Women's Preliminary Final Preview
Norwood Flames (15-3, 1st) v Forestville Eagles (13-5, 3rd)
Saturday August 25, 6.30pm at Mars
The Forestville Eagles can edge within one game of going back-to-back-to-back-to-back if they can defeat the Norwood Flames, the dual Minor Premiers, in the Preliminary Final.
The Flames’ results of late suggest they are in decline, following their blistering start to the year. In the opening eight rounds of the regular season, only one team (Central Districts) got within single figures of them. In their last 11 games, they have won just seven times, and their margin of victory has been decreasing.
Take away the Flames’ 54 point Round 16 victory over the Warriors and the Flames’ average winning margin during the second half of the season is just 13 points, compared to 20 in the first half. As a result, their percentage dropped from 135.23 after Round 8 to 126.92 at the end of the season.
Norwood’s fall has been made no more evident by their 78-83 Second Semi Final loss to North last week. The Flames had beaten the Rockets by 23 and 27 points during the regular season.
The Flames were 10 points in arrears at quarter-time, before taking control of the game to lead 63-59 with 10 minutes remaining. However, they were outscored 15-24 in the fourth period. Although the Flames had seven less turnovers, they gave up 36 points from three-pointers, while knocking down only 2/10 themselves.
Amy Lewis scored a team-high 20 points to go with 6 assists, while Rachel Herrick had 15 points and 7 rebounds. Jess Foley added 14 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals, while Kelsey Ireland (13 points, 7 assists) was also productive.
The Flames have lost their last four games against the Eagles, who truly are their bogey side right now. In Round 9, the Eagles’ Olivia Thompson had 23 points and 16 rebounds in leading her team to a 70-66 victory. Georgia Minear hit two big threes in the fourth quarter and finished with 17 points, while Tara Robinson provided 15 points, 12 rebounds and 3 blocks. Foley was the standout for the Flames with 19 points, 10 rebounds and 7 assists.
Foley and Lewis did not feature in the Flames’ 59-68 loss to the Eagles in Round 18. Ireland had a team-high 17 points, while Herrick registered a double-double. Thompson (26 points, 16 rebounds) and Jess Fergus (17 points, 8 rebounds) were the Eagles’ best.
The Flames did not feature in the first week of the finals as a reward for winning the Minor Premiership. Meanwhile, the Eagles suffered a 65-74 setback against the Rockets. Fergus scored a team-high 17 points.
In complete disparity last week, the Eagles thumped Centrals 100-44 in the First Semi Final. The 56 point margin is the largest for a final in the last eight years. The Eagles shot 57% to the Lions’ 26%, as well as destroying them on the boards 54-30.
Thompson (34 points, 15 rebounds), Tara Robinson (19 points, 11 rebounds), and Minear (19 points, 11 rebounds) were the best of the best for the Eagles.
This match provides the perfect opportunity for the Flames to exact their revenge on the Eagles after last year’s unprecedented finish.
At the end of the 2011 regular season, the Flames had lost just once (to the Eagles), while the 12-6 Eagles were only good enough to come fourth. Yet the Eagles won their first three finals to reach the Grand Final, and then put out the Flames 70-58 for a third consecutive title.
If it is to be payback time, then stopping Flame extinguisher Carla Borrego has to be a priority for the home side. In the 2011 Grand Final, Borrego, who just barely qualified for this year’s postseason, was the difference between the two teams, scoring 27 points and grabbing 21 rebounds in a best of field display.
As was the case last week, Norwood coach Simon Pritchard is away as an Assistant Coach with the Australian team at the World Under 17 Women’s Championships, with assistant Brenton Johnston temporarily taking over.
On form and recent history, unless the Flames step up another couple of gears, the Eagles should advance to another Grand Final.
By James Woite