The Panthers have won the inaugural SAMSUNG Premier League U20s Division title after claiming a 63-50 victory over the UTS St George Sparks in the Grand Final at Netball Central on Wednesday, 24 August.
Dominant second and third quarters – during which time they outscored the Sparks 33-21 -were the key to the Panthers’ triumph in what was an amazing display of high intensity Finals netball.
The game started on an even footing with both goal shooters finding their range early which allowed the teams settle in nicely. The score was 3-3 after a few minutes but good movement from Sparks attackers Maddy Eaton and Kaitlyn Fisher in the shooting circle made them easy targets for their feeders and soon they had the UTS 10-5 up.
Eaton continued to be impressive and was rebounding whatever attempts she missed first up to give the Sparks a 15-8 lead closing in on quarter-time, however, the Panthers showed some beautiful movement on attack and Amelia Holz (who shot at an amazing 96 per cent) was converting to keep them well in touch – 15-12 down at the first break.
After a little back and forth between the teams it was the Panthers who had the better of things in the early stages of the second quarter. Good defence and midcourt work allowed Holz and goal attack Abbey McFadden get them back within one and midway through the period they were ahead.
The Penrith side had upped the intensity, were quicker to the ball and starting to dominate on both attack and defence. A minute out from halftime they held a 28-24 advantage, but the Sparks hadn’t gone into their shells with Eaton and Fisher converting what chances they had, although they weren’t coming as quick and fast as before. With a 29-25 scoreline at the big break the Grand Final was delicately poised.
The second half was a wonderful end-to-end contest to start with as the Sparks returned fire, bouncing out of the blocks to draw level. But just when it looked like the game might sway in favour of them the Panthers came storming back.
An eight-goal streak, driven by excellent shooter service from the midcourt put the Panthers 42-34 up with three-quarter time fast approaching. The Penrith defence was also terrific with goal keeper Renee Mihaere taking some fine intercepts – aided by Maddison Mann – to pile the pressure on the St George attack. The deficit was nine at three-quarter time and the Sparks had it all to do.
Despite that it was the Panthers who were showing their claws early in the fourth quarter and with 10 minutes to go they had a 13-goal lead.
The Sparks for their part kept trying hard but were continuing to turn the ball over in vital areas of the court and finding it hard to live with the intensity Penrith brought to the game.
In the end it was a bridge too far for them to close and the Panthers were celebrating a well-deserved title win.
PANTHERS | Q1: 12 – Q2: 29 (17) – Q3: 45 (16) – Q4 63 (18)
SPARKS | Q1: 15 – Q2: 25 (10) – Q3: 36 (11) – Q4 50 (14)
PANTHERS: 63/68 @ 93%
A Holz: 43/45 @ 96%
A McFadden: 20/23 @ 87%
SPARKS: 50/59 @ 85%
M Eaton: 37/43 @ 86%
K Fisher: 12/15 @ 80%
J Tweddle-O’Donnell: 1/1 @ 100%
PANTHERS | GS Amelia Holz, GA Abbey McFadden, WA Chelsea Bolton, C Rylee Towell, WD Liana Hogarth, GD Maddison Mann, GK Renee Mihaere
SPARKS | GS Maddy Eaton, GA Kaitlyn Fisher, WA Tayla Fraser, C Olivia Lennon, WD Jazmin Tweddle-O’Donnell, GD Paige Pirotta, GK Angela Cloeraine