Norwood has been crowned 2016 Premier League champions, overcoming West Adelaide, 63-45, in what was a tight tussle especially in the first half.
Norwood Flames 63 | West Adelaide Bearcats 45
After having met just two weeks ago, the contest loomed as an interesting one.
Would West Adelaide be able to tweak their play to finish off a fantastic season in style? How would Norwood cope with the pressure going into the game as firm favourites, especially without their Opals representative, Steph Talbot?
Player- coach Jess Foley started brightly, getting a vocal pocket of Norwood fans on their feet with an effort from long range. Teonna Campbell latched onto some loose dribbling, finishing off an excellent solo run to get the Bearcats on the board, in a tense low scoring quarter.
West was pressing Norwood strongly, creating a number of chances as Norwood were forced into long passing that was easily picked off. However, the Bearcats struggled to convert their chances, especially from the line (0/5 for the quarter).
Jess Mahony looked sharp, bringing her teammates into the game with some slick passing. As she knocked down 2 points of her own, Norwood held a 7 point lead at the break, 15-8.
Norwood continued to have difficultly escaping their own half, as West cut the margin on the back of a 5-0 run. Sky Langenbrinck capitalised on some open space, hitting a nice three for the Bearcats, but was almost instantly answered by a Jess Good maximum. Jess Foley continue to lead out on court, particular under the rim, making her presence felt with 8 rebounds for the half.
Cara Annetts fell heavily and limped off on the stroke of half time, playing a limited role for the Flames in the second half.
Neither side could seemingly seize the moment, setting up an enthralling second half, Norwood leading 24-20 at the main change.
West was able to tie the game up within 30 seconds of play resuming, after Ashlea Vordermaier finished off after another Teonna Campbell steal. Campbell continued to have a solid presence out on the court, driving hard to basket but with limited success.
Being challenged strongly by West seemed to spark Norwood, with Jess Good and Jess Foley continuing their rebounding dominance on their way to respective double-doubles. Good was an important target inside the key and worked well in tandem with Chelsea Brook, who had a stellar second half. When Brook hit another open jumper, the lead was out to 13 points.
Norwood had a strong lead and the game was theirs for taking, 54-43 at the final intermission.
The Flames kept the pressure on the Bearcats and when Chelsea Brook (14 pts, 9 rebounds) picked up back to back three’s, the lead was out to 20 points.
West continued to play out the final minutes with good endeavour, but the game had lost much of its heat. It was a nice moment in an otherwise disappointing end to see long term club servant Trudy Holland receive a rousing applause as she came off for a final time in her 150th match.
West can take much heart from an impressive season, with a general feeling that reaching the grand final far exceeded any reasonably expectations at the start of the year.
Norwood had an impressive second half, with the three Jess’s, Good (17 pts, 10 rebounds), Foley (11 pts, 12 rebounds) and MVP winner Mahony (10 pts, 6 assists) the standout performers.
While this season was not as unblemished as the last, Norwood’s ability to hold firm when pushed has seen them outlast their opponents in routine fashion. It will be interesting to see what’s next for this champion side, no doubt they’ll once again be the competition benchmark come March 2017.
By Sam Phillips