Sunday 22nd April @ Ray Owen Stadium
The Kalamunda Eastern Suns have qualified for this Friday’s WSBL Grand Final after defeating the reigning Champions, the South West Slammers, 92-77, in Game Two of the WSBL Semi-Final series, on Saturday night at the Furnace.
The Suns will make a historic maiden club SBL Grand Final appearance, against the Wanneroo Wolves who defeated the Rockingham Flames in their semi-final series. The Suns completed consecutive clean-sweep series’ after having previously eliminated the Lakeside Lightning in the Quarter Finals in ‘straight sets’. The win was the Suns 12th home win of the season, a league best 12-2 record.
Speaking post-game, the relief for Coach Craig Mansfield’s was evident: "It's a relief to win at home after getting game one on the road. I'm happy to be in the grand final for the players and everyone that has worked hard at Suns over the years. It is definitely an achievement but not the final one we want so we will continue to be purposeful in our recovery and preparation. This group of girls have tremendous character as a team and will be focused and hard at it."
Following last Saturday’s Game One victory and in front of a packed out and vocal crowd at the Furnace the Suns came out determined and wanting to close the series out, without having to go to a do-or-die Game Three on Sunday. Both sides traded baskets early and the Suns took the lead on a Melissa Moyle jumper, with seven minutes remaining, and never surrendered it again. Captain Ajay Jones was busy in the first dishing out assists and Mel Moyle had her offensive game in tune as the Suns held a 12 point lead at the first break, 27-15.
The Suns opened the second with an 8-2 run with Jennie Rintala, Jones and Moyle heavily involved in the opening exchanges. With the margin out to 17 late in the second, Kimberly Sitzmann knocked down a pair of three-pointers and the Slammers managed to momentarily find some offensive spark with a couple of jumpers to tie the quarter scoring, but the Suns still up at the half 44-32.
The Slammers, last year’s Champions, rallied in the third, and led by game-high scorer Sitzmann, reduced the margin to just 5, providing some nervous moments for Craig Mansfield and the Suns coaching staff. It was again Moyle and Rintala to the rescue though ending a Slammers mini-revival and when Rachel Mueggenborg stole and converted and then knocked down a three on a coast to coast play, the margin was back at 12. It was fitting that Mueggenborg would then knock down a buzzer beater, on an Ajay Jones assist, to have the Suns heading for home, 70-59.
Some nervous moments followed in the final quarter as the Slammers reduced the margin to single digits on four separate occasions, but each time, Jones, Moyle or Rintala had the quick reply and the hot hand from the free throw line to ice the game, 92-77, the highest offensive output of the 2013 season for the Suns.
Mansfield knows that there is improvement and work ahead though "I felt our effort was there defensively and we worked hard. 77 points is probably too many to concede, although Szitman played exceptionally despite being confronted with multiple defenders, and we did give them too many o (sic) rebounds so we'll put in the hard yards this week at training and hopefully use this last couple of opportunities to improve effectively."
Melissa Moyle was the leading score for the Suns with 23 points, to go with 6 assists and 4 rebounds; she was ably assisted by the human double-double machine, Jennie Rintala who had 22 points and 10 rebounds at 10/13 from the field; Captain Ajay Jones was also outstanding with 18 points and 5 assists whilst Rachel Mueggenborg had 14 points at 6/9 clip from the field. For the Slammers, Kimberly Sitzmann had 30 points and 9 rebounds and Dannielle Smith had a double-double of her own with 14 points and 11 rebounds. Statistically, both teams were evenly matched, though the tell-tale stat of this game was the shooting percentages. Both teams put up 71 shots from the field, with the Suns converting 35 and the Slammers only 28.
The WSBL Grand Final, the showpiece of women’s State Basketball, is on this Friday, 30th August, at 7:30pm at the WA State Basketball Centre. Tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Article by Steve Trajeski
Photo by Mick Cronin