The North Adelaide Rockets have continued their remarkable season with an 88-71 win against a gallant West Adelaide side.
North Adelaide moved to 13-0 and completed the season sweep over the Bearcats—the Rockets defeated West Adelaide 84-94 in an enthralling round 4 clash earlier this year.
In a packed Hillcrest Stadium, the Rockets edged out the first three quarters and built a lead which was largely unchallenged for the majority of the game.
Leah Metcalf (22 pts, 6 rebs, 6 asts) top-scored on the night and her efforts were supported by veteran Jo Hill (13 pts, 12 rebs, 4 asts), Lauren Thornett (8 pts, 7 rebs, 10 asts) and Sophie Byrne (15 pts, 1 ast, 3 stls).
Ashlea Vordermaier (21 pts, 10 rebs, 1 ast) put in an outstanding performance for the Bearcats. Jasmin Fejo (14 pts, 2 asts) and Tahlia Fejo (10 pts, 3 rebs, 4 stls) were both influential but struggled to find quality shots.
The Bearcats remain in 4th position at 7-6 but only sit inside the top 5 by percentage—Southern and Forestville are breathing down their neck with equal records.
Bearcats Coach Tim Brenton says the team was marred by a mentality problem once again.
“It all came down to effort and mindset today, we didn’t have a strong group of girls that were locked and loaded ready to compete,” says Coach Brenton.
“I think from the three minutes left in the first quarter a lot just dropped off. If there was a statistic for effort we definitely would have got beaten on it.”
In spite of this, Brenton’s side matched it with North Adelaide in the opening stages.
The Fejo sisters combined for 8 points in the first quarter and the Bearcats opened up a 13-17 lead six minutes into the game.
Unfortunately, this four-point lead would be their biggest all night.
In the remaining 14 minutes till halftime, the Rockets outscored West Adelaide 32-16; Leah Metcalf doing the damage with 9 points and 3 assists during this run. Metcalf was bringing back memories of her extraordinary round 4 performance where she terrorised the Bearcats with 29 points at a deadly 73%.
Also contributing was Sophie Byrne off the bench, scoring 9 points from the perimeter in a valuable cameo performance for the Rockets.
To make matters worse, West Adelaide’s offence was not functioning. A 12-point second quarter was the low point of a poor day of offensive production.
Coach Brenton says his team’s ball movement was hurting their chances.
“There were just some reads where you got to get the ball over the halfway then set stuff up, and then the girls weren’t set up in their positions,” says Coach Brenton.
“It was almost a perfect storm of just not running the plays we know we can run.
“It’s just one of those games you can come up against a team and stuff happens and (there were) just too many one pass offences.”
After a ‘firm’ halftime team talk, the Bearcats came out looking to amend their first-half mistakes and give their travelling fans some hope.
Facing a 45-33 scoreline, Tahlia Fejo got her team rolling with a three just five seconds into the second half, starting a run of 7 unanswered points for the Bearcats.
When Tahlia started taking over in transition, it appeared as if West Adelaide might have a chance with the game evenly poised at 45-40.
But once again North Adelaide responded by running over the Bearcats in the closing stages of the quarter.
A 16-5 run five minutes before the three-quarter time showed everyone why the Rockets are undefeated; the home side displaying some blistering ball movement and punishing the Bearcats for their 6 turnovers in the third quarter.
Coach Brenton says his side were unable to rise to the level of the league’s best team.
“When you’re at this level it’s all about the competition; you’ve got to appreciate it, respect it but match it,” says Coach Brenton.
“When you feel like your team isn’t competing, it’s up to the playing group to make that adjustment.”
The game was done at the final change with the score at 69-51. Some of West Adelaide’s younger players got a chance on the court in the last 10 minutes, fighting hard to give the Bearcats a 19-20 win in the fourth quarter, a small consolation in an otherwise disappointing night.
The box score suggests West Adelaide were comprehensively outplayed on offence, with the Rockets amassing 25 assists compared to the Bearcats who only created 10.
On the flip side, West Adelaide’s defence was 6 points better off compared to last time they played the Rockets. Samantha Defrancesco was also kept to 9 points, well below her average and a huge improvement after she scored 25 on the Bearcats in round 4.
Coach Brenton remains upbeat about his team’s chances to improve before finals.
“We kept DeFrancesco down, we just let Byrne get too many open jump shots, we didn’t make her put the ball on the floor enough,” says Coach Brenton.
“We’ll sort that out, we’ll look at the tape and we’ll make those adjustments.”
The Bearcats will return home to face the 5-8 Eastern Mavericks on Saturday.