THUNDER RISES WITH WOMEN’S NBL1 CHAMPIONSHIP

Logan Thunder Women are the inaugural NBL1 North Champions following a season of heated rivalries, tight games, and the stars we have come to know and love on the hardwood.

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The NBL1 North is Queensland’s peak semi-professional basketball league and following the delay due to covid – this season took off with clashes and rivalries that have been the benchmark in seasons past.

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The NBL1 was brought to Queensland to create more professional pathways and opportunities for males and females playing basketball in Queensland.

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The Logan Thunder Women went undefeated on their way to taking out the QSL championship in 2020.

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The postponement of the NBL1 season only made the squad hungrier for the title and in a season that saw them claim 12 wins from 13 games they did just that.

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This squad is what many may argue is the pinnacle in what the region has to offer in terms of sporting talent within its nursery.

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The rivalries don’t get much greater than that between Logan Thunder and the Southern District Spartans, a juggernaut in their own right.

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The NBL1 North season finals were great and even though the top seeded Spartans were favoured to take the title the Thunder women are never to be written off.

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They took the finals in two games that came down to the final minutes: 75-71 in the first and 63-61 in the second.

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Captain Mikaela Cann is Logan basketball, and she is the point guard and leader every coach and needs.

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A mainstay of the Thunder she can be relied upon at those crucial moments to keep her team focussed and come up with the play to take the win.

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“The season was fun, and I was just thankful to be able to play the game and be surrounded by likeminded people who strive to better themselves and those around them every day,” Cann said.

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She led the season in terms of assists with 7.61 on average per game – delivering the plays to where they must land to be successful.

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She was named the Grand Final Series most valuable player and the win meant so much for the club veteran.

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“Bringing a second championship back to my home club is very special. It makes me happy to reward all of the people at our club who make the place go round and allow us to do what we do – staff, volunteers, fans, sponsors and the future players of the club,”

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“Everyone improved this year in many ways. We had young girls who matured incredibly and continued to challenge themselves and compete day in and day out and played a pivotal role in our championship season – and we have incredible athletes/leaders and people in Chev, Ash, Mikaela and Cassie who are professionals in everything they do.”

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Dominant American product Mikaela Ruef is powerful on the boards riding them like a freight train. Known for her trademark rebounding ability (17.46 average per game) she partners Cann like a hitman who is never far away when needed to pull off the coach’s plan.

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“I was really impressed with Mik (Cann) and her ability to lead our team and carry us to the championship. I mean we all know she’s been the best point guard in the league for forever, but I’m just proud of how she’s continued to work on her game and her shot especially, and to be able to come out and shine and make massive shot after massive shot on the biggest stage is super impressive and I’m just so happy for her.”

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Arriving in Logan in 2018 she has repaid the Thunder faithful week in week out what she can offer on the hardwood and in return she has earned spots with the Canberra Capitals in the WNBL for the past two seasons.

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“Winning the title was huge for our team and our club. We won the QSL title last year, which was fun, but we knew it was going to be more difficult this year with more teams and stronger players in the league. And so, to be able to repeat this year at the NBL1 level felt amazing! Everyone on the team wanted to win not only for each other but for the Logan community and all of our amazing fans and supporters,” Ruef said.

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The forward has told Logan Local that she has resigned with the squad for the 2022 season in a moment to get fans excited.

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“I really like the club and the area – it feels like home.”

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She is passionate about her team, and it was a no brainer returning for another season and to go back-to-back.

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“I have to give a huge shout out to Chev (Paavalst) who struggled early in the season with her body, but she stuck with it and believed in herself, and she also came up huge for us in the grand final both offensively and defensively,”

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“And then lastly Carla (Drennan). I’m really happy and proud of the way she played this season. She got taken out of the starting line-up halfway through the season but didn’t let that affect the way she played for us. She became a massive spark off the bench for us and was one our best three-point shooters. And her phenomenal play earned her a development spot in Townsville for the WNBL, where I’m excited to see how she continues to develop her game.”

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The squad also includes the evergreen and talented Cassie Carroll who has been playing alongside Cann for so long they read each other like the greatest playbook known. Any team list with her name on it can be guaranteed to be successful.

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New tall fern Ashley Taia is gritty and a streetfighter on the court but still armed with silky skills to get any crowd pumped. The 26-year old’s star is still rising and wearing the Kiwi representative singlet for the first time in the FIBA Women’s Asia Cup last month just shows what is ahead.

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WNBL champion player Chevannah Paalvast and Logan forward showed this season what she does for her team and what she brings to the game.

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For the coach Heslehurst the championship ended a season he will be looking to replicate and was aware of what it meant for his players, the club, and the region.

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“It was an amazing season, a memorable one not only for our group but for the whole club. To win a championship, the inaugural NBL1 North title, but do it the way we did against such a talented team in the previously undefeated Spartans but have most of our Thunder Family cheering us on was incredible. There are rare sporting moments you get to witness or be a part of in your life and this was definitely one of them.”

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With his rich basketball experience and intense IQ of the game he has his squad firing and will look to the 2022 season with the intent in retaining the group.

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“We know the key to success is continuity, so we want to make sure we keep this group together and we’ve already taken steps to do that. But we also want to continue to bring our youngsters through, that’s what we’re about and that is what makes our program special,”

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“We missed out on playing in the NBL1 National finals because of Covid so we want to not only repeat next year but do something we couldn’t this year and bring a national title home.”

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