv commentator) - East Perth

Nick Marvin (Perth Wildcats managing director) - Willetton

Christian Rice (Basketball WA competitions manager) - Willetton

Coverage: SBL.asn.au is the place to be for the best coverage before, during and after the game. We'll have all the news in the lead-up and live stats during the match. For everyone who wants regular updates of the game, 'like' SBL on Facebook and follow WA_SBL on Twitter, where we'll have the latest scores and news. There'll also be match reports and reaction from both teams straight after the match on SBL.asn.au. And for everyone who can't make it to the match, remember you can watch the game on the free SBLtv broadcast from 7.20pm at http://www.sbltv.com/.

Article by Jacob Kagi

Photo by Grant Lauterbach

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