Playoff dreams near

Smithton’s Gemma Korpershoek rushes past her opponent, pushing forward into attack at Burnie on Tuesday night. Picture: Jodie Saville.

NWBU. The finals hopes of the Tall Timbers Smithton Saints’ men and women are hanging on a knife’s edge after a dramatic night against Burnie.

The Saints’ women can take a growing confidence into their final two matches after a hard-fought 83-80 win over Burnie; another match which was decided in the dying minutes of the final quarter.

The result keeps Smithton in the hunt for a top-four playoff place, still sitting below Somerset on percentage but facing an uphill battle to make up the difference after the Heat claimed a 22-point win over Latrobe.

Sharp shooting led by Tyla Free – who had 10 points to her name in the first quarter – helped the Saints’ women break to a 23-18 lead after the first quarter, hoping to upstage their close ladder rivals away from home.

Burnie was quick to respond in the second however, taking a narrow one-point lead by half time and matching the Saints for points in the third with help from an imposing Mariah Payne (38 points).

With the lead fluctuating between teams throughout the night and the Saints’ women down by a single point at the final break (59-60), a combination of sharp long-range shooting and bullish defence saw the visitors hold a narrow lead until the final buzzer.

Two three-pointers to Free (22 points) in the final quarter were crucial, standing out alongside fellow starters Gemma Korpershoek (25 points), Ashlee Trebilcock (19 points), Georgia Roberts (11 points) and Alisha Barry (five assists).

The Saints will likely need to win their remaining two games against top-four sides Ulverstone (home) and Devonport (away) to jump into fourth, while also hoping that Somerset slip up in their matches against Wynyard and Penguin.

The end result for Smithton’s men – a 96-37 thrashing at the hands of Burnie – was a severe dent in their own run to the finals and Keith Bragg’s side will be hoping to finish strongly in the last two games.

A dominant 36-9 opening quarter paved the way for the Tigers to enjoy the night, further stamping their presence as the league’s top side.

Though the Saints gained a slight reprieve in the second quarter, the Tigers slipped back into gear to finish with 25-7 and 26-8 third and fourth quarters respectively.

Fred Hunter led Smithton’s scorers but was kept to just 14 points, while Steve Poulter (seven) and Ty Stewart (six) also chipped in on the scoreboard.

Smithton’s men can still realistically book themselves into finals with wins over the Hoppers and the Warriors, also hoping that the Hoppers and the Blues falter in their coming matches.

SCORES

Women: BURNIE 80 SMITHTON 83

Men: BURNIE 96 SMITHTON 37

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