2017 FINALS REVIEW
The Wollongong Rollerhawks have completed a dominant season with a sweep of the playoffs to earn the 2017 Championship, their first in five years.
A consummate team performance saw them prevail in the gold medal game, holding off a defiant Sydney Metro Blues side to win 79-70 despite the Blues winning the final term by six points.
Four of their starters came close to triple-doubles in the victory, exemplifying the Rollerhawks’ superior ball movement as Luke Pople (25 points, seven rebounds, nine assists) Brett Stibners (21, 12 and seven), Nick Taylor (16, five and eight) and Michael Auprince (15, seven and eight) all starred.
They tallied 32 assists on 38 field goals, helping them to shoot 57% from the field.
Wollongong were just as impressive in their Semi-Final win over Kilsyth Cobras, advancing to the gold medal with the victory while ending the Cobras’ hopes of a three-peat.
On the back of a 32-17 first half, the Rollerhawks were in control of the game from the outset as Stibners paced them with 28 points.
Taylor (22 points, seven assists), Auprince (18 points, 15 rebounds) and Pople (seven points and 14 assists) dominated again while Tim Markcrow and Nicholas Scott played some important minutes.
The Cobras could not contain Wollongong’s firepower and shot only 35% themselves but their weekend went from bad to worse when they fell to the Blues the following night in the Preliminary Final.
Kilsyth led by double-digits in the first half and still by five points with three minutes remaining but Sydney Metro charged home with a 13-4 run.
Joe Chambers led the way with 35 points and 15 rebounds, John McPhail added 20 points off the bench, CJ McCarthy-Grogan scored nine of his 20 in the final term to go with eight boards and six assists and Colin Smith hit a couple of clutch baskets down the stretch.
Advancing to the gold medal game the hard way, Sydney Metro had begun their weekend with a Semi-Final win over the Queensland Spinning Bullets on Friday night.
Despite leading for almost the entire game, the Blues needed a final push to finally put away the Spinning Bullets as a 23-16 fourth term led them to a 13-point victory.
Chambers was again outstanding, dominating at both ends of the floor to finish with 41 points on 18-28 shooting, ten rebounds, seven assists and six steals while McCarthy-Grogan came off the bench to add 22 points, 11 boards and eight assists.
Queensland put that disappointment behind them on Sunday, overcoming the Cobras on their home floor to claim the bronze medal in an 81-78 upset that saw Kilsyth drop a third consecutive game.
Once again, the Cobras had control through the first half but the Spinning Bullets never surrendered as Tom O’Neill-Thorne (25.5 points, five rebounds, 11 assists and four steals per game over the weekend) led the comeback.
He was ably supported by Matt McShane (14 points, 5.5 boards, 5.5 assists per game), Dylan Gawthorne (10.5 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Daniel Anstey (seven points, 4.5 rebounds).
Shawn Russell (20.3 points per game over three games) hit a late three-pointer to cut the score-line to 78-81 but time ran out for the defending Champs as Tristan Knowles (16 points, 5.7 rebounds, 9.7 rebounds) fought through foul trouble and Shaun Groenewegen (15 points) tried his hardest.
Find all the stats from the 2017 playoffs here.
Stay tuned tomorrow for a list of all the award winners from the season.