For the first time in their 26-year-history, the Bulleen Boomers are Champions of the WNBL after accounting for the Canberra Capitals, 103-78 in the iiNet WNBL Grand Final today at The Cage in Melbourne.
Led by two players who have known the pain of defeat in the previous two Grand Finals, game MVP Sharin Milner (27 points) and Elyse Penaluna (18 points, 14 rebounds) finally overcame the hurdle that has been two high to climb, until now.
In front of a packed house at The Cage, the Boomers led at every change, building their lead with deadly long-range accuracy and courageous effort from their wealth of injured players.
A Grand Final three-peat wasn’t to be for the Capitals, Carrie Graf’s charges simply outclassed on the day, but by no means disgraced after another outstanding season.
Suzy Batkovic (28 points) battled hard all game for the losing side, as did Michelle Cosier (19 points), but the visitors simply could not slow down the Boomers scoring juggernaut.
Far from the opening of the Semi-Final two week’s ago, Bulleen were on the attack from the first play and built an early lead through two quick baskets to Rachel Jarry (11 points). Suzy Batkovic answered with a three-point bomb to keep the scores close. In what was a foul plagued first half, two fouls to Liz Cambage and Jess Bibby threatened to derail the two superstars’ game.
Both teams were forced to go to their bench for scoring options and for Bulleen, Kylie Reid stepped onto the floor and nailed a three-point basket with her first touch, and Jenna O’Hea in her first game for five weeks, hit a three-pointer on the quarter time buzzer to give her side a 29-15 lead.
Elyse Penaluna scored first to open the second term, and from there the Boomers rode the wave of confidence of point-guard Sharin Milner, who overcame every challenge from the Capitals, nailing three-pointers, taking charges and picking up steals.
Michelle Cosier and Alison Lacey were fighting hard for the Capitals, but with 15 points in the half from Milner and 13 from Penaluna, Bulleen extended their lead to 56-36 at halftime.
Milner began the second half the way she left off the first, scoring quickly on the drive for the Boomers. Suzy Batkovic continued to be the only real offensive threat for the Capitals, and was the first to reach double figures for her side. Early foul trouble began to haunt players from both teams, Bulleen’s Jenna O’Hea and Canberra’s Alison Lacey each picking up their fourth fouls.
A Sharin Milner three-pointer, one of her five for the game, took the lead out to 30 points, and when Canberra captain Jess Bibby, who had no chance to impact the game due to immediate foul trouble, picked up her final foul on a nasty collision with Bulleen’s Anna Crosswhite, it appeared the Canberra spirit had finally been broken.
The score was 79-55 after three quarters and the ghosts of Grand Final defeats of the past two years were disappearing by the minute. Milner delivered her fifth and final three-pointer to raise the roof off The Cage early in the fourth, followed immediately by another three-pointer from Elyse Penaluna. Michelle Cosier continued to take advantage of the foul troubled Boomers, but the end result was never in doubt.
Bulleen began taking off their starters and it was Alice Kunek who brought up Bulleen’s 100th point of the night, as tears and hugs broke out throughout the Boomers bench and faithful. The scores ended at 103-78, delivering coach Tom Maher his eighth WNBL Championship, and Bulleen their first.
Bulleen Boomers 103 (Sharin Milner 27, Elyse Penaluna 18, Liz Cambage 17) defeated Canberra Capitals 78 (Suzy Batkovic 28, Michelle Cosier 19, Carly Wilson 11)