Japara set for lift-off in grand final clash with Rockets

City Lions captain Dylan Warren, City Rockets captain Alicia Riley, Japara Renegades captain Belinda Stephens and Devils Black captain Pat Sullivan prepare to face off in tomorrow night’s Launceston Senior Basketball League grand finals.  Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

City Lions captain Dylan Warren, City Rockets captain Alicia Riley, Japara Renegades captain Belinda Stephens and Devils Black captain Pat Sullivan prepare to face off in tomorrow night’s Launceston Senior Basketball League grand finals. Picture: NEIL RICHARDSON

A RARE trip to the Launceston Senior Basketball League grand final looms as a landmark match for the Japara Renegades and, for star guard Belinda Stephens, a chance to win back bragging rights from best friend and City Rockets rival Alicia Riley.

‘‘It’s only our second grand final in 30-plus years, so it’s a pretty big deal for the club,’’ Stephens said of tomorrow night’s title-deciding match at the Elphin Sports Centre.

The Renegades’ last appearance in a grand final came in 2011, when Stephens’ long-time mate Riley and her hot-shooting teammates helped the Rockets claim one of five flags in the past eight years.

‘‘They hit 14 three-pointers in that match, including two by Riley from half-court at the end of quarters,’’ Stephens said.

‘‘It was ridiculous. We played one of the best games we’ve ever played but it’s hard to win when the other team makes 14 threes.’’

Stephens said she was confident Japara, which eliminated ladder leader Devils last week, had the form and results this season to get one back against City and her former Launceston Tornadoes teammate this time around.

‘‘We’ve been close all year and have actually beaten City more times than they’ve beaten us this season.’’

In the men’s grand final, the City Lions will have to reverse a string of losses to minor premiers Devils Black to defend their title.

Lions captain Dylan Warren hoped the experience of winning last year’s final and the return to fitness of several key players would give his team a fighting chance against a Devils team it hasn’t beaten in five attempts this year.

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