THE Launceston Tornadoes’ rise to south conference grand finalists might have come as a surprise to some SEABL fans, but it hasn’t to the man trying to plot their downfall this weekend.
Bendigo Lady Braves coach Jonathan Goodman said there was no mistaking the Tornadoes were a quality team after winning their way through to this Saturday night’s conference decider at Bendigo Stadium from fourth position.
They have done it the hard way after winning back-to-back games on the road against arch-rival Hobart Chargers and last weekend’s preliminary final against Dandenong Rangers.
The Tornadoes have shown remarkable resilience in both games, clawing their way back from sizable deficits.
At one stage in the second quarter of last weekend’s preliminary final, they trailed the Rangers by 17 points.
Goodman hailed Launceston’s win over the Rangers, who finished atop the conference ladder, as full of character.
“We’re not surprised, we felt whichever way that game went, whoever we ended up playing was going to be the best team on that day,” he said.
“It’s going to be a very interesting final.
“We have two wins over them this season, but this is the first time both teams will be pretty much fully strengthened.”
The obvious exception for the Lady Braves will be the absence of their season MVP Chloe Bibby, who has departed for the United States, where she will play college ball for Mississippi State.
But it was always known the recent Australian under-19 team representative would only be available up until the first week of finals.
Goodman said the grand final provided a wonderful opportunity in particular for his side’s band of young, locally-bred players, led by Jess Rennie, Madeline Sexton and Ahlise Hurst
“We’ve been really fortunate the fact a lot of our kids have stepped up and played some big roles in some big games, he said.
“We will be looking for that to happen again.
“We don’t have a lot of kids with finals experience, but what we have is talented kids and they will get their chance to perform.”
The Tornadoes are led by their ‘big three’ of WNBL trio Lauren Nicholson, Tayla Roberts and Lauren Mansfield.
Nicholson and Roberts combined for 46 points and 26 rebounds against the Rangers last weekend, while Mansfield led all players with six assists, on par with her league-leading average.
The Lady Braves appear primed having overcome a series of injuries which plagued the latter part of their regular season.
We’ve been really fortunate the fact a lot of our kids have stepped up and played some big roles in some big games,
Among those to be affected, Chante Black starred in the semi-final win over Dandenong with 18 points and 13 rebounds, while point guard Kelly Wilson had 13 points, four boards and six assists.
“We certainly have had our injuries, but it’s exciting now that we are gearing up at the right time,” Goodman said.
Tickets for Saturday night’s final at Bendigo Stadium go on sale at 9am on Wednesday.
Game time is 7pm.