The West Adelaide Bearcats have kept their season alive with an 88-64 win over the Central Districts Lions on Saturday.
With only two games remaining, it appears as if West Adelaide are set up for a season-defining game against Southern in round 18, as the two sides now have equal records after the Tigers lost to Norwood.
The win also means the Bearcats have completed the season sweep over the Lions, backing up their tight five-point victory in round 7.
Ieva Nagy (27 pts, 9 rebs, 2 asts) was West Adelaide’s best again, while Alexis Eckles (16 pts, 12 rebs, 2 asts) put in one of her best performances of the season. Sky Langenbrinck (11 pts, 6 rebs, 5 asts) and Tahlia Fejo (10 pts, 4 rebs) were both influential.
Bearcats Coach Tim Brenton says there are some really positive signs with his team’s ability to adapt on offence.
“The memo is out that teams are zoning a lot more on us,” says Coach Brenton.
“So I was really impressed the way we tried some new things tonight and they really paid off.”
The league’s second-highest scorer Shawnte’ Goff put up 28 points but was relatively quiet in the other major categories. The Bearcats were able to contain Centrals’ other key playmaker Jazmen Boone (6 pts, 19 rebs, 5 asts), while Leah Swain (11 pts, 7 rebs, 1 ast) and Erin Schrapel (12 pts, 2 rebs, 3 asts) were the only other Lions to reach double figures.
Coach Brenton’s message to his side on defence was simple:
“Get a hand up, carry the hand, contain them off the dribble,” Coach Brenton said.
“We kept Boone to 6 which was amazing, Goff hit some tough shots but (Ashlea) Vordermaier really shut that out of the game.”
The last time these two sides met, Boone and Goff combined for 59 points, highlighting West Adelaide’s improved defensive presence at this stage of the season.
Despite this, Centrals got off to a near-perfect start when Goff took the opening tipoff straight to the rim for an open layup.
Jasmin Fejo got the Bearcats underway with a three, but it was Alexis Eckles who would shine in the first quarter.
Her first highlight play was taking a defensive rebound coast-to-coast for a contested layup, which she followed up with a block and a remarkable three-point-play. She finished with 6 points and 4 rebounds for the quarter.
But Centrals kept in touch and went into the first break only down 20-17.
Both sides had their moments in the second quarter.
First, it was Leah Swain who started throwing her body around in the paint, scoring 7 points inside and getting Centrals out to a 28-34 lead.
But West Adelaide would take over from this point and never look back.
A 12-point swing gave the Bearcats a 46-40 lead at halftime; Nagy and Langenbrinck doing the damage with two threes just before the main change.
While his side has got off to some slow starts this season, Coach Brenton was not concerned by how long it took for the Bearcats to take control of the game.
“If you watch the tape again how many 2-on-1s did we miss? How many shots that we usually make did we miss? We missed all those free throws as well,” Coach Brenton says.
“To be really honest we should have been 20 up at halftime, there was no panic from us.”
The Bearcats were indeed shooting inefficiently, only making 16 of 47 from the field in the first half.
Ieva Nagy set out to reverse this trend in the third quarter, scoring 9 points and only missing the one shot.
Centrals were suffocated on offence, only managing 10 points for the third quarter which included nearly four minutes without them scoring; putting them 24 points down at the final change.
Eckles put the icing on the cake in the last quarter by creating her own layup after a fantastic piece of ball handling in transition. Her double-double represents a high point in a somewhat frustrating season for her.
Coach Brenton says he is proud of the way Eckles has handled herself throughout the year.
“It’s a real challenge for a 23-year-old girl to come out here in another country playing sport where it’s all different,” says Coach Brenton.
“You just try and stay patient and know that her best basketball going to be the next game.
“I think she was really aggressive and played the way we knew she can.”
With the game well and truly sealed, Coach Brenton took the opportunity to play some of his younger players in the last few minutes; the Bearcats winning the final quarter by 5 points to extend the final margin to 24.
The box score highlights the comprehensive nature of West Adelaide’s victory, leading in rebounds (+16), assists (+6) and turnovers (-17).
A winless Panthers team is West Adelaide’s next challenge. A side the Bearcats demolished by 85 points when they met in round 8.