By Graham Croker
The grand final jinx that has haunted Sydney Uni Flames for eight seasons could not be exorcised at Wollongong on Saturday when the Adelaide Lightning defeated the Flames 92-82 in the 2007-08 Women’s National Basketball League grand final.
It was the Flames’ seventh grand final loss in the past seven seasons and came primarily at the hands of Adelaide sharp-shooter Renae Camino, who shot a game-high 32 points at the Wollongong Entertainment Centre.
Camino, who played all of her junior basketball in Wollongong, produced a memorable grand final performance to inflict more pain on the Flames. The 21-year-old Opals squad member said winning the national title was a dream come true. “I’ve never won anything before, I’ve won plenty of silver but never quite the gold,” Camino said.
While Camino starred shooting 15 of 26, fellow Adelaide starting guard Erin Phillips contributed 16 points and seven rebounds and Sam Woosnam shot 13 points to go with eight rebounds.
ACUVUE Sydney Uni Flames co-captain, Natalie Porter, the league’s Most Valuable Player for 2007-08, shot just eight from 27 to finish with 23 points, while Alicia Poto tried hard with 18 points and Michelle Musselwhite shot 16 points.
Adelaide opened the grand final with a 17-0 run and went to the first break with a 30-16 lead. The shell-shocked Flames clawed their way back in the second term to go to the main break trailing 40-35.
But a 26-18 third term to Adelaide broke the game open and the visitors were never really troubled in the final term.
“It was a big occasion and everyone played well and it’s a reward for a great season,” Adelaide coach Vicki Valk said.
Sydney coach Karen Dalton paid full credit to the winners. “We tried hard but didn’t execute well enough, full credit to Adelaide,” she said.
Adelaide’s 92 points was the highest score in a WNBL grand final.
While Porter was disappointed to lose the grand final, she was happy to be named the WNBL’s Most Valuable Player.
Following an outstanding 2006-07season, Porter amassed a league high 566 points through 23 regular season games to average a league best and career high 24.6 points per game in the 2007-08 season.
The 2004 Athens Olympian scored 10 or more points in all 23 games, 20 points or more in 12 games, 30 points or more in three games and twice netted a career high 41 points.
Her two 41-point hauls puts her in second and third places behind Belinda Snell (54) for most points by a Sydney Uni player in a single WNBL game.
Porter also tallied 109 assists at 4.7 per game (2nd in the league) and 171 rebounds at 7.6 per game (10th in the league). She shot at an impressive 43.1 per cent (209 from 485) from the field and was also named Nivea Player of the Week in Rounds three, 11 and 12.
She also tallied five double-doubles and just fell short of posting a triple double on three occasions. Porter joins an illustrious group of past MVP winners, including Rachael Sporn, Robyn Maher, Trish Fallon, Penny Taylor and four-time winner Lauren Jackson.
The MVP award is determined by votes cast by head coaches after each regular season game, where voting for one’s own players is permitted.
Photos: Dave Stanton ~ DKS Photography (click the link to see more images from the game!)