Ready for Game 3
In this week’s edition of On The Ball, NATION sports writer Justin Marville previews Game 3 of the No.1 Beauty Supplies and Beauty Exchange Women’s basketball finals.
WELL IT ALL COMES down to this. I’ll be the first to admit I didn’t see this series going three games, what with Pinelands losing one meaningless game all year long before these finals en route to a truly dominant season where they also captured the knockout title.
But women’s basketball truly deserves a winnertakes-all showdown on its biggest stage after having to suffer through months of some very unappealing matchups.
And make no mistake, Preferred Insurance Brokers Pinelands and Lady Cougars are the best of what this sport has to offer, so we should be in for one heck of a title decider.
How we got here:
As I said before I’m surprised we’re heading to a Game 3 considering Pinelands’ dominance this season along and the allround talent and depth of their roster.
But Cougars have done a great job being physical with reigning league MVP Maria “Flowers” Cumberbatch, who is somehow averaging just 10.5 points on less than 17 per cent shooting in these finals thus far.
A lot of that has to do with the fact that Cougars have largely taken Cumberbatch and company out of the open floor by owning the offensive glass and getting several second and third chance scoring opportunities.
Of course it also helps to have the league’s best player in Toni Atherley.
But Pinelands countered well in Game 2 by having one primary defender denying Atherley the ball before sending a wave of players at the national captain every time she puts the ball on the floor.
Their front-court was also better at keeping her, Jennifer JosephHackett and Tiffany Thorpe off the boards, which in turn led to more transition opportunities for Cumberbatch, Tamisha Flatts, Sade Clarke and Lafita Wood as the game wore on.
Which leads us to...
How Pinelands can win:
Run, run and run some more.
I don’t think it’s a secret that the champs are at their best when Cumberbatch and Flatts are forcing the action in transition to create havoc in the open floor.
And getting easy layups should finally unleash the speedy Cumberbatch, who is still going to be needed to drain a couple outside jumpers when Pinelands set up in the half court.
But then again they really shouldn’t be looking to play much half-court basketball to be honest considering Pinelands are so much faster and deeper than Cougars’ ageing nucleus.
Again, that starts with ending possessions by securing the defensive rebound, and Pinelands are well-equipped to do such with the massive size advantage they possess inside with the two Woods, Latifa and Anicia, along with Kashera Corbin.
How Cougars can win:
Get more production from their other two stars.
Pinelands have already shown how they plan to defend Atherley, which means Joseph-hackett and Thorpe must look to be more offensive-minded considering there aren’t any more realistic scoring options on Cougars outside of Gillian Martindale.
And the opportunities are going to be there for them to score as both Thorpe and JosephHackett have seen a lot easy one-on-one matchups with Pinelands’ defence focused on throwing multiple bodies at Atherley.
Part of the problem is that Thorpe has had to sacrifice a lot of her offence to bring up the ball so as not to wear out Atherley with those added ballhandling duties.
But Cougars can actually benefit by having Atherley “play the point” on a couple possessions so Pinelands won’t be able to deny her the basketball so easily.
Head coach Dexter Griffith could look at putting Joseph-hackett in a lot more pick-andpop opportunities with Atherley and Thorpe as the primary ballhandlers while deploying Martindale and Wanda Small on the weak side to space the floor. Prediction:
Pinelands in a twopossession game.
It’s hard to bet against Atherley in a do-ordie contest, but I don’t have much faith in her supporting cast to step up offensively if Pinelands are disciplined enough to execute their successful game plan from Sunday’s Game 2.
Once the Pine can clear the defensive glass then Cumberbatch and Flatts should be able to dictate this contest in the open floor.