Malpass the hero as Tigers win Women's SBL Grand Final
TIME will tell if it was the perfect farewell but Kate Malpass delivered the winning basket with two seconds remaining as the Willetton Tigers beat the Joondalup Wolves 60-58 in a heart stopper of a Women's SBL Grand Final Friday night at Bendat Basketball Centre.
Little separated the two teams all evening in the second straight thrilling Grand Final the Tigers have taken part in but this time they were on the winning end thanks to Malpass.
The Willetton captain had a huge night and made sure her team made up for the heartbreak of 12 months ago when Sami Whitcomb and the Rockingham Flames denied her and the Tigers.
Malpass ended up scoring her team's final eight points in the Grand Final but it was the last two that truly mattered.
After already scoring with just under two minutes left to tie scores at 58-apiece, Malpass remained the only player to score in the last two minutes initially missing a mid-range jumper under huge pressure from the Wolfpack defence.
But she managed to get the rebound near the basket and put it in off the glass as Joondalup called time-out with two seconds left.
They couldn’t get a shot off and the Tigers celebrated an outstanding Women's Grand Final for 2016 with the Wolfpack left shattered after a season where they were tremendous finishing as minor premiers with a 19-3 record.
Willetton won its eighth Women's SBL championship in what is the Tigers' 12th Grand Final. The Lady Wolfpack were playing in a fifth Grand Final.
Malpass was named Grand Final MVP as she celebrated her fifth championship with the Tigers. She finished with 28 points, eight rebounds and two blocked shots shooting 13-of-19 from the field.
Zoe Harper (16 points, eight rebounds) and Louella Tomlinson (nine points, six boards, four assists, three blocks) were able to have a significant impact for the Tigers with the Wolves without centre Ellyce Ironmonger.
Harper is now a six-time SBL championship winner while Tomlinson caps her two years with Willetton with an SBL championship following last year's losing Grand Final and also losing this year's WNBL decider with the Perth Lynx.
Ebony Antonio also went out a winner for the Tigers winning a fourth championship before she now focuses full-time on an AFL career. She might not have scored but worked tirelessly for 13 rebounds and three assists.
Lara Napier also had four points and six rebounds for Willetton and Desiree Kelley three points and three boards.
The Lady Wolfpack delivered a tremendous season to claim the minor premiership and only losing the Grand Final in a heart stopper under new coach Craig Friday.
Klara Wischer capped her outstanding season with the Wolves finishing with 20 points, 13 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Nikita-Lee Martin also had 12 points, three boards, three steals, two assists and two blocked shots.
Shanice Swain backed up her starring role in Game 3 of the semi finals last Saturday with another standout performance with eight points including two of her team's four three-pointers.
Joondalup captain Shani Amos was playing her 200th SBL game and finished with seven points, two rebounds and two steals.
The Wolves started the Grand Final well with the first four points thanks to Wischer, but the Tigers then hit the next six. Malpass hit eight first quarter points to help the Tigers to a 14-12 advantage at quarter-time.
Another score inside from Harper and then a three to Kelley saw Willetton open up a 19-12 advantage.
The Wolves got back into the game on the back of triples to Amos and Wischer and by half-time had cut Willetton's lead to just three.
An 8-0 run early in the third period saw the Wolves take a three-point lead and have all the momentum, but just as quickly the Tigers responded with the next six points to Malpass and Harper to lead by three.
But a wide open Swain nailed a triple on the three quarter-time buzzer to tie scores up at 46.
Swain then hit another three to start the fourth quarter but scores to Malpass, Napier and Tomlinson again had Willetton lead by one. A three-point play from Wischer put Joondalup back on top and another score of hers had them leading 56-54.
But Malpass wasn’t going to be denied and hit the only two scores of the final two minutes to deliver the Tigers another championship.
Tigers coach Simon Parker drew up that last play for Malpass and while it didn’t go exactly to plan, there's no one he would rather have the ball in the hands of with the championship on the line.
"We drew up that play for Kate and she was to catch the ball going over the double screen, it's just that the pass pretty crappy," Parker said.
"She finished it off and she said there after that it was the first rebound she's got for a while. It was the right person at the right time. She is a special player and we are really fortunate to have her around the club. I don’t know what she's doing next year but I hope she stays around."
Parker is now a championship winning coach after all the years and hours of service he has given to Willetton, but in his usual style he wanted to give the credit to the players and the club.
"It's just a lot of reward for all the hard work that I've done but so have the group, which is a good thing. It's about time I won one myself so I know what the feeling's like and it's brilliant," Parker said.
"I feel like I've definitely earned it but it's also for the girls too because they put a lot of time in. We have a good club and community as well so it's a reward for everyone."
WOMEN'S SBL GRAND FINAL 2016
Goodlife Homes Willetton Tigers 60 (Malpass 28, Harper 16, Tomlinson 9)
Merriwa Tavern & Bistro Joondalup City Wolves 58 (Wischer 20, Martin 12, Swain 8)
Grand Final MVP – Kate Malpass (Willetton Tigers)
Article by Chris Pike