Lions win nail biting Supersport Wheelchair Basketball Series Final to claim Third straight Title!
The Wolverines and Lions squared off in the 2018 Supersport Wheelchair Basketball Series Final this past Saturday and delivered what some consider the most exciting final in the history of the Supersport Wheelchair Basketball Series.
Playing in front of the largest crowd of the season, the atmosphere inside the Vodacom Mandeville Center was electric, as the countries two top teams took to the court to do battle. The Wolverines were the overwhelming favourites leading up to the match, having gone the entire season unbeaten, whilst their opponents from Klerksdorp had had an indifferent season, despite having been crowned champions the previous two seasons.
The Lions however, were not about to roll over and let the Pretoria team maul them in the final, and their coach Lydia Dumond had said before the game that "despite some challenges during the season, the boys had been working extremely hard at practise during the week leading up to Saturday's ( 8/9/18) final and they were determined to hold on to their crown.
The game had a frenetic energy to it the whole way through, and the end to end action saw neither team gain a clear advantage in the early exchanges, but it was the Lions who edged the first quarter taking a 15-14 lead into the second quarter.
Wolverines coach, Willie Mulder, seemed calmed as he rallied his side at the break. and would have been confident that his chargers would start to take a grip on proceedings and begin to edge away from the Lions. The North West outfit , however had other ideas, and came out firing at the begining of the quarter. The Wolverines began to panic as their opponents dominated the play and by the end of the half, they found themselves 10 points down, with the Lions looking comfortable with thei lead. The half time score was 34-24 to the Lions.
Lions captain Cecil Dumond led his team back onto the court at the start of the second half, looking determined and confident, whilst Wolverines captain Jaco Van Niekerk, had his work cut out for him as his team mates looked flustered, and were remonstrating with the officials at the break.
Lions star man Simanga Mbhele, was in dominant form once again, but found himself sitting on 4 fouls early on in the third quarter, which meant he had to approach the rest of the game with more caution, as the fifth foul would see him ejected from the game and would make life difficult for his team mates. He maintained good discipline for the third quarter and linking up with Man of the Match. Rakgetsing Molete and Shane Williams, the Lions not only held their lead but extended it to 14 points, as the buzzer for the end of the third quarter sounded.
The capacity crowd were vociferous, with the bulk now firmly behind the Lions as they worked to upset the Wolverines, and the stadium atmosphere was electric as the final quarter got underway. The Wolverines knew they had to pull out all the stops in this quarter, and looked to their veteran National team Vice Captain Thandile Zonke and Marius Papenfus to steady the ship, whilst trying to get their season star performer, Steven Walgenbach, to be more influential in the proceedings.
They did not disappoint as the Wolverines put up an energy sapping final stand in the last quarter. The momentum of the game soon shifted in their favour as Mbhele eventually gave up his fifth foul which saw him ejected from the game with 8 minutes still left to play. The Wolverines sensed their opportunity to claw their way back into the encounter and with clinical precision, pulled back the Lions lead and with just under 2 minutes left to play in the encounter, they found themselves within one point of a now panic stricken Lions outfit, who visibly saw their title hopes slipping away as the Wolverines applied relentless pressure on them.
The tension in the stadium was intense and screams of elation and of panic were echoing to the rafters as the game wound down to the final few seconds. With 7 seconds of the game to go, the Lions were defending for dear life, as they only led by two points, with the Wolverines in possession looking to draw level and take the game into overtime, or even better, set up a 3 point play and steal the win.
However, to the relief of coach Lydia Dumond and the frantic Lions supporters, a wayward pass by the Wolverines was intercepted by Raketsing Molete who sent Shane Williams up the other side of the court and he converted the final two points of the game and the nail in the coffin for the Wolverines. The Lions completing the threepeat of titles, winning 61- 57.
In the days earlier encounters, the Diesel Electric Services Eagles and the Ethekwini Spears delivered another nerve wracking encounter in the bronze medal playoff, and it was the home team Eagles that secured the bronze with a hard fought 62-56 victory.
The Buffalo City Metro Suns, finished off the season in fifth place after a convincing 61-43 victory over the Mongoose in the days opening encounter.