A GRADE – MILLICENT 67 d NORTH GAMBIER 40
THE three prior encounters between reigning Western Border netball premiers Millicent and challenger North Gambier had been single figure margins, with the Saints on top on all three occasions.
There was no reason to think the A Grade preliminary final between the two rivals would be any different, but it was.
Millicent came out firing, relentless in defence, patient in attack and clearly on a mission.
The Saints powered to an eight-goal quarter time lead and that made the Tigers’ quest for a grand final berth tough.
While North settled in the second term, Millicent was still able to work the ball to find shooter Tabatha Sanderson in range and the Saints shooter kept converting.
She netted 30 from 35 in the opening quarter as Paige Nitschke, Lucy Denton and Demi Verbena worked the ball and the space until it opened up for Sanderson and at the main break it was a 12-goal lead.
Portia McRae was also a huge factor in the opening half, as she forced errors in the feed, took impressive interceptions and rebounded strongly, while the Tigers struggled to find their shooting radar in difficult conditions.
It was more of the same in the second half as Sanderson continued to enjoy plenty of supply, adding another 30 goals for the second half, while turnover ball came from Denton, Lisa Duldig and Hannah Nitschke as they worked hard to deny time and space in the middle third.
Given the weight of supply, Maddie Whaites and Noni McConnell created some critical touches, but all too often the ball was lost in transition.
Mel Renko ran hard all day and was as important in creating turnover ball as she was driving to the circle, while Brianna Walters also used her speed and creative delivery to good effect, but neither had enough of the ball in the end to be able to shrink the deficit, which was 19 at three quarter time and 27 by the final whistle.
The Saints basically won every position on court, with Duldig at her brilliant best at wing defence and Sanderson unstoppable in goal shooter.
A RESERVE – NORTH GAMBIER 44 d EAST GAMBIER 42
The A Reserve match was a tightly contested game that could have gone either way until North gained the lead with a minute to play to win by two goals.
North started strongly through the mid-court to provide opportunities up forward.
North’s tough defence blocked the drive of East and held them to just five goals for the quarter.
East fought back early in the second, tightening up their defence as North struggled to get the ball into their attack line.
The results saw the game tied up at the main break, with the scene set for an entertaining second half.
East came out firing in the third, but the windy conditions forced passing errors, as the Bulldogs took a three-goal lead to the last change.
In what was an entertaining final term, North held on to advance to the grand final.
B GRADE – MILLICENT 40 d NORTH GAMBIER 19
The B Grade match started slowly with both teams making early errors before the Saints defenders increased their pressure to cause North to turnover the ball.
That pressure was telling as the Saints built a seven-goal lead at the first break.
The same theme continued in the second term and Millicent was up by 11 at half time and looking in control, then pushed out to a 19-goal advantage at the final break.
The last quarter was the closest of the match but the damage was already done and it was the Saints who advanced to the grand final.
C GRADE – NORTH GAMBIER 49 d SOUTH GAMBIER 46
The C Grade preliminary final went down to the wire, as North advanced to the grand final after a three-goal victory over South Gambier.
With a three-goal lead at the first break, North stepped up its work rate and increased the margin to eight at the main break.
South countered in the third term to reduce the margin by one goal to just seven and the final term was set up for an exciting finish.
The Demons fought hard to reduce the deficit, but in the end three goals was as close as they could get, with the Tigers through to the grand final after an epic battle.
17 AND UNDER – WEST GAMBIER 62 d SOUTH GAMBEIR 60
In what was clearly the match of the day, the 17 and Under contest went to extra time, as West Gambier and South Gambier fought out a classic preliminary final battle.
West started strongly, scoring quickly with good transition between Tara Bryant and Sarah Ritter, as Ritter finished accurately.
South’s Megan Reid ran hard and with Alyssa Duncan making the most of her opportunities, the game went goal for goal.
West broke away late and held a four-goal lead at the break.
The match continued to go goal-for-goal after the break, but it was the accuracy of Ritter and Zoe Malseed that was the difference, as Malseed shot eight straight for the quarter and the Roos went to the main break eight up.
Some changes were mande by both sides at the break but the game continued in the same vein, as South reduced the deficit to six at the final break.
With the first two goals of the final term South was in with a chance.
Duncan started to find space in the goal circle and went on a shooting spree, scoring 14 for the quarter.
With some late goals, South had the game tied up at the final whistle and the overtime period provided a great spectacle.
South’s Lydia Megaw worked hard to find space and fed well, but after going goal-for-goal West took charge in the dying minute taking the match by two goals.
15 AND UNDER A – NORTH GAMBIER 48 d WEST GAMBIER 19
North Gambier controlled its preliminary final against West Gambier, with the 11-goal first-quarter lead setting the scene.
That increased to 16 at half time and the Tigers kept the pressure on, adding a further 10 goals to the lead by the final break.
While the final term was a more even affair, the Tigers had ensured they would contest the premiership flag with a strong 29-goal victory.
15 AND UNDER B – CASTERTON SANDFORD 29 d MILLICENT 20
The first win for the Casterton Sandford’s 15 and Under B team was being able to cross the border and play their preliminary final, while the second was on the scoreboard as they overcame less than ideal preparation that included no training until the day before the critical game to earn a spot in the grand final.
Millicent challenged the Cats in the opening half, just four goals down at the main break.
However, the Cats made positional changes at the first break and in the second half they made a real difference as Casterton Sandford controlled the contest to claim the win.
13 AND UNDER A – NORTH GAMBIER 47 SOUTH GAMBIER 18
While the 13 and Under A clash started as a goal-for-goal contest, North picked up their defensive pressure late in the opening quarter to go into the break with a five-goal lead.
North’s intensity in defence continued in the second term and South struggled to keep pace.
Both sides made changes at half time and the third quarter was more even, with the difference the accuracy of the North goalies.
The Tigers controlled the game and ran out deserved victors with a grand final berth set.
13 AND UNDER B – MILLICENT 32 d WEST GAMBIER 15
Millicent showed its strength in the youngest contest, as the Saints ran out easy victors over West Gambier.
A seven-goal quarter-time lead set the scene, which the Saints increased to nine at the main break.
The Roos struggled to find a response and trailed by 16 at the final break.
While West enjoyed the best quarter of the game in the last stanza, they eventually succumbing to the polished Saints outfit by 17.