By Benito Carbone
The Southern Tigers have emphatically ended their 21-year title drought, riding on the back of a wild fan-base to defeat North Adelaide by four points at Titanium Security Arena.
Mollie McKendrick earned MVP honours for her efforts on the night, scoring 17 points and 10 boards, many of which coming in a decisive second half performance.
The Rockets however will be left to rue missed opportunities, in what was their fourth grand final loss in the past six seasons.
In their first grand final since 1996, the Tigers struggled to find their feet, as Norrisha Victrum (13 points) had the favourites on the board early.
North Adelaide were at their punishing best on transition, but a Tara Dodman triple calmed the nerves for Southern, as they limited the damage to enter quarter time down by four.
In her 200 th match, Kirsty Williams looked strong early but was left worse for wear after a sickening collision, with the veteran sadly taking no further part in the match.
North consolidated despite the loss of their captain, as a tough second term saw the margin extend to six in favour of the Rockets.
Jemma Thacker (12 points) cut the gap to a solitary point for Southern after two quick-fire baskets, before she rejected Victrum’s weaving layup, as her side took the mantle in a frenetic championship term.
As North Adelaide began to lose contact, Alex Green lost her contact, literally, as play temporarily halted to search for the Southern star’s missing lens.
Regardless, the Tigers continued to feed off of a maniacal crowd, entering three-quarter time ahead, 48-46.
The Rockets seemed shell-shocked and continued to fall away in the last.
Alex Green (16 points) hit two triples to extend the lead to nine points in a match that was fast becoming Southern’s to lose.
Jo Hill (17 points, 14 rebounds) spent much of the second half being hounded by Southern fans, but – in what may be her final match – showed admirable fight and began to spark the Rockets.
A crucial and-one from Tayla Corrigan brought the margin down to three, and as the tie entered its final two minutes, the opposing teams went basket-for- basket as the atmosphere continue to build.
Corrigan was in the thick of the action, landing consecutive blocks before missing a routine basket to have the Rockets entering the final 45 seconds down, 61-62.
In a crucial moment, Alex Green stood tall for the Tigers, hitting three from four from the line to extend the margin to an invaluable four points with just ten seconds remaining.
Opal Mader (14 points) spurned the crucial three-point jumper that held North Adelaide’s last title hopes, as the Southern Tigers saw out the clock to secure their awesome, drought-ending championship.
Photos: AllStar Photos