Basketball: WNBL championship lights flame for Hunters guard Cassidy McLean

CASSIDY McLean almost forgot about her broken wrist as she celebrated and hugged long-term teammate and friend Lara McSpadden. 

The full-time siren had sounded. The Sydney Flames were the Women’s National Basketball League champions. 

The Flames beat Dandenong 75-62 in Victoria on Friday night to wrap up the grand final series 2-0. It was Sydney’s first title in 16 years and ended a run of six straight grand-final defeats.

“With two minutes to go, we thought this is it,” McLean said. “We had a decent lead and just had to defend it. When the final buzzer went it was pretty loud. It was an awesome feeling. Especially with Lara being there, we have done everything together from going to camps as 12 year olds, to the national camps we attend, and now the Flames and winning a championship together.”

Development players, McLean and McSpadden are among four Novocastrians in the squad. Susi Walmsley is also in her first WNBL season and Laleini Mitchell, who moved to Newcastle last April, was named the most valuable player of the grand final series.

With plans a foot for the Hunters to enter the WNBL in 2018-19, McLean said “it shows how strong Newcastle could be”. Next for the teenager is helping the Hunters defend their Waratah League title.

"I have learnt so much from [Flames coach] Cheryl Chambers and the other players," she said. "How to play tougher and stronger . I have been watching how well Leilani Mitchell and Belinda Snell lead the team. I want to put that to use for the Hunters. I am excited for the year to come. With Suzy Batkovic coming in and Ally Ebzery returning and the import Cherub Lum, things are looking bright.”

The experience with the Sydney Flames capped an incredible 12 months for McLean, who sat her year 12 half-yearly maths exam in Newcastle Friday morning before flying to Dandenong to watch game two.

Her and McSpadden were members of the World Championship-winning under-17s team last year. Last month, McLean was the most valuable player at the Australian under-20 championships where NSW were beaten in the final.

The guard  broke the scaphoid in her left hand in the second game but played the remainder of the tournament. She didn’t learn the extent of the injury until returning home and undergoing a bone scan. The wrist will be in a cast for another four weeks.

"I’m hoping to get it off early and be training and playing straight away," she said.

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