The Ballarat Rush goes down to the Bendigo Lady Braves in a thrilling season opener.

By Kasey Cornwell 

The Ballarat Rush went down fighting to the Bendigo Lady Braves, narrowly missing a win, 87 – 90.  Vice Captain Abbey Wehrung excelled with 27 points, 11 rebounds and 4 assists, her energy on the court was undeniable. New recruit Ashleigh Spencer starred as MVP and ended with 23 points and 7 boards.

The first quarter was explosive, with Bendigo’s Kelly Wilson opening their scoring immediately. Abbey Wehrung and Ashleigh Spencer responded quickly making 15 of the Rush’s 28 points for the quarter, giving Ballarat a 1 point lead at the first break.

In the second quarter, Bendigo got in front and stretched to a 5-point lead. Wehrung was impressive with 13 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists with half a game to go. Ballarat’s key concerns at that stage were with Bendigo’s top scorers, Keely Froling, already on 23 points and Kelly Wilson on 13 points.

In the third period, the Rush added pressure to Bendigo’s top scorers, with Froling and Wilson forced to miss shots early in the term. Molly Matthews looked dangerous with the ball, and it was evident a season in the WNBL has assisted in her development. The team ran their offences well, and were able to adapt quickly to Coach Flint’s instructions from the bench. Rush went into the final break 4 points down.

The fourth term saw Joy Burke get a bit more of a run, after being on the sidelines most of the game after notching 4 personal fouls early on. Joy looked menacing under the key and strong getting the rebound. Burke ended the game with 5 rebounds and 9 points. Despite letting Bendigo’s lead get to 5 toward the end of the game, Ballarat lost by a mere 3 points.

Molly Matthews also earns a notable mention, with her improvement from last season obvious and ending the game with 14 points and 4 assists.

Dave Flint was pleased with how his side played, their intensity and effort was great and he liked a lot of what the Rush did on the court Friday night. Dave has a young team, and paid testament to those WNBL players that excelled during the season opener, such as Kasey Burton, Molly Matthews, Ashleigh Spencer and Joy Burke.

Flint didn’t think the side utilised import Joy Burke well enough on the night, noting that he and the team need to work on how they want to utilise her within their structure.

Dave knows his side needs to keep teams around the 75 point mark to get the win. He thinks his side needed to force the offences away from Bendigo’s two main scorers in Keely Froling and Kelly Wilson, in order lessen their impact on the scoreboard.

Flint thinks he has a great group at the Rush this season, and despite the season opener result, he is very pleased with a number of elements of their game. Dave believes he is blessed to have such a talented group and knows they can go from strength to strength