YOU wouldn’t expect anything less from a State Basketball League grand final between Willetton and Joondalup.
A physical, at times scrappy and at one point, nose-busting, encounter has produced a 60-58 championship for the Willetton Tigers and heartbreaking loss for the season’s most dominant side the Joondalup Wolves.
Willetton star Kate Malpass (28 points, eight rebounds) landed a lay-up under intense pressure with scores level at three seconds remaining to dent the hopes of the Wolves faithful.
Joondalup took a final time-out to have possession in its half and an opportunity to pull back the deficit.
But Wolves captain Shani Amos (seven points, three assists), celebrating her 200th game, could not get a good enough look, her shot missing to leave the Tigers in raptures.
Joondalup coach Craig Friday labelled it “a great learning curve” for his team.
“It was a great game… a couple of things didn’t go our way,” he said.
“We just didn’t put the ball in the hole, no excuses we got good looks.
“I thought our back half was better than our front half.
“We pride ourselves on the ability to defend.”
The Wolves had a major exclusion in the form of star centre Ellyce Ironmonger, who was in the USA as bridesmaid at a wedding.
Friday said they had known she would be absent from the grand final for a while and planned accordingly.
“Credit to my group, we adjusted and did a really good job,” he said.
The scintillating final term, which began at 46 apiece, had the margin never drift beyond three points.
Both sides missed important shots in the frenetic final minute when the scores were tied.
An errant foot from the Tigers’ Ebony Antonio (13 rebounds) outside the baseline gave Joondalup what could have been the final possession with 25 seconds remaining.
But Willetton took back control with 14 seconds left after Shani Amos lost the ball out of bounds under pressure.
Earlier in the quarter, Willetton’s Louella Tomlinson (nine points, six rebounds) left the court with her nose buried in a towel in a moment indicative of the heated clash.
Had it not been for Malpass’ game winner, Joondalup guard Sherice Swain would have had claims for highlight of the game when she nailed a three pointer on the three-quarter-time buzzer to tie the scores.
Swain hit two of the Wolves’ four three pointers in a tough night where they managed just 4-25 from long range.
Shooting accuracy proved to be Joondalup’s biggest issue, with the team hitting just 23 field goals from 77 attempts at 29 per cent including.
The Wolves had plenty of opportunity to score through 23 turnovers to the Tigers, but did not take advantage.
In contrast, Willetton struck at 40 per cent from the field.
It was a nervous start for both sides.
The Tigers skipped to the biggest lead of the game, seven points, early in the second quarter courtesy of a three-point bomb from Desiree Kelley.
The Wolves’ Nikita Martin (12 points), who had claims as best player to that point, dragged the deficit back to three points with back-to-back twos.
The first coming courtesy of a searing assist from Klara Wischer (20 points, 13 rebounds, four steals) after a deft cut to the key by the 2013 grand final MVP.
But Willetton was resilient, regularly rebuilding that seven-point buffer.
Wischer, the Wolves best player, knocked down a three inside four minutes to cut the margin back to two points, the tightest margin of the quarter.
But sharp shooting from the Tigers’, particularly Kate Malpass, who continued to knock down shots while being harassed by Wolves defenders, kept the side to a 36-33 lead at half time.