The Integra Ballarat Rush understand the importance of this doubleheader weekend as one that could either really help or hurt their chances at a spot in the finals. They travel to Bendigo Stadium Friday night to take on the Bendigo Lady Braves from 6pm, followed by a tough match up Saturday night as they host the Brisbane Lady Spartans at the MARS® MINERDOME.
The first meeting between the Rush and Lady Braves was a thrilling matchup that needed two overtimes to be decided. The Rush were able to prevail in the final seconds of the game, giving the Braves their first loss of the season, 84-82. Steph Cumming and Kristy Rinaldi were standouts in the game, playing the entire 50 minutes, Cumming with 31 points at 63% shooting from the field.
The Rush have scored some big wins since the meeting against Bendigo, but have not enjoyed the same success as the Lady Braves. In what is a tough South Conference, the Lady Braves have a 12-5 record, with big wins against a Knox team at full-strength, and as well as beating tough opponents in Geelong and Launceston.
The Lady Braves boast an undeniable amount of talent, with the experience of Jane Chalmers and Chantella Pererra, as well as the strength in the post with centre Alex Bunton and forward LaSondra Barrett. Pererra leads the team in scoring, with 17.3 points a game, and is heavily supported by Bunton and Barrett, both averaging double-doubles that include 10 rebounds each game.
The Rush can attribute their Round 4 victory against the Lady Braves to their aggressive execution on offence, getting key players such as Pererra and Bunton into foul trouble, which subsequently led to their early exit from the game. While the Rush were heavily out-rebounded by the Braves, it was the defence that was a big factor in helping the Rush get over the line against the Lady Braves. Ballarat was able to hold Bendigo to a mere 34.5% shooting percentage for the game, including a final term where the Lady Braves shot 20% to the Rush’s 57%. If the Rush can get back to the overpowering defence and efficient offensive performance that got them the win in Round 4, they could enjoy their second win against the Lady Braves for the season.
Following the matchup against the Braves, the Rush will then return home as they host the Brisbane Spartans in what is also sure to be an exciting, physical game. The Round 2 meeting between the Rush and Lady Spartans was also decided with an extra period, thanks to a fourth quarter Rush comeback, and the Rush were able to get the overtime win, 87-82.
Sarah Graham, Odette Andrew, and Olivia Thompson were outstanding in the first meeting against the Rush, Graham, with 27 points, Andrew with 19 points, and Thompson with a dominant performance of 14 points and 10 rebounds. However, it was no match for the collective effort of the Rush, who had all 5 starters in double figures—Cumming and Sophie Alexander with 27 and 20 points, respectively—and were able to win the matchup on the boards against the Lady Spartans, outrebounding them 46-42.
A big game is to be expected of Graham and Thompson, who have been leading the Lady Spartans all season, Graham with 16 points a game, and Thompson averaging a near double-double of 19 points and 9 rebounds each game.
The Rush will rely heavily on the efforts of Steph Cumming, who was recently acknowledged as SEABL Player of the Month for the Month of June. Cumming, who averaged 20.4 points, 4.5 rebounds, four assists, and 1.5 steals for the month, will be expected to continue her exceptional form if the Ballarat has any chance at beating Brisbane.
Cumming receives substantial support from captain Kristy Rinaldi and young gun Abbey Wehrung. Rinaldi is not only the unfaltering on-court leader for the Rush, but has also been putting forth big numbers for the Rush, as the last three games have seen Rinaldi score in double figures and be amongst the top rebounders for the game. Equally as important has been the hard work of Wehrung, averaging 12.5 points a game, while also controlling the tempo of the game for the Rush. Import Nya Mason continues to assert her presence in the post, and as team’s leading rebounder, will also be expected to have a big weekend. Sophie Alexander will also be called upon to repeat her notable performance of 20 points and 12 rebounds in the first matchup between the Lady Spartans. The depth for the Rush continues to develop, with Ash Stonehouse, Bronte Clark, and Kasey Burton all with the ability to come into the game and make a positive impact on the outcome of the game.
It is an extremely important weekend for the Rush, as two wins will put them in a great position to drive themselves into a playoff position. Come on into the MARS® MINERDOME and help the Rush get over the line against the Lady Spartans Saturday night from 6pm, followed by the GMHBA Ballarat Miners taking on the Spartans from 8pm.