The Bulleen Boomers will host the 2009/10 WNBL Grand Final after blowing the Sydney Uni Flames off the court in the Major Semi Final on Saturday.
The Boomers will host the decider at The Cage in Melbourne and will await their opponent while Sydney Uni has a second chance to qualify for the big game when they host the Preliminary Final next week.
The final score was 72-55 but the result does not tell the story of Bulleen’s dominance, too strong, too accurate and too smart for the Flames at Knox Stadium.
Bulleen Boomers assistant coach, and two-time WNBL Coach of the Year Gary Fox said it was the best final they could have hoped to play.
“That’s how we would have wished it to go,” Fox said.
“You never plan for anything like that. I thought we played very, very good. Our defence was great, we really made it difficult for them to get off some good shots, and our transition, our offensive transition was a feature of what we did tonight.”
“When you get to the Grand Final you’re just happy to be there, whichever opposition comes you just prepare hard. You just go out there and do your best. You can do no more than your best. [Having the home court] is awesome, it’s what you work for all year long. Tom’s tried to prepare the group to get to that position so to get there is fulfilling one of our goals.”
Fox said despite the fantastic game from the Boomers there was still room for improvement ahead of the Grand Final.
“Depends on who we play in the Grand Final but there’s always areas to improve upon; Tom [Maher]’s a perfectionist Timmsy (assistant coach Michele Timms) and I are the same, we’re perfectionists so we’ve got lots of things to work on; execution of our offence, defensive rotation we’re always trying to work on something. The good thing is that we get two weeks to sit back, watch the other teams battle it out and we can prepare.”
“It’s going to be a great game. Townsville’s been great all year but Canberra’s awfully good with Lauren [Jackson] there. Lauren’s just a sensational p layer and she was fantastic last week against us and it’s going to be tough to beat them in Canberra but Townsville play their rear’s off; they play hard.”
Jayco Opal Jenna O’Hea led Bulleen with 20 points but it was the spread of scoring from the host team that did the damage; Elyse Penaluna added 14 points and 10 rebounds, Liz Cambage had 12 points and 12 rebounds and two other players scored in double figures. For the Flames forward Natalie Porter scored a game high 22 points but it was a much smaller scoring spread, only Mikaela Dombkins, with 17 points, joined Porter in double figures.
It was a nervous start as both teams missed easy shots and two minutes went by before Cambage grabbed a rebound under the basket, put it back for two and got fouled and made the bonus. That broke the ice and Porter immediately answered at the other end.
After a very quiet game last week Elyse Penaluna scored four points in two minutes early in the term giving the forward some confidence.
Bulleen coach Tom Maher replaced Cambage with Rachel Jarry midway through the term but if the Flames thought they were going to get a break, they didn’t; Jarry scored with her first touch of the ball.
A 10-0 run by the Boomers forced Flames coach Karen Dalton to call a time out with 4:22 remaining in the term and facing a 9-17 deficit. Sydney Uni ran their play out of the timeout but Deanna Smith missed the shot and O’Hea nailed a three to put the Boomers out 20-9 the Flames were in trouble.
Sydney Uni was doing a great job of feeding Porter in the post, keeping the ball low against the taller opposition but the Flames were only shooting at 28 per cent.
The Flames had stepped up their defensive effort and kept O’Hea to just one point and Cambage to 3 for the quarter. Forward Ellie Manou was injected into the Flames line-up and gave Sydney Uni a good presence in the paint but with the extra opportunities from Sydney Uni missed baskets, Bulleen continued to steamroll through their opposition and extended their lead by seven points to hold a 46-25 advantage at halftime.
There was a worrying moment for the Flames when, with three seconds on the clock Afeaki was bowled over by Hanna Zavecz. In her first game back from a knee injury the forward took her time getting up off the floor but appeared to have done no further damage.
If they were to have any hope of launching a comeback in the second half the Flames needed to get some points on the board early but Bulleen forced the Flames into a shot clock violation in their first possession of the second half and were all over Sydney Uni in their opening few possessions as the Flames struggled to find a way to get the ball past talls Penaluna and Cambage. Eventually Porter was fouled while shooting and drained the free throws to get Sydney Uni’s first points for the term, two and a half minutes in.
But the points did not start flowing for the Flames and as O’Hea got back into action with another six points, Bulleen was out to an unassailable 62-34 lead at the final break.
Maher brought the rest of his bench on in the final term. The change allowed the Flames to edge the score back within thirty points but the result was never in doubt.
Next Saturday Sydney Uni will host the winner of tomorrow’s Minor Semi Final between the Canberra Capitals and Townsville Fire.
GLOBAL METALS BULLEEN BOOMERS 72 (J O’Hea 20, E Penaluna 14, E Cambage 12) bt
ACUVUE SYDNEY UNI FLAMES 55 (N Porter 22, M Dombkins 17, D Butler 6)At Knox Stadium, Melbourne
WNBL FINALS SCHEDULE
Semi Final 2: 3.00pm Sunday February 21
Canberra Capitals v Townsville Fire at AIS Arena, Canberra
LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
Preliminary Final: 1.00pm Saturday February 27
Sydney Uni Flames v Winner Semi Final 2
Sydney Olympic Park Sports Centre LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
Grand Final: 1.00pm Saturday March 6
Bulleen Boomers v Winner Preliminary Final
The Cage, Melbourne LIVE on ABC1 and WNBL Radio
By Kimberley Lewis for WNBL Media
Photo courtesy of Chris Ramsay for Bulleen Boomers