Despite missing out on finals by one win, the Southern Design Sydney Uni Sparks finished their season with a bang in the last round of the regular season.
On Friday night they took on a strong Melbourne Tigers outfit at home. It was a fast and furious game, with no love lost on the court. In an incredible display of shooting, both teams averaged over 50% from the three point line, with the Sparks 11/21 at 52% and the Tigers 10/18 at 55%.
The stat lines were also uncannily even with a low 10 turnovers for both teams, the Sparks grabbing 45 rebounds, 20 assists and seven steals to Melbourne’s 44 rebounds,21 assists and seven steals.
The Sparks got to within three points of the finals bound Tigers with under one minute remaining, however the experience of the visiting side showed in the final minute as they knocked down some clutch free throws to ice the game and win the high scoring affair, 97-90 .
Maddie O’Hehir was dominant on both ends of the floor finishing with 21 points, 3 assists and 2 steals. Susannah Walmsley (17 points, 5 rebounds, 4 assists) and Meg Jeffs (14 points, 100% FG, 5 assists) really found their range from the three point line. While Lara McSpadden (14 points, 7 rebounds) and Shanae Greaves (11 points, 10 rebounds) also finished in double figures, dominating the rebounding category as well.
Despite the disappointment of a loss, it was a fantastic effort from the Sparks who were able to take a lot of confidence from the game into Saturday night’s clash with Sandringham.
With their second game of the round scheduled in a different state, within the space of 24 hours, the Sparks were in for a challenge. With only eight suiting up and the chance of finals diminished the night before, the Sparks could have easily given in. However, they were looking to finish their season strong. Up against the Sandringham Sabres, another team who had qualified for finals, Sydney Uni were playing for pride.
The Sparks energy and enthusiasm not only on the court but also from the bench was electric. The young side took control early on in the game and never looked back. Leading by as many as 31 points in the game, Sydney Uni displayed great improvement in their short two year history in the South East Australian Basketball League and defeated the Sabres 85-56.
Strong defensive pressure from the Sparks forced the home side into 25 turnovers and kept them to just 35% from the field. In contrast, the Sparks had only 10 turnovers and capitalised on their oppositions mistakes with 31 points off turnovers.
With a coaching line-up featuring Australian Basketball royalty in head coach Belinda Snell and guest assistant coach, Kristi Harrower the Sparks had every motivation to perform well. Each player who hit the court contributed greatly, playing hard for each other with intent and purpose, qualities instilled by Snell throughout the season.
Susannah Walmsley lit up in the third quarter finishing with 21 points, 6 assists and 3 steals. Emily Simons was unstoppable on the offensive end with 16 points and 6 rebounds (5 offensive rebounds). Sherrie Callea was strong with 13 points and 6 rebounds and captain, Shanae Greaves rounded out the double figure scorers with 10 points and 4 rebounds. Special mention goes to Elle Carrol whose energy off the bench shone through as she pulled down a team high 7 rebounds along with 4 assists and 4 steals.
With another season in the league under their belts the Sparks will have a well-earned rest before coming back even stronger next season.