Shepparton Lady Gators are back on the Country Basketball League winners’ list after defeating Wangaratta Lady Warriors, despite the game being in the balance at the final change.
The Gators led by six points going into the last quarter at Shepparton Sports Stadium and eventually managed to extend the buffer to 11 points at the final buzzer.
Chris Judd’s side started favourite against the Lady Warriors and after letting slip the first five points of the match began to forge ahead.
While Judd said it was not his team’s best performance, his players somehow managed to secure the win.
‘‘It was an unconvincing win if you like, I don’t know if it was this time of the year, but our normal regular stars that keep doing it week in, week out just weren’t doing it,’’ Judd said.
‘‘(Marni Sharp) couldn’t connect her shots and it wasn’t through lack of trying or anything like that, she just couldn’t get in the correct rhythm.
‘‘The thing was we got through it.’’
Sharp scored just four points and Judd rotated through all 11 players to try and find a spark, which came in the form of Bev Rijs.
‘‘She was absolutely extraordinary, she led from defence and didn’t get big scores, but she put (Wangaratta’s) Chloe Storer out of action and did a great defensive job and we were all pretty happy,’’ he said.
The Gators grew out the margin to 13 points as the game neared half-time, with Kior Zito’s pace working to Shepparton’s advantage.
Zito converted three three-pointers on her way to 11 points for the match, with the scoring load evenly spread across three players.
Rhianna Barton top-scored for the side with 14 points and Tammy Goyne contributed 10, while defence played an integral part in the win.
But still Wangaratta kept fighting and got back in the contest through Jorja Reidy’s 15 points.
‘‘We were pretty dominant, but there were just a couple of little things and a couple of little relaxations and then they go bang, bang, bang and they kept coming and coming,’’ Judd said.
Shepparton kept its opposition to 50 points and allowed Wangaratta 11 points in the final quarter while it put on 16.
Shepparton’s experienced heads Barton and Sarah Down scored the first points of the quarter and set their team going in the right direction.
The Lady Gators will have a break before resuming their season on January 5 when they face a rematch of Wangaratta on the Lady Warriors’ home courts.
But the rest of their campaign will be without talented teenager Sarah Carr, who is moving back to Townsville.