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Bendigo win back-to-back WNBL titles

10 March 2014

BASKETBALL: Superstar import Kelsey Griffin and peerless veteran Kristi Harrower starred as Bendigo clinched back-to-back WNBL titles with a 94-83 home grand final win over Townsville on Sunday.

Griffin finished with 28 points and 15 rebounds, while 39-year-old point guard Harrower tallied 22 points and nine assists in possibly her final game.

WNBA forward Griffin won successive grand final MVP awards as Townsville were denied a maiden title by Bendigo for a second straight year.

Minor premiers Bendigo produced a blistering start and an equally sizzling finish to burn of the Fire in a high-quality game.

Bendigo bolted to a 23-10 lead after seven and a half minutes, with an unstoppable Griffin scoring 14 in the first quarter.

"Us winning the last two championships has really got a lot to do with having Kelsey in our program," Harrower said.

Sparked by three-time league MVP Suzy Batkovic (21 points, nine rebounds) and Mia Newley (18 points), Fire got within eight points at quarter time and five at halftime.

The teams exchanged a one-point lead on several occasions in a head-spinning high quality third quarter.

Three quick buckets to centre Gabrielle Richards (16 points) and a three-pointer to Kelly Wilson gave Bendigo a 10-point buffer in the last quarter that was never reduced to below six.

"I thought our defence in the last quarter was sensational and we came up with some huge baskets," Bendigo coach Bernie Harrower said.

"They played well and they certainly brought out the best in us.

"We had to play a sensational game to get the win today."

His daughter Kristi, who has struggled with her shooting this season, despite leading the league in assists, produced some big second half baskets in her second biggest score of the season.

"I was stressing all week about this game," Kristi Harrower said.

"But today I woke up and I felt so relaxed.

"I'm just glad that some shots fell. I said to myself if this was my last game I'm going to play like it's my last game."

Four-time Olympic medallist Harrower said she had to think seriously about her family in deciding whether to play on or not.

Townsville coach Chris Lucas said he was proud of his players and they couldn't have given any more.

"They (Bendigo) shot the crap out of the ball, it's as simple as that," Lucas said.

"We scored enough points to win the game and the reality is they find ways to grind you away."

Both Lucas and Batkovic put the superstar tag on Griffin, who said she was looking to gain permanent residency in Australia.

AAP

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