Flames ignite to take WNWBL Championship

The Sydney Uni Flames have taken out the 2010 Women's National Wheelchair Basketball League championship in stunning fashion, by defeating championship favourites the Western Stars in a Sunday afternoon Grand Final showdown.

The two sides met in the first semi-final on Friday night, and continuing on from their round 4 form, where they took the weekend undefeated, the Western Stars booked an early place in Sunday’s Grand Final with a solid 11 point win over the Flames, securing the tag of Championship favourites.

Cobi Crispin was dominant with 20 points and 18 boards, with Amber Merritt and Nu Ngyuen both chipping in with 14 points apiece. Liesl Tesch led the Flames with 19 points and 13 boards, but other than the efforts of Stephanie Van Leeuwen (12 points), the Flames had few other scoring options, a result they were going to have to rectify if they were going to progress through the knock-out phase.

The Flames found themselves in a danger match-up in the preliminary round after the VIC Dandenong Rangers snuck through with a gritty one-point win over a gallant Goudkamp Gladiators on Friday night. The Gladiators did everything right to cause the big upset of the finals, but just fell short in the dying moments. The Rangers knocked off the Sydney Uni Flames in their final match-up in round 4, and were looking forward to another crack at the team that finished second on the regular season ladder.

A win was to put either side into the Grand Final, the loser having to settle for a play-off for third. But the Flames, led by Liesl Tesch (20 points, 15 rebounds) and Sarah Stewart (19 points, 10 rebounds) had too much fire power for the Rangers, despite the efforts of Leanne Del Toso (10 points, 10 rebounds) and Tina McKenzie (14 points) and booked a ticket for the Sunday afternoon showdown.

The anticipation was high for this Grand Final match-up and the first quarter would’ve created some surprises. Essentially, it was where the game was won, with The Flames jumping out to a 21-5 lead at the end of the first period, the Western Stars unable to buy a bucket. Meanwhile, at the other end of the floor, the Flames shot the lights out. The Western Stars won every quarter from that point on, but couldn’t make enough inroads to get the game back within reach, the Flames holding on for a 10 point win.

The Flames put the clamps on the Western Stars: Cobi Crispin was held to just five points, she added 12 boards to that as well, and Nu Ngyuen finishing with 10. Amber Merritt picked up the slack with 24 points, but few other players had much of an impact. But for Sydney, the spread of scorers is what gave them a winning total. Katie Hill led the Flames with 18, while the ever-reliable Liesl Tesch finished the game with 16 points and 13 rebounds. Sarah Stewart finished with 15 and 10 and Stephanie Van Leeuwan added 12 points and 11 boards. The Flames simply shot the ball better.

They had more turnovers than the Western Stars, had fewer field goal attempts, and sent the Stars to the line twice as many times. But they just converted on their chances. They shot 46 per cent from the field to the Western Stars 33 per cent and in the end, that was the difference.

The win wraps up a fantastic season for the Flames, who turned their fortunes in one weekend, to take out the big victory. The Goudkamp Gladiators turned around the disappointment of Friday night’s second semi-final, along with their winless round 4 weekend to finish third after defeating the Rangers by seven points in the playoff for third.

Click here to view the Grand Final box scores

WNWBL Season 2010 Class MVPs Claire Byrzynski, Western Stars (Class 1) Kylie Gauci, Goudkamp Gladiators (Class 2) Sarah Stewart, Sydney Uni Flames (Class 3) Liesl Tesch, Sydney Uni Flames (Class 4) Cobi Crispin, Western Stars (Class 4)


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