The Norwood Flames are one step closer to repeating as Premier League champions after securing a 10 point win over a strong West Adelaide Bearcats team and advancing straight to the Grand Final.
Norwood Flames 53 | West Adelaide 43
The Bearcats, one of the two teams to beat the Flames during the season, started impressively and quickly established an 11-4 lead over the home side. West was getting to the paint and taking advantage of any Norwood mistakes.
However, the Flames had an answer. Jess Mahony (4 points, 6 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals) carved her way through the defence for a layup, Chelsea Brook (10 points, 5 rebounds) found the net from mid-range and Jess Good's (9 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists) triple evened the score at 11.
Both teams were locked into a back and forth battle as the second quarter commenced. A scare for Norwood occurred midway through the second as Mahony would head straight to the locker room with an injury but would return to the game in the third.
Meanwhile, the Flames lifted. Norwood drew level at 22 with 2:52 remaining and took the lead moments later on a Kiersten Tindall (4 points, 4 rebounds) three. Good hit a pair of free throws before Marisa Stabile (14 points, 3 rebounds) beat the buzzer on a breakaway bucket to end the half on a 10-0 run and lead 29-22.
West Adelaide would go on a run of their own as they emulated their hot start to the game to begin the second half. Trudy Holland (6 points, 5 rebounds, 3 assists, 2 steals) opening the scoring with a triple, Michaela Lappin (4 points) got the basket for two and Emma Weidemann's (8 points) bucket made it a one point game.
Norwood responded once again and limited the Bearcats to just two points for the rest of the third and took a 39-32 lead heading into the final 10 minutes.
After a number of empty possession from both sides to start the fourth, Ashlea Vordermaher (8 points, 6 rebounds, 4 assists, 2 steals) hit consecutive shots to make it a two point game at 41-39 with 6:07 left to play. Stabile knocked down a jumper to get Norwood back on track and then broke free for an easy layup moments later. It was Stabile again, as she scored 6 straight, connecting on a long two to put the Flames ahead 47-39.
The momentum was with Norwood as West committed a few costly errors that blew any chance they had of mounting a final run. Teonna Campbell (6 points, 9 rebounds, 2 steals) travelled then Stana Zecevic (3 points, 7 rebounds) missed an easy layup a minute later undoing a great performance to that point.
The Flames closed out the game at the free throw line, the final margin not quite representative of the close battle between both teams throughout the game.
Norwood heads to its second straight grand final appearance and fifth in six years and will look to make it two championships in a row. West Adelaide will play the Southern Tigers for a place in the Grand Final next week.
By Mark Halliday