Roy Ward talks to Sandringham Sabres coach Paul Graham and covers this week’s big plays as well as the media wrap-up.
Sandringham Sabres’ win over Albury-Wodonga won’t influence the SEABL championship race this season nor did it catch much attention.
The reality was this game was two sides out of finals contention battling it out for a win but if Sabres’ younger players become the core of a more successful future side, then this win will be seen as a formative moment.
Despite having a double-figure lead in the third quarter, the Sabres lost league most valuable player candidate Brittany Smart to a rolled ankle and then had Carly Douglas succumb to a hamstring injury she was trying to play through.
Neither could return so this left the Sabres and coach Paul Graham with just six players to finish the game.
The Lady Bandits won the last term but couldn’t make up the difference as the Sabres’ young side scrapped their way to their third win of the season.
Former Sabres junior turned US college graduate Eilidh Simpson (26 points) and Michelle Joy (22 points) made sure their side went home with the win.
Graham said after a trying season the win was a great reward.
“We had beaten Albury-Wodonga two weeks ago at home but we knew with their size and athleticism they were going to be a problem for us,” Graham said.
“We had six players for a quarter and a half and one of those was Isabelle Shea who has only played three games prior.
“It was a good challenge for the team to keep their composure because the momentum swung to them and with the crowd filling up for the men’s game they had a lot of support so we had to battle it out.”
It’s been a mongrel of a year for the Sabres who lost major signing Tess Madgen to the WNBA then had replacement star Alice Kunek suffer repeated injuries which saw her leave the side to focus on her rehab halfway through the season.
Both Kunek and Madgen will play in the Opals’ team againtst New Zealand in two Rio Olympic qualifiers in the next week which says plenty about the level of talent missing from the Sabres.
Point guard Shannon Perrett is also out with injury leaving the Sabres further exposed but Graham said his players were still fighting heading into the final round.
“It’s tough but you seem to just ride with it,” Graham said.
“You can’t rest because this is such a great league, you have no time to feel sorry for yourself.
“For us this season has been all about changing the culture in our team, for too long the senior women’s side was playing for themselves and we had to make the team play for the club, the members and the junior program.
“We started it late last year and we have to keep it going and keep that professional mentality and stay professional no matter what.”
Recruiting Smart as the team’s import proved a master-stroke and Smart’s scoring and on-court influence has been so strong she has won herself a WNBL contract with Melbourne Boomers.
In the past six weeks Simpson has been a surprise addition to the Sabres after returning from playing with Great Britain in the Euro Basket qualifiers.
“Simpson is an ex-Sabres junior who has just finished playing four years with St Francis in Brooklyn in college basketball,” Graham said.
“She came back to Australia after playing with Great Britain and she has come into our group and been a great pro.
“She has just signed a contract to play in Spain this coming season and she leaves in a month – we were lucky to have an ex-Sabres junior come back and finish the season with us.”
With the season almost over, Graham said his young core would take much from tackling the best players in the SEABL for a full season.
“They have had invaluable experience this season and in the next couple of years we will keep bringing in some talent but maintaining that group of local players,” Graham said.
“We need to maintain that group so they can take this experience into big games in the future they are used to it and can do the job.”
Graham added the Sabres would proudly watch Madgen and Kunek play for Australia and also cheer on Smart in the WNBL this season.
“We were rapt for Britt that she got that opportunity,” Graham said.
“It shows if you keep working hard you can play at a higher level.”
*Kilsyth duo Steph Cumming (27 points) and Sarah Parsons (14 points, 16 rebounds and seven assists) against Hobart.
*Dandenong Jacinta Kennedy (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Albury-Wodonga’s Kristina Baltic (14 points, 15 rebounds) both recorded strong inside games as the Rangers’ beat the Bandits.
*Brisbane’s Holly Smith (16 points) and Emma McDonald put on a rounded performance with 12 points, seven rebounds and five assists as the Lady Spartans beat Geelong.
*Sandringham’s Eilidh Simpson scored 26 points and Michelle Joy added 22 points as the Sabres’ beat Albury-Wodonga.
*Ballarat’s Olivia Thompson scored 23 points as her side beat Nunawading.
*Launceston’s Ally Wilson (25 points) and Mikaela Ruef (20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) led the way as their side beat Kilsyth.
Kilsyth’s Chantella Perera impressed again for the Cobras against Launceston with 26 points.
SEABL media links
*Ballarat Courier’s Melanie Whelan (@melanie_whelan) reports on the Rush’s good win. Report: http://www.thecourier.com.au/story/3266562/rush-effort-salutes-home-support/?cs=63
*Border Mail’s Chris Young reports on Carly Perso who will get more minutes to finish the season. Story: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3261691/looming-test-for-youngster-perso/?cs=10
*The Border Mail also included some basketball pictures in their weekend picture gallery: http://www.bordermail.com.au/story/3268838/gallery-weekend-sport-wrap-up-august-8-9/?cs=10
*Bendigo Advertiser reports the Lady Braves still have a shot at finals. Report: http://www.bendigoadvertiser.com.au/story/3267437/lady-braves-still-in-the-hunt/?cs=81
*The Examiner’s James Brady reports on Launceston’s win with a gallery of game pictures included: http://www.examiner.com.au/story/3266491/torns-storm-home-to-claim-win-photos/?cs=96#slide=7
*The Age reports on Patty Mills’ return to the Boomers’ side. Report: http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/nba-star-patty-mills-joins-australian-boomers-as-replacement-for-dante-exum-20150810-givtyv.html
*Canberra Times’ Jon Tuxworth (@tuxy81) reports on Steph Talbot’s rise into the Opals side. Report: http://www.theage.com.au/sport/basketball/basketball–australian-opal-steph-talbot—20150809-giv0ce.html
Roy Ward (@rpjward) is a freelance sports writer who has covered the NBA, NBL, WNBL, SEABL and Big V during his career. He will be filing weekly columns on the SEABL men’s and women’s competitions during this season. For feedback or suggestions send Roy a tweet or email him at email@example.com