Years of pain, surgery and rehab paid off for star shooter Kelsey Griffin as her Canberra Capitals claimed the season crown in the last contest of the WNBL’s three-game finals series.
For the American-born forward, who also won MVP honours, the victory came as both the climax of an inspiring personal triumph and a testament to one player’s unyielding will never to give up.
The road to Saturday night’s pinnacle began in Bendigo, where Kelsey earned two championships and a pair of finals MVP awards over a six-year stint .
But after undergoing hip surgery that brought her 2017-18 season to a premature end, the 31-year-old Griffin, who began representing Australia in 2017, made the decision to continue her basketball career in the nation’s capital.
After completing a lengthy period of rehabilitation, Griffin was instrumental in bringing championship glory back to Canberra on Saturday after a nine-year absence.
“I just can’t thank them enough for welcoming me with open arms, for believing in what we were trying to achieve and for standing by us,” Griffin told Fox Sports after defeating the Adelaide Lightning 93-73 in the decisive game three in front of a packed AIS Arena.
“I can’t thank Canberra enough.”
— John Casey (@JohnCasey2880) February 16, 2019
Griffin was the standout performer in all three games of the grand final series, finishing with averages of 25 points and 16 rebounds.
After missing the semi-finals for seven consecutive years, the Capitals recruited heavily ahead of the 2018-19 season with the aim of regaining their status as a basketball powerhouse.
With experienced campaigners Leilani Mitchell, Marianna Tolo and Kelly Wilson joining Griffin in a new-look squad, Canberra powered their way to the minor premiership and swept Perth aside in the semi-finals.
“I just can’t describe how happy I am for this group of girls,” Capitals coach Paul Goriss said after the win.
“People were thinking that we were crazy for the people that we recruited with their injuries and their background.
“But we knew that if they rehabbed and they did the work, that we had a really special group.”
Goriss praised Griffin following her grand-final winning performance, crediting the club’s co-captain for her hard work and leadership throughout the season.
“She’s had her fair share of things that she’s had to deal with through injury as well,” he said.
“I’m just really happy that the behind-the-scenes work that she’s done with nutrition, strength and conditioning, all the extra work that she puts in – she’s well worthy of the MVP.”