By Benito Carbone
On the back of an eruptive 4 th quarter performance from MVP Darrius Oldham, the West Adelaide Bearcats have claimed an historic 13-point victory over the Southern Tigers at an electric Titanium Security Arena.
Oldham (25 points) was for-the- most-part unsighted in the first three terms, but piled
on 18 last-quarter points to guide his side to an unlikely triumph.
The Tigers led for much of the encounter, but strong efforts from Anthony Drmic (15 points) and Michael Nwelue (16 points, 14 rebounds) were in vain as West Adelaide exploded to break their 21-year championship hoodoo.
Drmic kick-started proceedings with a twisting jumper, but it was very much West who took control of the opening term.
Jordan West (15 points, 10 boards) hit an early triple to get his side moving. The Bearcats extended their lead to eight points, before consecutive triples from Robert Linton (12 points) had the Tigers back in the contest.
With the quarter time score locked at 18-apiece, both teams looked to build a gap on their opponent.
Neither succeeded, as the margin failed to exceed three points in the second period. As the clock ran down on a tense term, Hamish Staude stepped forward for Southern, firing a clutch buzzer-beater from the arc to put his side ahead by two at the main break.
Nwelue made his presence felt as the third quarter began, rattling off a mammoth
dunk to get the huge Southern crowd on their feet. A huge rejection on Tristan Braithwaite by Jordan Dodman followed shortly after, as the favourites threatened to take this match away from West Adelaide.
The 4 th seeded Bearcats clawed their way back into the contest, with crucial threes
from West and Braithwaite (15 points) keeping the Tigers at bay.
Dean Nyberg’s side led by one at the final exchange, and were looking to finish off
West Adelaide to secure their back-to- back title. However, they failed to account for one man.
With teammate and close friend Harold Ridgeway watching from the stands due to a suspension, Darrius Oldham went manic.
First, Dee dropped a three, following it up with a driving lay-up, before hitting a mid-range jumper to send Bearcats fans senseless.
Oldham continued to accumulate, and he was aided by an instrumental Braithwaite (5-6 3P), who threw up a pair of triples to build a near unbreakable 10-point lead.
From there, Oldham landed consecutive threes to seal the championship for the now-hysterical Bearcats, with the grand final finishing 77-64 after a tremendous 26-12 final term.
The victory is a huge achievement for rookie coach Corey Maclean and his charges, with four of his players having to wait for over a decade to taste the success of a grand final triumph.