By Lance Jenkinson
Werribee Devils have stunned the Victorian basketball community, claiming the Big V women’s state championship title in a promotion year.
The Devils clinched the championship with a 2-1 win over Keilor Thunder in a best-of-three grand final series.
It was the Devils first senior women’s title since 2009 and it means so much more than just another banner to add to the collection.
Devils coach Reece Potter said the title was a reward to the people who breathed life into the Devils women’s program and the legacy of this championship will be felt for years to come.
“That last couple of seconds when we realised we got over the line was something pretty special,” Potter said.
“Three years ago, they didn’t even have a women’s import, so they’ve changed their mindset, invested in the women’s program and invested into women’s sport and it’s part of a bigger association plan to impact that area going forward, which is a growing area of sport.
“It was great reward for a lot of hard work from people within the team and also off the court who have been trying to turn the program around.
“It’s pretty special to be honest.”
Werribee’s glorious moment, 10 years in the making, was delivered on its opponents court at the Keilor Basketball Stadium on Sunday afternoon.
The Devils gave up their series lead with an 81-75 defeat to Keilor Thunder in game two on Saturday night, but came back less than 24 hours later to produce an unforgettable 67-61 victory in game three.
It was a tight deciding game the whole way through, but the Devils just seemed to have the answers every time the Thunder threatened.
Potter was left in no doubt that Werribee’s defence was the difference in the game.
“I thought we did a really good job defensively today,” Potter said.
“We really tidied that up from last night [in game two].
“We upped the ante, we upped the pressure and we kept subbing and rotating.
“I thought our whole team did a great job all playing their roles and winning the championship was a great team effort.”
Werribee Devils import Alexyz Vaioletama took out the award for the most valuable player of the grand final series. Vaioletama, a 26-year-old power forward, showed why she has signed a professional contract with Greek side PAOK, coming up big for the Devils in key moments.
She produced impressive all round lines in each of the three games.
In game one, she had 14 points, six rebounds, four assists and three three-pointers.
In the second game, Vaioletama scored her season-best 23 points and in the deciding game she reeled in a massive 15 rebounds to go with 13 points.
“She was solid throughout the year, but she really stepped it up in the finals,” Potter said. “She hit big shots, got big rebounds and made big plays at crucial times today and through the finals series.”
No one would have argued if Werribee’s Alisia Jenkins received the MVP – but only one player can get the honour.
Jenkins was massive at both ends of the floor for the Devils, showing off her sweet shooting stroke and touch around the basket en route to averaging 24 points and 15 rebounds per game in the grand final series.
She also had the responsibility of marking Thunder star Erin Bollmann for large chunks of the series and stuck to the task admirably.
“Everyone was happy to play their part and that’s been key for us all year,” Potter said.
For more on the Devils win, CLICK HERE