Hayley gets the Storm home

LISMORE Storm is through to the final four in NSW State League women’s basketball after a thrilling 69-67 victory over Dubbo on Saturday.

It was a team of teens versus a team of veterans and in the dying stages it all came down to a bit of magic from 19-year-old Hayley Cassell.

With the scores tied and 15 seconds on the clock, Cassell collected the ball, beat two would-be defenders, stopped and popped from 4 metres to deliver a hard-fought win.

The Storm now travel to Newcastle on Friday for the finals weekend and coach Mick Willemsen couldn’t be more pleased.

“The girls are riding a wave and it is unbelievable,” Willemsen said.

“Dubbo made it really tough for us but the girls did us proud.”

More than 200 supporters turned up to watch the Storm women contest their first semi-final – Willemsen reckons it was like having a sixth man on the floor.

“The crowd absolutely raised the roof for us,” he said.

“The atmosphere kept us in the game down the stretch – it was great to have a win like that in front of a home crowd.”

The Storm were forced into a knock ’em down and drag ’em out slugfest by the Rams, who had obviously come with one thing in mind.

“Dubbo had a very mature side with a lot of experience,” Willemsen said.

“They came and tried to beat the crap out of us, basically. They did a good job of trying to dismantle our kids, but we held strong.”

Cassell top-scored for the home side with 19 points and had support from Tami Willey (13) and Grace Amey (12).

Willemsen said his girls encountered a style of play unseen in 2010 and that they did a fantastic job of adapting.

On Friday the Storm travel to Newcastle for finals weekend where they will take on either Central Coast or Shoalhaven on Saturday; a win qualifies for the grand final on Sunday while a loss signals the end of the season.

The possible opposition teams are basketball strongholds and, like Dubbo, are unknown quantities.

“But anything can happen on finals weekend,” Willemsen said.

“Absolutely anything.”

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