And then there was one!
This time last week Tall Ferns Toni Farnworth (Perth Lynx), Kalani Purcell (Melbourne Boomers) and Penina Davidson (Adelaide Lightning) were all vying for a shot at the Australian Women’s National Basketball League title.
Now there is just one New Zealand representative chasing Australia’s prime domestic honour after Perth and Melbourne were swept 2-0 in their respective best-of-three semi-finals series.
Having lost 95-76 against regular season champions Canberra Capitals last weekend Perth put up a stronger showing at home on Thursday night. However, the basketball gods were not doing them any favours as two of the Lynx starters, Kayla Steindl and Asia Taylor, played limited minutes due to injury. Toni Farnworth (4 points and 2 rebounds) and her teammates battled bravely but eventually went down 91-75 – eliminated in the semis for the second successive season.
If that result was somewhat predictable the elimination of the Melbourne Boomers, coached by Tall Ferns mentor Guy Molloy, was perhaps more of a surprise.
After starting the season 3-6 Adelaide won all but two of its remaining 13 fixtures although they had lost all three regular season games against Melbourne. However, carrying the confidence of wining seven of its last eight games into the semi-final series, Adelaide pinched an important road win (76-60) last weekend. They completed the job at home on Thursday winning a high quality encounter 100-96.
Davidson, in here rookie pro season, played just three minutes in game two but had been a key spark off the bench in the first encounter scoring 8 points (4/7FG) whilst also securing a couple of rebounds.
Kalani Purcell was her usual industrious self for Melbourne totaling 15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 assists and a couple of blocks over the two games but her efforts, and those of her teammates, were not quite enough against an inspired Lightning.
The Lightning return to the finals for the first time since 2008 and we will be following the fortunes of Davidson, the Tall Ferns and former Cal Berkeley forward, closely.
The finals will also be a best-of-three series beginning in Canberra on February 9th.