By JARROD POTTER
SEABL – Grand Final
“I THINK these girls will go down forever as one of the best SEABL teams and I think they deserve that.”
These were the simple words of a proud Dandenong coach Larissa Anderson after her SEABL juggernauts shone in a 76-63 triumph over Kilsyth, to win their fourth championship in six years.
It was a night to be in green and gold as Dandenong fought off every Kilsyth fight-back – every Rosie Moult (14 points) inspired run-on and anything else the visitors could muster.
Amelia Todhunter – who spent 13 weeks on the sidelines earlier this year with a knee injury – displayed her SEABL class, stepping up to the big stage to rattle off 19 points, while constantly creating headaches in the backcourt with long-time guard partner Aimie Clydesdale (12 points).
The Cobras didn’t bow down to Rangers’ pressure though – retiring SEABL great Sarah Parsons (4 points, 16 rebounds) toiled under the ring while Steph Cumming (13 points, 7 rebounds, 5 assists), and Cassandra Sant (12 points, 7 rebounds) pushed on even as the gap increased.
Sant in particular battled back on court after going down with a knee injury through the second term.
Kilsyth claimed the lead through the second term – powering to the front off Parsons and Chantella Perera (10 points) – but Dandenong didn’t let it stay that way for long.
Long-time SEABL team mates Todhunter, Clare Papavs (11 points), Alison Downie (8 points) and Faith Probst (3 points, 7 rebounds) ensured Kilsyth had no room to breathe defensively – clamping down to keep the Cobras to 32 after half-time.
Dandenong de-fanged the Cobras’ inside game while powering through its own as the Rangers pulled away in the last term – holding onto a 10-point lead throughout most of the clash.
Jacinta Kennedy (17 points, 11 rebounds) – who earned her first SEABL championship and put down yet another double-double – Clydesdale and Papavs were sensational in the fourth term, with the latter knocking down the final trey to give her side a 13-point victory.
“I would not choose anyone else to go to war with except these girls,” Anderson said.
“In six years – and really it’s five years as one year I didn’t coach – it’s four out of five with us together.
“I was just a blubbering mess when the siren went – but I don’t know when it will sink it, probably don’t have time to let it sink in, we’re straight into (WNBL) training again on Monday.
“Let it sink in tonight (Saturday) and then it’s back to business.”
Todhunter earned her second Barbara Barton Medal as the grand-final MVP and Anderson believed for her to get back on court this season is testament to her fighting spirit.
“She might only be a tiny little thing but her heart is absolutely… whatever, you can fill in the blanks there, but she never stops,” Anderson said.
“She’s so persistent and determined and professional.
“She’s worked her little butt off to get back to this and credit to her and well done, it’s amazing.”
Dandenong farewelled one of its absolute champions – captain and club mainstay Faith Probst – who retired after her 223rd and final SEABL match.
In a fitting end – Probst reeled in one of her textbook, lunging rebounds late in the clash, before powering to the post to earn two free throws – what would turn out to be the last shots in a storied SEABL career.
“Faith announced that today (Saturday), so we’ve all been very teary and I was a bit worried – do I tell them, do I not tell them – but someone of that calibre deserves to be celebrated, so I sent that out today so they could be warned,” Anderson said.
“We’re going to miss Faith – she’s been an amazing person for the league and for us.”
It was Dandenong’s seventh women’s SEABL championship.