Women's SBL Grand Final Preview
THE Orange Autos Rockingham Flames and Goodlife Homes Willetton Tigers have been the two dominant women's SBL teams all season and now on Friday night they fight for the 2015 championship in the grand final at Bendat Basketball Centre.
The Flames and Tigers have been the two standout teams right throughout the 2015 women's SBL season both finishing the regular season with 20-2 records, with Rockingham only claiming the minor premiership courtesy of a one-point edge in their two head-to-head battles.
Making the grand final hard to predict is that both teams split their two games throughout the season as well with the Flames winning the first meeting 78-74 at Mike Barnett Sports Complex in Week 10, and then on the last night of the regular season the Tigers won 67-63 at Willetton Basketball Stadium.
Both teams have gone through the first two rounds of the playoffs unbeaten as well with the Flames downing the Cockburn Cougars and Mandurah Magic in two games, while the Tigers defeated the Perry Lakes Hawks and Joondalup City Wolves both in clean sweeps.
Rockingham now comes into Friday night's grand final looking for back-to-back championships while Willetton enters the decider on a 14-game winning run while hunting for an eighth women's SBL championship, and first since 2011.
The Flames are playing in their third women's grand final over the past four years to continue the stark turnaround since the disastrous 2-20 season in 2011.
Since then, Rockingham made the grand final for the first time against the South West Slammers in 2012, just fell short in 2013 despite finishing second with 16-6 during the regular season and then were a dominant force in 2014 claiming the minor premiership, and the championship.
Prior to last year, the Tigers had been a regular fixture at the top of the women's SBL having finished the season either first or second for nine straight years on the way to winning five championships and playing in six grand finals.
Overall, Willetton's women have played in 10 SBL grand finals for seven championships and now after an eighth-place finish last year and a first round exit to the Flames, they are back as a contender this year.
The grand final is also full of star power aplenty on either side.
The Flames continue to be served best by reigning MVP and Perth Lynx WNBL squad member Sami Whitcomb with support from Townsville Fire centre Darcee Garbin, but the efforts of Tarsha Fletcher, Talisia Bourne, Jacinta Bourne, Kate Williams and company can't be underestimated.
The Tigers aren’t exactly lacking star power either with another Lynx player Louella Tomlinson a dominant presence inside having now set the women's SBL record for a single season in blocked shots as she averages 17.2 points, 9.1 rebounds, 4.9 blocks and 3.1 assists a game.
Kate Malpass has had a terrific season on return for Willetton in 2015 averaging 15.9 points a game and having already played in four championships for the Tigers, she is now looking for a dream return by making it five.
Willetton has plenty of depth with the likes of Ebony Antonio, Zoe Harper, Lisa Wallbutton, Desiree Kelley, Lara Napier, Emma Gandini and even veteran Melissa Collins (nee Marsh).
The battle between Tomlinson and Garbin inside could very well be worth the price of admission alone, but the help each gets inside could very well be a telling factor in who is crowned champions for 2015 while which prolific scorer catches fire out of Whitcomb and Malpass could be a big factor as well.
Article by Chris Pike