Sparks win through to preliminary final

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In their inaugural SEABL season, the Sydney Uni Sparks have advanced to the Eastern Conference preliminary finals after defeating the Nunawading Spectres in the minor semi-final. The Sparks played with confidence as they claimed a gritty 85-75 win over the visiting Spectres.

The Sparks got out to a great start on the back of strong defensive pressure and good offensive execution. They took an early 16-4 lead midway through the first, however the Spectres were not going down without a fight. Nunawading went on a run and took a one point lead, before a late foul put Emily Matthews on the line. She made all three free throws and the Sparks took a two point lead into the first break.

Sydney Uni scored the first points of the second quarter, with Charlie Evans knocking down a triple. They began to lift their defensive intensity and increase the tempo of play. Maddie O’Hehir and Natalia Beaumont went on a scoring spree in the second and the Sparks were ahead 45-37 at the main break.

Both teams traded blows in the third but the Sparks retained a seven point lead at three quarter time. Nunawading made a push early in the fourth, taking a slight lead. However once, the Sparks put their foot down late in the fourth, they ran away with the game.

The Sparks made good use of their strong inside presence, particularly in the final few minutes. Shanae Greaves and Kim Hodges proved to be difficult to stop. Hodges athleticism and tenacity was on display as she pulled down a monster 15 rebounds.

Each player that stepped on the court for the Sparks contributed great minutes. With 6 players scoring in double figures, O’Hehir had 13 points, Hodge added 12 points to go with her 15 rebounds and Greaves had 12 points. Susannah Walmsley had 10 assists along with 8 points.

Coach Karen Dalton was really pleased with her team’s efforts. “This was a great result for our group. They played really well as a team and all players contributed to the win. We had 6 players in double figures which indicates how well the team were executing offence and sharing the ball around.”

The Sydney Uni bench players were invaluable, providing plenty of spark when they came into the game. They outscored the Spectres bench players 31-10. Sydney Uni out-rebounded the Spectres which is a definite focal point for the team and shot 48% from the field for the game.

For a side with little SEABL experience, the Sparks have fared relatively well in close encounters during the season and this match was no exception. Despite the Spectres applying scoreboard pressure for most of the match, the Sparks were able to find ways to pull away. Captain Shanae Greaves highlighted this saying, “You wouldn’t know we were the youngest team in the league playing in our first SEABL final. We had so many contributors and the girls played with such intensity and fearlessness against a quality side.”

While keeping most of the Spectres players relatively quiet, the Sparks had difficulty shutting down Anita Brown who scored 34 points. Despite this, Brown was forced into 5 turnovers and only one other player scored in double figures. “We definitely have some things to work on before Geelong next weekend given our regular season record against them. However, I’m confident we have it in us to really take it to them,” Greaves added.

Sydney Uni will head down to Geelong to take on the Supercats at this Saturday August 19 at 7pm.