LG MYSTICS 2ND IN ANZ CHAMPIONSHIP 2011
An explosive third quarter set the Mission Queensland Firebirds on the path to a history-making 57-44 win over the LG Mystics in the ANZ Championship Grand Final in Brisbane today.
With both teams playing in their first Finals Series, Firebirds became the first team to go through the competition unbeaten while also becoming the fourth winner. The 13-goal winning margin was the largest in the history of the four-year competition.
After a close and competitive first 30 minutes, a blockbusting second half by the home team put the seal on a dream season. Unrelenting defensive pressure and the shooting prowess of Romelda Aiken and Natalie Medhurst caught up with the Mystics, who had no answer during a rampant third quarter as the home team put their stamp on the match.
Mystics recovered from a nervous start in a tight and pressure-filled opening stanza to set an appropriate stage for the occasion. Firebirds captain Laura Geitz, in defence, and towering shooter Aiken were prominent figures in the early stages. The athletic Geitz disrupted the Mystics’ attacking ball while Aiken propelled the home team to an early lead with her dominancy under the hoop.
Mystics quickly regrouped, the patience of experienced midcourters Temepara George and Megan Dehn providing a steady supply of ball to accurate shooters Cathrine Latu and Maria Tutaia. Growing in confidence, Mystics level-pegged with the Firebirds as the teams went goal-for-goal, unable to be separated as they hit the first break at 12-all.
The visitors made the best of starts on the resumption, a stanza which was highlighted by significant ebbs and flows between two willing combatants. Composed and calm on attack, Mystics bolted out to a three-goal lead on the back of strong shooting while defender Anna Scarlett pulled off a couple of her specialist shot deflections.
Not to be outdone, Firebirds reeled in the deficit, the rapport between Medhurst and Aiken clicking up another gear as the home team regained the momentum.
Firebirds held the initiative in the run to halftime, neither team giving an inch in an epic showdown, the home team holding on to a 26-24 lead at the main interval.
A rearranged Firebirds defensive line with wing defence Keirra Trompf going to the bench, Clare McMeniman taking over on the wing and Amy Steel coming off the bench to goal defence coincided with a huge lift in intensity from the home team.
With Medhurst leading the charge, the Firebirds’ attacking line was almost unstoppable. Playing near error-free netball, Medhurst and Aiken were all class as they took control to push the score out. Mystics lost their structure and fell away as they were left in chase mode.
Steel and Geitz put the clamps on Tutaia and Latu, restricting the visiting shooters to just scraps as the score continued to balloon out for the home team on the back of an ever-building turnover rate.
With one hand on the trophy, it was all Firebirds who outplayed the Mystics to the tune of 18-8 as they pushed out to a commanding 44-32 lead at three-quarter time.
An even final quarter was of little consolation to the Mystics, the damage having already been done, leaving Firebirds deserving winners of the 2011 title.