Star Southside Flyers centre Liz Cambage cried tears of joy after helping her side beat Townsville Fire 99-82 in the WNBL grand final.
The Flyers were in early trouble when Cambage was subbed out after just three minutes following her second personal foul.
Cambage didn’t return to the court until the start of the third quarter.
The absence of the 203cm global superstar for most of the first half forced the Flyers into a significant tactical change, and it was the 165cm Leilani Mitchell who stepped up to the plate.
Huge shout out to the players, clubs, league and all those involved in putting on what was an incredible season 👏 pic.twitter.com/C3tFh0gCKz
— The NBL (@NBL) December 20, 2020
Mitchell nailed five of six three-point attempts in the first half to keep her side in the contest, and Cambage scored 12 points in the third quarter to blow the game wide open and lead the Flyers to their fourth WNBL title.
Cambage finished with 14 points, while grand final MVP Mitchell tallied a game-high 31.
Rebecca Cole was also crucial with 22 points.
Star Fire guard Shyla Heal, who posted scores of 30 and 28 earlier in the finals series, had a rare off night.
The 19-year-old finished with just 11 points on four-of-18 shooting, with Lauren Nicholson (20 points) left to do the bulk of the scoring for Townsville.
Congratulations to @SouthsideFlyers' Leilani Mitchell, the Rachael Sporn Medallist for the Grand Final MVP.
— WNBL (@WNBL) December 20, 2020
The Flyers were given a huge boost before the match when captain Jenna O’Hea was cleared to play after making a quicker-than-expected recovery from a knee injury.
O’Hea finished with five points from 17 minutes of action.
Cambage and O’Hea helped the Bulleen Boomers win the 2010/2011 WNBL title, and the pair were in tears while being interviewed.
“I sent Jenna a text message back in March. I saw a photo of us celebrating the Boomers grand final 10 years ago and I sent it to her and I was like, ‘Jenna, I want this again’,” Cambage told Fox Sports.
“I hadn’t even thought about signing yet. I just wanted that moment again with Jenna. She’s one of the best leaders, the smartest players, and just an all-round amazing athlete. I’m just so happy I got to do it again with her.”
Cambage endured a tough start to the match, missing an easy lay-up before being subbed off after two quick fouls.
Fire opened up an early five-point lead, but Mitchell’s two long bombs late in the opening quarter helped tie the scores up at 22-22 at the break.
The star guard exploded in the second quarter with another three long bombs.
Mitchell had 21 points to her name by the long break on five of six shooting from three-point land, helping her team gain a 48-46 edge.
Cambage picked up her third foul early in the third quarter, but she overcame the setback to go on a scoring rampage.
With Cambage dominating inside the paint, Southside’s lead grew to 10 points heading into the final quarter and it was never headed from that point on.