By Lance Jenkinson
A week has made a world of difference for Werribee Devils in the Big V basketball women’s state championship playoffs.
The Devils opened their playoff campaign with a deflating loss to Keilor Thunder on August 4 and there were question marks over whether they could regain the spark from their impressive regular season.
They answered those doubts in emphatic style with a 73-51 win over Hume City Broncos in a cut-throat semi-final at Eagle Stadium on Saturday night.
Devils coach Reece Potter said the learning that came out of the week one finals loss was applied successfully in the Hume City game.
“We did a great job of making sure we were the aggressor in the game,” he said.
“We really dictated the way the game was played … we forced them into playing how we wanted them to play.”
Werribee produced a defensive masterclass.
After conceding 88 points a week earlier, the Devils held Hume City to just 51.
“Hume are a quality team,” Potter said. “They’re talented, deep, very experienced and have been a very successful team for a number of years in the champ level.
“For us to knock them off fairly comprehensively was a great result for our team and our club, considering we only just moved up to championship level this year.”
Underlining the dominance of Werribee’s defence, Hume City imports BreAnna Brock and Azia Bishop combined for 49 minutes on court and only three points.
Brock, who averages 19 points a game, landed a three-pointer and that was her only scoring play. Bishop, who averages 11 per game, was held scoreless.
“I thought our team did a great job on their imports,” Potter said. “To keep their imports to three points is an unbelievable effort.
“Defence was where the game was won and we did enough at the other end of the floor to get a strong win.”
Sarah Elsworthy was huge for Werribee offensively at point guard.
Elsworthy dictated the play throughout, finishing with 16 points, six rebounds and three assists.
“She led from the front,” Potter said. “She got back to playing with pace and confidence.
“She got us into offence with purpose and playing fast and putting Hume into a tough position.”
Werribee import Alisia Jenkins is back to her best.
That’s scary news for the Sunbury Jets, who Werribee will face in the preliminary final this weekend for the right to play Keilor Thunder in a best-of-three grand final series.
After a month on the sidelines, Jenkins made a shaky start in her first game back in week one of the finals. She made up for it with 25 points and 12 rebounds in a stellar performance against Hume City.
“She was awesome,” Potter said. “Everyone expects you to come back and be outstanding straight away, but last week was a bit of a challenge for her and she was on managed minutes.
“Now she’s fully back, everyone’s got used to playing with her again and she’s had a couple of weeks’ practice, so she’ll be in a spot to be really successful and hopefully be a finals MVP type of player for us in the last few weeks of the season.”
Potter and his players are embracing the underdogs tag against playoffs-hardened Sunbury.
“All the pressure is on Sunbury,” he said. “They’ve won the last three premierships and are a really talented and deep team.
“We’re the new kids on the block coming up from division 1, so it’s a great opportunity for us to have a crack, have a free hit … I’m looking forward to the opportunity.”
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