The Brydens Sydney Uni Flames are the 2016/17 WNBL Champions after defeating the Jayco Dandenong Rangers 75-62 in Game 2, clinching the Grand Final series 2-0.
It is the Flames’ first title since 2001 and snaps a run of six consecutive losses in Grand Finals while the club finished the 2016/17 season with 12 straight victories which included a sweep of the entire playoff series.
With the Championship on the line, Dandenong came out hard in the opening term, stunning the Flames to lead by double-digits early but a buzzer-beating three from Lauren Nicholson helped pull Sydney Uni back within six at the first break.
The Flames then began the fight-back, going on a 12-0 run to grab the lead and while the Rangers ensured they would not get too far ahead courtesy of a couple of big shots from Steph Cumming, the visitors still owned the advantage going into the main break.
Both teams wrestled for the momentum in the third period but it was Belinda Snell (15 points, 11 rebounds, four steals) who broke the game open, tallying 13 points in the quarter with her trademark three-point bombs consistently hitting the target.
She was well supported by Leilani Mitchell (15 points, four assists) and Jennifer Hamson (nine points, eight rebounds) and while Dandenong did not give up the fight, the double-digit margin that Snell helped open proved too much to overcome.
What a super group, what a super result,” Flames coach Cheryl Chambers said.
“They have been a pleasure to coach. A pleasure to be involved in.”
Tahlia Tupaea and Asia Taylor played important roles again for the Flames with 11 points each while Sydney Uni finished with a 51-34 advantage on the glass overall.
For the Rangers, Steph Cumming led all scorers with 17 while Aimie Clydesdale and Sara Blicavs combined for 23 points and in her final WNBL game, Jacinta Kennedy bowed out with nine points and two assists.
The hosts started the game shooting 4-7 from three-point range but by the final siren, they had shot 5-22 as their offence dried up in the second half.
Rangers coach Larissa Anderson was understandably disappointed in the result but sees a bright future for her group.
“I think unfortunately we made a lot of uncharacteristic mistakes out there on the floor but all credit to Sydney, they’ve been really focused and poised and showed their experience the second half of the season,” she said.
“We’ve got a lot of young girls and to make a grand final in our second year with the core group we came through with from last year, I couldn’t be more proud of them. Hopefully this has given them a taste and they’ll have the fire in the belly to go one better next year.”
Controlling the tempo of the series as the Flames’ point guard, Mitchell was named the Rachael Sporn Grand Final MVP and Cheryl Chambers was finally able to lift the trophy as coach after coming so close during her time with Bulleen.
The game is available to watch on replay on the WNBL Facebook page at any time as well as at the link below.
The Rachael Sporn MVP voting for the 2016/17 Grand Final series:
Leilani Mitchell 22
Belinda Snell 13
Alex Wilson 12
Sara Blicavs 8
Aimie Clydesdale 2
Tahlia Tuapea 1
Natalie Novosel 1
Steph Cumming 1