Werribee Devils have turned a weakness from last season into a strength this year – a major reason why they have rocketed up the Big V basketball men’s state championship standings at the start of the new season.
The Devils, which finished ninth last season, have won three games on the trot to be sitting third, and this can in no small part be traced back to their big rebounding numbers.
For the fourth game in a row, the Devils won the rebounding battle, which proved crucial in their 112-103 victory over Hume City Broncos at Eagle Stadium on Saturday night.
The Devils finished plus-18 in the rebound count against the Broncos, giving them extra chances on the offensive end and the ability to finish possessions quicker on the defensive end.
“That was probably our biggest weakness last year,” Devils’ coach Michael Czepil said.
“It’s something we talked about – it’s got to be five guys committed to the glass, and the guys have done a really good job of that so far this year.
“We’ve turned what was a struggle for us last year into something of a strength this year.
“Having more size and more length just means we’re able to clean the glass up a little bit better and get more offence, or finish possessions defensively.”
When your star import is a guard willing to throw his body among the trees to reel in rebounds, it can be infectious for teammates.
Second-year Werribee import Jeremy Smith, a combo guard, scored 43 points to gain the game’s MVP against Hume City, but it was not only his scoring that proved invaluable.
Smith reeled in 16 rebounds, more than anyone on court, with seven assists and two steals in a well-rounded game for the Devils.
“He took on a lot of feedback that I gave him in the off season, and we spoke often about him evolving his game,” Czepil said.
“He can score, but he’s more than willing to get the ball out of hands and give it to a teammate.”
Jordan Hughes scored 25 points, including four three-pointers, for the Devils to go with six rebounds and two steals.
Fred Hunter scored an efficient 14 points to go with seven rebounds, five assists and three steals, Nathan Wilson landed three threes to finish with 13 points, while Blake Allison, recruited from Melton, emerged with nine points, five rebounds and six assists.
With a lengthy break coming for the Devils – a bye followed by Easter – improving to 3-1 was vital for team morale.
“I knew we had a few home games to open up, so it’s good to win them and good to start building some winning habits,” Czepil said.
In women’s division 1, the Werribee Devils took care of business with a 92-74 road win over Geelong Supercats on Sunday, keeping them undefeated and on top of the ladder.
Devils’ import Sumar Leslie played a starring role with 26 points, nine rebounds, four steals and three assists.
Jessy Price, with 24 points, six rebounds and six assists, and Rohanee Cox, with 17 points, 11 rebounds, six assists, five steals and four blocks, also had mega stat collecting days.
The Devils will be back on court on Saturday night to face the Hawthorn Magic at the Boroondara Sports Complex.