Suns on verge of historic women's grand final
KALAMUNDA Eastern Suns women's head coach Craig Mansfield has his team just one win away from a historic SBL grand final appearance but he knows there is still a big job to do this weekend against the defending champions.
The Suns finished the women's SBL regular season in fifth position on the standings with a 12-10 record before putting in a tremendous quarter-final performance downing the No. 4 seeded Lakeside Lightning in two games.
That saw Kalamunda qualify for their third semi-final appearance in club history and last Saturday night they claimed a one-nil advantage in the best of three-game series with an impressive 69-53 victory over the Collie Crane Hire South West Slammers at Eaton Recreation Centre.
That means that the Suns now just need one win this weekend at home against the defending women's champions to enter the SBL grand final for the first time to take on either the Wanneroo Wolves or Rockingham Flames.
Coach Mansfield is making sure his team approaches this weekend with Game 2 at Ray Owen Sports Centre on Saturday and a potential Game 3 on Sunday at midday in the same way they have tackled the whole 2013 campaign so far.
"This is our third trip to the semi finals after getting there in 2008 and 2009 so we now have to win one more to make history," Mansfield said.
"We were really happy to win Game 1 in Bunbury but we also understand the job isn’t done. One of the things I've tried to do with the girls this year is try to not talk in terms of quarters or semis or finals or series' or home-court and things like that.
"We literally just talk about the facts that we train this week and have a game this Saturday night. It doesn’t matter where it is, whether you have to win or not and what game you have next. That's really all we can do. So far breaking it down into small steps like that has been good and kept the girl's focused."
The Suns did a tremendous job last Saturday night holding the dangerous Slammers team to just 53 points on 18-of-65 shooting from the field with only Kimberly Sitzmann scoring in double-figures.
Mansfield is hoping for more of the same this weekend but wouldn’t mind if Sitzmann started missing a few more shots for the Slammers.
"Obviously the game plan we went into Game 1 with was good but they had a couple of our special situations like out of bounds plays scouted well," he said.
"We struggled with that a bit so we will try to do better at that, but I thought with the individual scout we identified clearly their best five players. Our girls did a reasonable job executing the scout we had on them.
"It's important that individually we do a good job with their five girls and I think Sitzmann shoots 30 per cent from three on the year but for me she is about 80 per cent so I wouldn’t mind seeing her miss a couple of three-pointers as well. That would help us a lot."
One player who has taken her game up another level so far in the playoffs is Sarah-Jane Knox for Kalamunda and she had another nine points and 13 rebounds in Game 1 but that hasn’t surprised her coach in the slightest.
"She (Knox) is a fantastic player and her form doesn’t surprise me," Mansfield said.
"She had last season off so she has worked her way into this season as it went on and one of the reasons I wanted to get her back was because some players really thrive when it's ugly and scrappy, and are good at getting their hands dirty.
"Some players put up numbers when the games are pretty, but she is one of those players who is really willing to compete and finals suit her perfectly."
Article by Chris Pike
Photo by Mick Cronin