Shepparton Lady Gators gave up a big early lead but stuck with the Casey Cavaliers for the final three quarters of their first match back in the Big V since 2008.DAMEN FRANCIS March 18, 2014 4:11am
It was hardly the glorious return Shepparton Lady Gators had been hoping for, but try telling coach Chris Judd his team was out of its league.
In their first Big V basketball appearance since 2008, the Lady Gators were exposed early against Casey Cavaliers, but fought on to match the visitors in the final three quarters at Shepparton basketball Stadium on Sunday.
The final score was 76-49, but given the margin at quarter-time stood at 20 points, there was plenty to be encouraged about for Judd and his troops.
‘‘After the first quarter it was 28-8 and basically then we kicked into gear and played some basketball,’’ Judd said. ‘‘That first quarter destroyed us. The girls were very inexperienced and there was a fair bit of nerves for the girls who were playing their first Big V game.
‘‘The fact was they jumped us and we gave them probably 10 points straight away with bad passing.
‘‘We went to a zone to defend as a team and went point-for-point for three quarters.
‘‘Their coach went from a zone to man-on-man to a full-court press, to a half-court press and back to man-on-man.
‘‘I was so proud of the girls and it’s going to give them a lot of confidence.’’
The Lady Gators went into the match with only eight players and their cause was not helped when senior player Lana Young was ruled out after dislocating her finger during the warm-up.
Baby-faced point guard Mia Beks showed maturity beyond her years to run the offence, committing just four turnovers for the game.
Beks finished with five points, five rebounds and three steals and drew plenty of praise from her coach.
‘‘Mia was our starting point guard at the pre-season tournament in Frankston and she struggled, but we put some things into training about the way she carried the ball,’’ he said.
‘‘She did a hell of a job for a young girl.’’
Rhianna Barton was the focal point in the Lady Gators attack and did her job well, recording a game-high 20 points as well as seven rebounds and, along with Marlee Davidson, Marni Sharp and Meg Hanna, kept Cavaliers giant Cassie Bridge to just two points.
Sharp put up 10 points, eight rebounds and six assists, Davidson eight points, four rebounds and four steals and Hanna six points before fouling out after 35 minutes.
Jess Szalek was the most damaging player on Casey’s list, hauling down 10 offensive rebounds and picking up five steals on her way to 17 points.
Cavaliers coach Tim Parker also got plenty of value out of his squad players, with Sammy Johnson (14 points) and Alex Keates (11) contributing good numbers off the bench.
With Young, Tamica Roy, Tania Goodbody and possibly Gracie Hide to come into the side, there is plenty of upside to the Lady Gators as the season progresses.
Their next challenge is a road trip to Coburg to take on the Lady Giants on Saturday night.
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