Sydney University Wheelchair Flames caused an upset when they toppled minor premiers Western Stars 61-51 in the Grand Final of the 2010 Women’s National Wheelchair Basketball League at the Herb Graham Recreation Centre in Perth on Sunday.
After finishing second at the end of the season proper – in their first season in the WNWBL – the Flames had to do it the hard way to collect their first title.
They lost their major semi-final 53-42 to the Western Starts in Perth on Friday night, before accounting for Victorian Dandenong Rangers 57-40 in their preliminary final at the same venue on Saturday to earn a grand final berth.
But the team of Katie Hill, Caitlin De Wit, Shelley Cronau, Liesl Tesch, Jessica Pellow, Kirsty Finlayson, Sarah Stewart, Rachel Coady and Stephanie Van Leeuwen proved too strong in the season decider.
The win was yet another triumph for captain Sarah Stewart, a Sydney University Sports Scholarship holder and PhD candidate, who has an Olympic silver medal from 2004 Athens Paralympics and a bronze medal from the 2008 Beijing Paralympics.
Incorporating the championship-winning Hills Hornets women’s wheelchair basketball team, the Sydney University Wheelchair Flames entered the 2010 WNWBL with a team boasting some experienced internationals and talented stars of the future.
They included five-time Paralympian Leisl Tesch, Beijing Paralympian Katie Hill, SUSF scholarship holder and veterinary science student Caitlin de Wit, rising star Stephanie van Leeuwen and 15-year-old Wagga Wagga school student Jessica. Pellow
Stewart, Tesch and Hill were also part of the Australian team that won gold at the 2010 Osaka Cup in Japan – a tournament for four of the top five teams in international women’s wheelchair basketball. The trio played an important role in the Australian Gliders defeating the US in the final.