By Benito Carbone
FORESTVILLE EAGLES 62 (Thompson 18, Simons 14)
SOUTHERN TIGERS 52 (Frost 10)
The Forestville Eagles have staved off an onslaught of Southern Tigers pressure to record a 10-point win, ending the reigning champions’ hopes of a dream rematch against last season’s opposition in North Adelaide.
In a match that could be described as dicey-yet-enthralling, the home side’s elite players stood tallest in Olivia Thompson (12rbs) and Sam Simons. Young centre Hannah Hank was also pivotal in stifling a struggling Southern outfit, stuffing the stat-sheet with a 12p-8r-4a-4s-2b performance.
The tactical battle between Forestville’s Monica Bello and Southern’s Tracy York was evident from the get-go, with the Eagles taking the ascendancy through their outside shooting.
Although the Tigers took an early lead, York’s side endured a nightmare 8:00 period over the 1st and 2nd terms where they failed to register a single point. In the same period, Forestville scored 20.
The remarkable Eagles run ensured that Southern would be playing catch-up basketball for the remaining three quarters. However, with the tremendous travelling Tigers fanbase, the pressure shifted, instead piling on the hosts.
A looping three-ball from Ashley Olvera (7pts) had fans on their feet, but the resilient Eagles staved off the pressure to see out the half, holding on to a 39-24 lead.
With Forestville’s dramatic final-term fadeaway last week at Hillcrest in the back of everyone’s minds, Southern continued to push.
But the Eagles hung strong on the back of brilliant defensive cameos from Hank and Kelsey Ireland (10pts), preventing the Tigers from finding any scoring rhythm.
Trailing by 10 at the final change, Southern attacked in waves, desperate to find some sort of crack in Bello’s brick wall of a side.
But just when it looked like a Jemma Thacker (8pts) trey could be the catalyst for Southern, Forestville’s quality shone through.
First it was Thompson, twisting and turning to bury some icy jumpers.
Then, Simons looked every part the Sapphires player she is, driving for a crucial layup and foul. The 18-year-old missed the extra point, but a Thompson offensive board allowed Simons to get in position, receive possession, and hit a season-calling triple.
It’s been a magical season for Monica Bello and her Eagles.
Sporting no imports and the absence of the college-bound Juliet Gordon and Darcy Rees, Forestville have delivered their fans a grand final appearance on the back of the league’s youngest starting five.
Despite the youthful flavour, the Wayville-based outfit have a roster as dynamic and dangerous as any.
Their experienced campaigners in WNBL star Liv Thompson and former Norwood stalwart Kelsey Ireland cause headaches for any side.
Meanwhile, the 18-year-old Sam Simons has been instrumental in their finals charge alongside Katia Stamatelopolous (18y/o), Hannah Hank (17), Ella Sawyer (17) and Ambah Kowcun (17).
Cries throughout the year that “they’ll lose their way” and “Monica can’t keep this going” were obviously not heard down at the showgrounds, because last night’s win earns Forestville a chance for their first Championship since 2011.
Their date with destiny is next Saturday, when they face both the undefeated Rockets and their own mental demons at Titanium Security Arena.
It was just last week that the Eagles led the Minor Premiers at every change, before collapsing emphatically at the hands of Brenton Johnston’s frenzied side; outscored 26-4 in a calamitous final term.
There’s no doubt that the Rockets will prove Forestville’s most challenging hurdle, but Bello’s Eagles have already overcome considerable adversity to reach this point.
Taking into account that North Adelaide have taken home just one Championship from their five Grand Final appearances this decade, expect Forestville to strike at any sign of vulnerability from the undefeated side.