The Integra Ballarat Rush are looking to regroup this week as an unsuccessful doubleheader weekend saw them accept defeat Friday night on the road to the Bendigo Lady Braves, 39-62 and then the next night at the MARS® MINERDOME when they hosted the Brisbane Lady Spartans, falling 73-97.
While neither team demonstrated any real proficiency on offense (Braves shooting 31% for the game, while the Rush shot 28% for the game), it was the Braves’ defence that ultimately helped them over the line Friday night against the Rush. Causing Ballarat to play at a tempo outside of their comfort zone led to forced and hasty shot attempts for the Rush, which only seemed to benefit the Braves gameplan.
The first quarter, albeit sloppy, saw a strong fight between both teams. The defensive effort was there, as the point total was not very high, and with both teams drawing fouls and crashing the defensive boards with an urgent desperation. The Braves would head into the first break up 16-10, but the Rush showed no signs of backing down.
The second quarter was a similar story; not a lot of shooting accuracy, but the strong focus on defence was there. In a quarter where the Rush made four field goals, and the Braves made five, the Rush would have to maintain their drive to grab the defensive rebounds, but also stick to their defensive principles if they wanted a chance to beat the Braves on their home court. The Rush would head into the main break with an eight-point deficit, and thanks to their defence, they were still very much in the game.
Bendigo’s starting forward, import LaSondra Barrett, started out the third quarter with a three-pointer to jump-start the Bendigo offence. The Braves significantly upped their shooting percentage for the quarter while poor shooting woes for the Rush continued on, and the Braves would head into the last break ahead 43-26. While the Rush worked hard to get back within reach of the game, getting the deficit as low as 12, the experience and depth of the Lady Braves prevailed, and they would go on to beat the Rush 62-39.
Alex Bunton was best on court for the Braves with 14 points and nine rebounds, and was an intimidating opponent in the post for import Nya Mason. Lauren King was not far behind teammate Bunton on the scoring, with 13 points and five rebounds for the game.
Abbey Wehrung fought hard for the Rush all the way to the end, leading all Rush players with 11 points and 10 rebounds. Mason was not far behind her with eight points and eight rebounds, whereas Steph Cumming was held to a quiet seven points.
The Rush would return home the next night to take on the Brisbane Lady Spartans. A win for the Rush would keep their playoff hopes well and truly alive, a loss would result in a much more difficult road to making the postseason.
The Rush would be playing without Steph Cumming due to illness, and Brisbane would be confident coming off of a massive win in Albury the night before. The Rush were heading into the game with the odds against them, but did not let it stir their focus, as they opened up the match with an evident sense of concentration and determination to protect their home court. It was a much different match from the night before in that both teams had no trouble scoring to start the game, but with the Lady Spartans taking 11 more shots in the first quarter than that of the Rush, they were able to get themselves up to a seven point lead at first quarter time. The Rush would fight to lessen the deficit in the second quarter, getting within 1 point, but Brisbane’s aggression on offence would get them to the foul line more times than Ballarat, and the Rush trailed by nine as they went into halftime.
The start the second half, the fight for the Rush persisted. With Ballarat being the aggressors and drawing fouls, key players for the Brisbane side were sent to the bench. Unfortunately, a cold shooting streak for the Rush halfway through the third quarter, and the depth of the Brisbane bench was troublesome for the home team, and the Lady Spartans were able to add upon their lead, increasing the deficit for the Rush to 20 as they headed into the final quarter.
With fatigue seeming to set in, the Rush could not make a fourth quarter comeback. Despite the undying efforts of the Rush bench players, the Lady Spartans would go on to win, 73-97, making a playoff push for the Rush an even more difficult task.
Olivia Thompson was remarkable with 30 points and 13 rebounds. Sarah Graham was also impressive with 21 points in just over 20 minutes of play.
Captain Rinaldi and young local Wehrung top-scored for the Rush with 20 points apiece, while Mason chipped in with 18 points and six rebounds. Sophie Alexander was effective on both ends of the court, controlling the offence well, getting the ball into the right hands in the right positions to rack up nine assists, nine points, as well as putting defensive pressure on the Spartans with three blocks.
Noteworthy is the effort of young locals Molly Mathews and Claire Constable, who were able to come into the game for the Rush and hold their own against an older and experienced Brisbane outfit, a positive sign for the future of Ballarat Basketball.
The Rush look to get back on track as they host the Launceston Tornadoes this Sunday from 6pm at the MARS® MINERDOME, followed by the GMHBA Ballarat Miners taking on the Northwest Tasmania Thunder from 8pm.