By JARROD POTTER
SEABL – EAST CONFERENCE FINAL
FOUR conference basketball titles in six years.
The domination of Dandenong’s SEABL women continued on Saturday night as Larissa Anderson’s charges got out of the blocks early and stayed out to claim the East Conference title with a 75-55 win over Geelong.
After letting the Supercats get away in the first half of their SEABL semi-final last month, the Rangers made no such error this time around, with a conference pennant and a place in the SEABL grand final – on Dandenong’s home court no less – on the line.
The clamp-down work on Sara Blicavs (13 points) – who will don the Dandenong green-and-gold in this year’s WNBL competition – was exceptional as the Australian Opals’ representative was given no inch by Dandenong’s perennial defensive elite.
Clare Papavs (15 points), Alison Downie (four points) and Faith Probst (four points) – Dandenong’s integral front-courters throughout the prolonged success this decade – made sure Blicavs struggled to get good looks and always had to contend with one of the three in her face, and at times more than that.Evergreen Jacinta Kennedy (16 points, 14 rebounds) continued her 2015 SEABL rampage in the key – knocking in her 11th double-double of the season to put her hand squarely up for All Star Five consideration.
It started early with the Rangers pushing out to a 14-4 lead and steadily the advantage swung in their favour.
Not much went right for the Supercats as the Blicavs, Rosie Fadljevic (10 points) and Tayla Roberts (two points) struggled to get their shots up in the key, with the Rangers swarming defensively.A 43-30 rebound count highlighted the efforts of Dandenong’s fortress-like defence – but it wasn’t just the defenders relishing the conference final.
At one stage the match threatened to balloon out to 30 points following a complete Dandenong onslaught through the third, but to Geelong’s credit the visitors played out every minute and forced Dandenong to earn its title, and with it, a place in SEABL’s 2015 finale.
“It was four quarters of defence and that’s exactly what our target was before the game,” Anderson said. “We obviously worked on what they were going to throw at us defensively to counter that offensively – as I thought we were very undisciplined against them two weeks ago.
“For the girls to bounce back that way at both ends, showed just how much quality is in this team.“It wasn’t the prettiest game… but I think the refs let them play at times and I thought both teams put on a really good spectacle and I’m so proud the team showed up for four quarters.”
Dandenong will face Kilsyth in Saturday evening’s SEABL grand final, after the Cobras – led by Endeavour Hills-born point guard Steph Cumming (21 points) – defeated Bendigo in a 79-77 thriller on Saturday.
“One more to go – this has been an absolute fairytale for us,” Anderson said. “Credit to the teams last year, but we feel that was one that we let get away a little bit too.
“We’ve taken that all through this season – that hurt that we weren’t used to last year – and to the girls’ credit, to have only dropped three games so far is a phenomenal effort.
“To have that kind of success with a core group of girls over that long is something we’ll be able to cherish and hold with us forever.”