Gutsy Griffins stay alive in title race
Grammar Griffins survived a late scare against Raiders’ under-18 development squad to progress to the preliminary final, winning Tuesday night’s Albany Basketball Association women’s A-grade first semifinal by five points.
Without the guidance of absent coach Paul Rogers, but boosted by having Raiders squad members Bridgette Latham and Savannah Hill in their line-up, the Griffins were up for the fight early and clawed their way into the lead late in the first half.
As centre Nina Smith dominated and energetic guards Hill and Latham went to work, the Griffins shot out to a five-point advantage by the break.
Twice the margin ballooned to seven points in the last half as the Griffins looked set to extend their season for another week.
However, Raiders rallied one last challenge led by tenacious point guard Shianne Arthur, who had shot eight free-throw attempts in the first 20 minutes to keep her side in touch.
In a major twist, Smith, who had monstered Raiders on the boards, was fouled out of the game with 14 minutes to play, and from that moment the game changed.
Raiders launched their attack as free throws to Jasmyne Jones and Caitlin Ward, a triple from Ruby Delacey and then a Shianne Arthur basket, got their side within two points.
In the absence of Smith, Ruby Bradbury provided a couple of clutch moments — her off-the-glass two and a calm free-throw kept Griffins ahead before consecutive baskets to Hill and Carina Cronje iced the game.
Griffins were able to hold off the late Raiders rally, booking a preliminary final berth with the 29-24 victory.
Despite her night ending early, Smith was huge at both ends and scored six points, while Bradbury (5) played arguably her best game of the season to go with strong contributions from Hill (5) and Cleo Bigwood (5).
Griffins spokeswoman Anita Onions said it was pleasing her side covered the loss of Smith.
“It was an intense last four minutes,” she said.
“Our rebounding was good; it was harder once Nina was off but Cleo and Ruby stepped up big-time.
“We are so pleased but it’s going to be tough next week.”
Shianne Arthur finished with a game-high 12 points, 10 of which came from the line, but she lacked support, with several of their regulars missing.
Raiders coach David Arthur said he could not fault his side for their performance.
“The end of the season was good for them,” he said.
“The whole team has improved.”
In the second semifinal, the Magpies secured a grand final berth after beating Flames by 14 points.
Flames now meet Griffins in next Tuesday’s preliminary final.
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