Fur flies in basketball final

Time has been called on a dramatic Basketball Mount Gambier summer season last week after some competitive grand finals at Peter Seebohm Stadium.

After a journey which started all the way back in October and was halted on the odd occasion due to the pandemic, Panthers and Cats emerged on top to take home to ultimate prizes.

Panthers took out the MG Plasterers South East Coast Basketball League Senior Men’s title after a hard fought conclusion to an equally hard fought season.

Panthers, Bulldogs and Cougars were split by just three wins at the top of the ladder and all had a genuine shot at the title.

Despite finishing on top, Panthers had to do it the hard away after losing the qualifying final by two points to Bulldogs.

This forced the boys in yellow and purple to overcome a valiant Cougars outfit in the sudden-death preliminary final.

The contest turned into a back-and-forth affair with class of Pioneers players Kyle Tipene and Oli Thomson shining through to help Panthers get over the line.

This meant it was a Bulldogs v Panthers rematch in the big one and both teams were on the money from tip off.

But Simon Berkefeld, Shaun Lock and Matt Black eventually dragged Bulldogs into the ascendancy after it doubled the lead from six to 12 points during a storming finish to the first term.

Panthers had to respond quickly and Brad Rathjen provided the tonic by scoring an uplifting three 12 seconds into the second term.

Rathjen led the fightback which slowly slashed the deficit minute by minute and as the main break approached Bulldogs found itself in the unlikely position of losing its lead.

A run of four unanswered scoring shots to finish the second term turned the game upside down and put Panthers in the lead.

Suddenly Panthers was the team to beat and carried all the momentum into the second half as the contest turned into a basket for basket affair.

Despite the tight battle and the difference bring just one point early in the fourth term, Panthers always managed to protect its lead and find a response to any Bulldogs challenge.

Regular hoops from Rathjen and Ryan were critical at keeping Bulldogs at bay as the final whistle neared to ensure Panthers snatched the premiership 86-76.

Rathjen was the star under the ring registering a game-high total of 36 points, while Tipene showed some support.

But it was the fine all-round performance of Jak Ryan that turned the most heads.

Ryan shot 18 points and was instrumental all over the floor to be named as grand final MVP.

Bulldogs battled hard all night and none were fiercer than Berkefeld with 24 points, while Shaun Lock was on fire from the three-point line, but they could do enough to claim back-to-back titles.

Cats made it a triple treat winning a third straight MG Plasterers South East Coast Basketball League Senior Women’s premiership.

After a dominant season winning 11 of 12 games, Cats was at short odds to secure another title, but was forced to face off with the only team to create a scare.

Back in round 9 Saints toppled Cats by 13 points and the pair met again in the decider.

Saints started with a bang when Poppy Venn slotted a three from long range inside the first minute.

However, the Saints’ joy did not last long as Cats got back into the game thanks to the gritty efforts of Alana Winter and Jasmin Howe.

These opening minutes set the tone for the back and forth first quarter which was eventually won by Saints, which was rewarded for its spirit after a late bucket to open a four-point lead.

Whispers of an upset started to circulate as Saints increased its lead despite the best efforts of its more storied teammates.

Venn returned to make an impact from the three-point line with a key shot made in the final minute to create some further breathing space before the main break.

But Cats regrouped at half time and came out firing determined to defend its crown by not giving its opponents an inch across the first three minutes of the third.

By the halfway mark the scoreboard had completely flipped and Cats enjoyed a seven-point lead, which was eventually slashed to two after the Saints went on the charge.

Once again Cats came out of a break with plenty of energy and opened a sizable advantage to avoid the game from going deep.

Although Saints tried its best to make a late charge, Cats always kept its opponents at arm’s length during a quiet finish.

Cats completed its hat-trick by 14 points Howe the leader with 27 points, while both the Winters pitched in.

But the major individual effort was from Venn, who never gave in and kept her team going by scoring an impressive 34 points to earn MVP honours.

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