Launceston Tornadoes took up the fight to Bendigo Braves, but it was a fight they just could never win.
The minor premier that only lost once all year – to its gallant SEABL grand final opponent – had too much firepower around the basket to take out the women’s title 119-96 on Saturday night.
Tornadoes coach Derrick Washington put on a brave face after the loss, resigned to the fact his side were just outclassed no matter what they tried on the floor.
“They did everything I asked of them,” he said.
“It was a true reflection of the season this year, but as you could see we were the two best teams in the league.”
The season decider had resembled more of an all-stars match than a defensive grind of typical season deciders.
Washington’s focus heading into the match was purely on applying defence.
He had the gritty type of players to do that sort of job.
But from the outset, the match descended more into a scoring spree.
Launceston initially led 15-14 less than five minutes into the game, as each team went shot for shot.
The 20-year-old forward Ellie Collins shot 10 of those points for the underdogs, showing no nerves for the big occasion.
But as the day turned into night, the offensive encounter was playing right into Bendigo’s hands.
The scores widened in the Braves’ favour, forcing the Tornadoes into a shootout.
Washington found it a tough pill to swallow.
“At the end of the day, the girls never gave up,” he said.
“That’s all I could really ever ask for as coach.
“They came out and shoot hard, but as I keep saying you’ve got to make shots and you’ve got to make stops.
“They just made more shots and made more stops than we did.
“We did score 96 points – that’s enough to win a ball game every week.”
Launceston’s final score would have won them all bar a handful of any SEABL regular season matches.
Only four occasions had the Torns scored more points and two of them that did not crack three figures either.
The high scores were indicative of not only both team’s scoring ability, but also skill and persistence.
Collins scored 21 points in the first half to finish the game out with 26 points.
Lauren Nicholson was a tireless worker for her 24 points under severe pressure all night from the Braves’ defence.
Veteran Ali Partridge played out of her 36-year-old skin, shooting a season-high 19 points.
But Bendigo centre Gabrielle Richards trumped them all. She had all the answers in her 43-point game.
Captain Lauren Mansfield returned for the first time in more than a month for the grand final.
She returned with 12 points, as did the well-held Ally Wilson.
It proved that Washington playing smoke and mirrors with the star guard’s return, but Courtney Williams seemed to struggle with her back injury and finished with just three points..
Washington’s overwhelming message moments after the game to his tired and dejected charges was one of immense pride.
“I just told them I was happy for them still,” he said
“I said even though the scoreboard didn’t show the result that we wanted, we grew as people, we grew as basketballers, we all grew as coaching staff.
“This club just can take this on to next year.”