Launceston Tornadoes have returned from the brink to score a brilliant come-from-behind victory over Hobart Chargers to survive the cutthroat semi-final on Friday night.
It took until the final 67 seconds for the visitors to hit the front for only the second time all game to stun the Derwent Entertainment Centre crowd.
The Tornadoes found heroes Lauren Nicholson, scoring 19 points in the first half, and Tayla Roberts, with 18 second-half points, to guide the side to a 86-82 win.
Coach Richard Dickel couldn’t sing the praises enough of Nicholson, who finished with 32 points, while Roberts added 27 points.
“Lauren Nicholson definitely kept us in the first half,” Dickel said.
“But when they put a very good defensive player on Lauren Mansfield and they stayed on her all night, which opened up the court for the other two.
“When Lauren Mansfield worked that our pretty quickly, we put her in situations where they made no help and that made it easier for Nicholson and Tayla.”
Mansfield only scored eight points as Mikaela Ruef had shadowed her for much of the game.
But it was an off-the-ball incident involving Mansfield’s former teammate that turned the game around with just under two minutes left.
It shifted the momentum and the Torns came home the stronger of the two fierce intrastate rivals.
Dickel said he was proud of how his side courageously held their nerve.
“We made some decisions defensively and took away what they needed to do,” he said.
“I think I lost it a little bit emotionally towards the end of the game, but there was a lot of intensity and a lot of build-up going into this final.
“Hats go off to the girls for just persevering and we didn’t lose our structure very much.”
Though the scoring didn’t go deep – Ellie Collins joining next-best Mansfield with just eight points – Dickel felt he has unravelled a side that can continue its finals run next week in Victoria.
“I think that was all about consistency,” he said.
“We starting to scratch the surface of having 10 straight days together as a full group.
“The girls executed the game plan pretty well and stuck with it.
“They got a little bit rattled down the stretch, but a couple of calls went our way and we take the game over.
“But to be able to stick with it and not lose it, and let it blow out to 20 at times was a credit to these girls.”
I think I lost it a little bit emotionally towards the end of the game, but there was a lot of intensity and a lot of build-up going into this final.Coach Richard Dickel