IT’S hard to stop a juggernaut.
Dandenong has claimed its fifth SEABL championship in an amazing seven-year stretch, after the Rangers came away with a 78-66 triumph over Kilsyth.
In a repeat of last year’s SEABL championship match, the Rangers found a way past the power-packed Kilsyth guard group – Jasmine Gill (22 points), Steph Cumming (16 points) and long-range bomber Jordyn O’Shea (12 points).
Despite losing the experienced tandem Alison Downie and Faith Probst from the playing group last season, as well as four-time championship coach Larissa Anderson this off-season, the Rangers just kept coming in 2016.
Under new coach Jeremi Moule, the Rangers pushed through every obstacle en route to the finale and didn’t let up in the big dance either.
Moule’s charges bounced back when it mattered most. After trailing early, Dandenong dragged back Kilsyth and never again let the lead slide… despite a few precarious moments.
At one stage its advantage was whittled down to four, but Dandenong held strong and went to its prime movers.
Barb Barton Medallist Lauren Scherf (21 points, 13 rebounds, six blocks) was extraordinary across the floor.
Scherf started the Dandenong scoring spree with a trey before moving inside and troubling Emily Fryters as well as a myriad of additional defenders trying to negate the former Australian junior.
While Jacinta Kennedy (nine points, seven rebounds) and Chloe Bibby (four points) also stretched the Cobras vertically alongside Scherf, the perennial Rangers’ guard crew shone on the biggest stage.
Now Six-time SEABL champion Clare Papavs (nine points, six rebounds) continued to take the hard defensive tasks, while captain Aimie Clydesdale (20 points, five assists) led from the point alongisde Amelia Todhunter (12 points, seven rebounds).
It was a red letter year for Papavs, who also notched her 300th SEABL clash to go with her sixth title.
Even with a perfect record at the helm of the Rangers, Moule was just thrilled to see the team continue to star in grand finals and find a way to keep the program moving ahead.
“I don’t think it matters if it’s a few in a row or getting one for the first time, it’s just so exciting,” Moule said. “It’s not that others don’t put in work, but this group really did work hard and found a way to get the job done today.
“I have the fortune of coming into what really is a great group – while we’re a bit younger this year than we have been in other years – but it’s a good program and a nice place to come and coach.”
Moule praised the cooler heads in his line-up – with the power and speed combination of Scherf and Clydesdale leading the way alongside the experienced trio Papavs, Kennedy and Todhunter.
“They’ve been awesome all year those two and the settling influence of Clare, Sinno (Kennedy) and Meels (Todhunter) in the group as well,” Moule said. “But the key thing I said to them at the end of the game is that they stuck to the game-plan, tried to do exactly what we wanted to do.
“Even when it got ugly and didn’t work for us, they went back to it and did a good job for us.”
It’s the seventh SEABL championship for Dandenong overall, and its exceptional era in the winter mainstay competition doesn’t look like slowing down.