Penrith’s Youth League Women’s basketball team are just two victories away from being crowned back to back Division 1 champions.
The third-placed Panthers remain in the hunt for their second straight championship after narrowly overcoming the Norths Bears in last weekend’s thrilling Elimination Final.
With the lead changing hands multiple times throughout the course of the match, Penrith managed to muster up enough heart and determination during the final few minutes to finish the game 61-59 winners.
Penrith captain and guard Dominika Offner, who hit two clutch free throws down the stretch, said the game could have gone either way.
“We were leading by three and I had a set of free throws, landing one from two which put us up by four,” she recalled.
“Norths then hit straight back with a quick three-pointer, to be down by just one point.
“I then was fouled again with a few seconds remaining and was able to shoot another free throw to put us ahead by two.”
“You didn’t really know which way the game would finish but everyone pitched in, did their jobs and we came out with the win,” Offner said.
Penrith will head to Maitland on Friday to battle Manly Warringah, who enjoyed last weekend off after finishing the regular season in second position.
If the Panthers manage to knock off the high flying Sea Eagles, they’ll advance to their second straight Grand Final, which will be held this Sunday also in Maitland.
With plenty of new players in Penrith’s line-up, Offner said it’s been a challenging year trying to defend their title.
“We haven’t had the same team every single week and we’ve certainly had our up and down moments,” she admitted.
“We lost games we should have won but we’ve just had to work with what we’ve had each week, which is what Penrith is all about really.”
The Panthers certainly have the wood over Friday’s opponents of late, defeating them in last year’s decider as well as on both occasions this season.
“Manly are an unpredictable team, you don’t know what you are going to get,” Offner said.
“If we can stick together as a team and try not to let anything rattle us, we’ll go a long way to winning.”
Friday’s game tips off at 7pm.
Nathan Taylor is the Weekender’s Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for nearly a decade.