BALLARAT Rush kept its season alive by surviving a tough clash in The Graveyard and preparations have already started for the next formidable assignment – a chilly Hobart.
The Lady Chargers will host Auslec Rush on Friday night in the South East Australian Basketball League south conference preliminary final.
Fixturing makes preparations limited but Rush is determined to be ready.
A focused Rush held strong in a thrilling, physical and low-scoring elimination final to prevail by six points against Nunawading in the Spectres’ Graveyard on Saturday night.
Rush coach Peter Cunningham said his players knew this game would be close, evenly-matched and low-scoring. Past battles against the Lady Spectres this season had shown that, so finding an edge all came down to the right mindset.
“There were two main areas we focused on – control of aggression and control of an emotional balance,” Cunningham said.
“We had to up our energy for the fight but not let it get too over the top or upsetting referees.
“I think we did that well.”
Each player offered something strong in her role.
And it was really tough on the floor.
Nya Mason, whose injured knee was heavily strapped, and Alice Kunek took the heaviest hits near the post.
Each remained strong, rather than reactive, to the Spectres’ attention.
Kunek made 11 points and pulled in 14 rebounds while Mason, her injury carefully monitored, scored eight points and took 10 rebounds.
Rush guard Andrea McMahon was heckled by vocal Spectres’ supporters for missing four free throws early in the fourth quarter.
She responded with a basket then two emphatic three-pointers clear outside the perimeter.
McMahon had already been working relentlessly to hold dangerous sharp shooter Alyssa Shoji scoreless and to three assists.
Kate Willey kept Spectre Tegan Cunningham under close check – none of Cunningham’s 16 points was easily made, with Willey constantly trapping her rival under the basket.
Rush captain Kristy Rinaldi set the tone with stellar scoring to launch the match and finished with a game-high 19 points.
Developing players Abbey Wehrung and Sophie Alexander took her lead and came off the bench to produce some great play – Wehrung with a hard lay-up and Alexander with handy rebounding.
Scores were tied at the end of the first quarter and only once – mid-way through the fourth – did the Lady Spectres snatch
the lead from that point.
“Somehow we find a way to stay in the contest and play down the line,” Cunningham said.
“We made a couple of bad decisions that let them back in the game but we didn’t let it get to us.
“Our defensive attention was good and we forced them to wear down the 24-second clock a bit.
“I was pleased we didn’t over-talk anything and stayed focused under pressure.”
Training is likely to be light early in the week as Rush plots tactics to stop Hobart’s most potent players Eliza Chilcott and Kathleen Scheer, the Charger who shot 38 points against Rush three weeks
Hobart fell 29 points short of south conference powerhouse Knox in the second semi-final on Saturday night.