Utti-mate performance sees Bearcats become champions
THE West Adelaide Bearcats have been crowned champions of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 West Women’s competition, rallying behind a massive performance from Madelynn Utti to defeat the Sturt Sabres to the tune of seven points.
It was an enthralling battle at The Lights Community and Sport Centre on Saturday afternoon, as the two sides fought it out for the competition’s ultimate prize. The Bearcats were the best side all season and finished atop the standings, but the Sabres managed to find some form in the postseason and looked a genuine threat of upsetting the league favourites.
However, behind a massive double-double from Utti, the Bearcats pushed past a brave Sturt side to claim a win that was set up in the second term, where they managed to outscore the opposition 26-8 and hold on for the remainder of the match.
Utti was named the game’s MVP in fitting fashion, leading the victors in a big way and leaving her mark on the biggest game of West Adelaide’s season to date. If she can continue to produce such dominant numbers, the Bearcats will prove a massive threat in the upcoming NBL1 National Finals.
West Adelaide Bearcats (82) def. Sturt Sabres (75)
Madelynn Utti vs. Sabres – 25 points, 17 rebounds, three assists, three steals, three blocks
Utti started the game by crashing the boards and securing the possession after a wayward Sturt three-pointer. Getting her hands on the ball seemed to do wonders for her confidence, because she continued to read the field goal attempts in the air and snatch defensive rebounds.
While her efficiency shooting the ball started a bit lower than she would have liked, Utti got going with a nice drive to the hoop with her lay-up finding the bottom of the net. The final three minutes of the term saw Utti truly begin to fire with ball in hand, kicking things off with a close jump-shot after chasing down the offensive rebound. Combining well with teammate Jasmine Fejo, Utti scored another five points to close out the opening term, with the Bearcats leading by two points in a high scoring first term.
She began the second term in the same fashion as she did in the first, pulling down a number of big defensive rebounds as Sturt’s shooting began to drop in a big way. Utti was the beneficary of a West Adelaide fast break, as she caught the ball, cut under the hoop and drew the foul.
Although only one free throw attempt was successful, it was a bit of a spark for her offence getting going again in the second. The Bearcats began to look for her on the offensive end, and Utti was able to use her size and smarts with back to the basket and nail a turnaround floater. Closing out the quarter with her second three of the game, Utti was the most damaging player on the court to half time.
Utti showed no signs of slowing down in the second half, lifting her defensive work in the third term by ripping the ball from the clutches of Nicola Matthews, to secure another possession for her side. While it was her quietest offensive quarter of the match, Utti remained a menace on the boards, either boxing out her opponent or launching in from the side and grabbing the loose ball. However, the Sabres got themselves back into the game in the third term, and Utti would have to help her side lift in the fourth, as they led by just five points at three-quarter time.
She kicked off the fourth term with a clever cut to the hoop which ended in a lay-up, as West Adelaide looked to hold off a fast finishing Sturt side. The Sabres defence was beginning to realise Utti was the player most likely to hurt them with ball in hand, so she received a bit more attention.
However, she was able to use her smarts and find cutting teammates, who would often finish her good work. After a clever-tip in saw West Adelaide’s lead extend even further, Utti’s output quietened down a bit as she put all her energy into crashing the boards and playing relentless defence. She chimed in for a couple of crucial free throws in the dying stages of the game, and helped seal the title for a deserving Bearcats side.