The Illawarra Kittyhawks broke through for a maiden championship on Sunday after stunning the previously undefeated Waratah League leaders Hornsby Spiders 62-54 in a grand final upset.
The win atoned for two close losses to the Spiders during the regular season.
‘‘We lost to them by two and by one during the year and we were determined for that not to happen again,’’ said coach Cheryl Lowe, who was also named coach of the year, following the victory.
‘‘We were the underdogs but you just can’t underestimate the girls from the Gong. It was a magical weekend and just a really great all round team effort.’’
The Kittyhawks were underdogs in both matches over the weekend including Saturday’s semi-final against the Bankstown Bruins, which they won 63-44.
A pre-match plan to shutdown Bruins captain Briana Maimone, who had averaged 14 points per game, proved effective with the former Sydney Flames star unable to register a point in the match.
‘‘That was the plan and the girls really stepped up and their defence in that game was just superb,’’ Lowe said.
Their defensive blueprint also proved effective in the grand final with the Spiders restricted from beyond the three point line.
‘‘Our plan was to stop their three-pointers, they scored 12 points from there but they usually average about 30,’’ Lowe said.
Illawarra also dominated down low scoring 34 points in the paint.
The Kittyhawks had the better of the first half taking an eight-point buffer to the break, but a spirited comeback from the Spiders saw the scores locked at 45 apiece going into the final quarter.
The scores were again locked at 49-49 with five minutes to play before a surge of 10 unanswered points propelled the Kittyhawks to the title.
‘‘It was a a thrilling game with some really exciting basketball. They really came back at us hard in the third quarter but that fourth quarter was ours,’’ Lowe said.
Shooting guard Lisa Upps was a standout, scoring a game high 18 points.
‘‘Lisa is normally more of a defensive stopper but in that fourth quarter we really pressed hard in our offence and she made a lot of shots off that which was great,’’ Lowe said.