By JARROD POTTER
DANDENONG became the first SEABL women’s team to attain a three-peat, defeating the Knox Raiders 65-48 to claim their third championship in a row.
The Rangers had to fight back from a 16-24 margin through the second quarter caused by some early nerves with Dandenong only hitting 5/20 and 5/16 from the floor in the first half.
The ‘premiership quarter’ belonged to the Rangers – every action led positively to the scoreboard.
Steph Cumming found her bearings to hit two of her textbook step-back jumpers and a long range three-pointer to blitz the Raiders and take a 12 point lead at the last change.
Dandenong continued their run on in the last quarter – Cumming hit her second three-pointer and the icing on the cake came from Alison Downie, going even longer than Cumming’s three-pointers to take an impressive 65-48 win to secure their sixth SEABL championship and become the first SEABL women’s team to win the championship three times in a row.
Amelia Todhunter, 23, led from the front – her 15 points, eight rebounds and six assists in the stat-book and the bruises and court-burn to show as additional badges of honour to earn the best-on-court medal.
“Absolutely amazing,” Todhunter said. “I’m so proud of the girls, the supporters and everyone – the last three years have been the most amazing journey with all the ups and downs.
“I have bruises and court burn but you have to put your body on the line to get the win and we all did and I’m so proud.”
Cumming was exceptional with 14 points, Downie almost had a double-double of 11 points and nine rebounds and helped lock down Knox’s superstar player Amy Denson defensively with Faith Probst and Clare Papavs (nine points each) also providing the necessary experience to help the Rangers to the championship.
Dandenong coach Larissa Anderson was in awe of the team’s ability to hold Knox to a sub-50 score.
“It’s absolutely phenomenal to keep a team as good as Knox to just 48 points, just like we did last week against Geelong,” Anderson said.
“They just played god damned hard defence and I’m so proud of them.
“It was a team effort and that is what this team is and why they are so deserving of their place in history. That is exactly what I said at half-time: “you are the best, now go and make it official”.
Anderson, currently 30 weeks pregnant expecting her second child, is unsure if she’ll return to coach the Rangers for their chance at four-in-four, but was focused on celebrating the championship win before deciding about next season.
“Right now I’m just going to enjoy this one,” Anderson said.
“Then I will step back and figure out what I will do – the baby is due in November, just at the start of pre-season, so it will make it tough, but I haven’t decided yet.
“I’m 30 weeks pregnant and very emotional – I tried to gee the girls up last week and burst into tears.
“I controlled myself today although I don’t know how I would have made it if this was a night game.”
Whatever the composition of the side, on-court or off next season, Todhunter is confident of Dandenong’s chances to make it four on the trot.
“I think it’s really starting to hit us now that six or seven of us have been together for the last three years and I don’t think next year it’s going to be the same,” Todhunter said. “I hope it will be and we can four-peat, but you never know.”
Anderson dedicated the win to Dandenong’s long-serving administrator and junior coach Charles Ryan, who passed away last September.
By JARROD POTTER