Southern Tigers have capped off an impressive season, proving too much for a Sturt side that battled hard early, 85-66.
Southern Tigers 85 | Sturt Sabres 66
With the Tigers featuring a host of stars, particularly Mitch Creek and Alex Starling, it was always going to be difficult for the Sabres.
However, Sturt did have the better of the early proceedings, with big men, Jan Warbout (5 pts for the quarter) and Daniel Johnson (6 first quarter rebounds) prominent under the basket. Not to be outdone, Mitch Creek was useful for the Tigers with 9 first quarter points, culminated by an electric dunk which got the large Tigers faithful fans out of their seats.
Jacob Rigoni also provided his own highlight reel, scoring 7 points in a row off the bench, putting the pressure on the Tigers as they trailed by 3 points at the first change, 20-17.
Sturt continued to hold the momentum, picking up three successive long range efforts, to extend the lead to 9 points. As they had for much of the season, Southern found a way to respond. Creek was driving hard to the basket with 15 first half points and while Alex Starling was quiet on the points front, 7 first half rebounds helped the Tigers maintain control of the ball.
Back to back three pointers from Todd Davies and Sam Johns had Sturt on the back foot, after a 10-0 run, taking a narrow lead. Sturt Head Coach, Paul Rigoni called a time out, urging calm from his players. Sturt did steady to trail by 1 at the half, with both sides certainly in this contest.
Southern continued to assert themselves, with another trademark Mitch Creek dunk and back to back Todd Davies’ efforts from beyond the arc.
Isaac White was providing great energy for Sturt and a number of crucial rebounds, but the Sabres were missing his usual high scoring points output. Starling began to find his way to the rim, firing up the crowd with his physicality and showmanship.
Daniel Johnson kept trying within the key for Sturt, but needed more help from his teammates. The Tigers had stretched their lead to 16 points at the final change, with Mitch Creek having already accumulated 28 points.
While the last quarter was not the spectacle many would have hoped for, it was fitting to see many of the Tigers players get involved after a spectacular season. Sturt continued to try their hardest to get back into the game, but big men Starling (19 pts, 14 rebounds) and Jordan Dodman (15 pts, 5 rebounds) had control of the rebounds and picked up some easy late points.
Mitch Creek was best across the night, collecting the MVP award with 29 points, 14 rebounds and 5 assists. After being named captain for the Adelaide 36ers for the upcoming season, it will be interesting to see if he can continue his dominance.
Sturt should be pleased with a season that saw them defeat Norwood twice, the continual growth of Isaac White and Jacob Rigoni into strong players and a team depth that can mix it with best. After making the Grand Final for two consecutive years and coming up short, Sturt will be hoping that next year proves to be third time lucky.
Southern Tigers are deserved winners of the Premier League, a feat made particularly impressive by the fact they finished last in 2015. The consistency demonstrated across the season was unparalleled, with a strong team effort proving they are much more than just a couple of superstar personalities.
By Sam Phillips