ALL things considered, it was an admirable effort from the new-look Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits on Saturday night.
Facing the might of the three-time defending SEABL champion Dandenong Lady Rangers, the Border club scrapped and hustled for the most of the game in a 64-47 defeat at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre.
With Jackson an interested onlooker, the under-sized Lady Bandits were hardly disgraced after a shaky opening quarter, a 12-point deficit only increased by five points for the remainder of the contest.
Comparisons to the 75-point defeat in the corresponding game with Dandenong last year were inevitable but the reality was that there wasn’t a single player who took to the court for Albury-Wodonga at the weekend who played in that game.
New point guard Lonnika Thompson top-scored for the hosts with 12 points, Maddy Plunkett added 11 points and import forward Rachel Maenpaa battled foul trouble to score nine points and pull down a team-high eight boards.
For Dandenong, former Lady Bandits guard Amelia Todhunter led a balanced attack with 14 points while Clare Papavs chimed in with 10 points, 14 rebounds and six assists.
Debutant coach James Ballinger said he was largely pleased with the opening round effort but admitted his team couldn’t afford to give up 21 offensive rebounds every week.
“We spoke a lot about effort, heart and fighting,” Ballinger said.
“We have to get better on every possession. We’ve only trained together as a group five times.
“I thought the fourth quarter was our best, we started to look like a basketball team.
“Twenty-one is a lot of offensive boards to give up and they just came at bad times, we’d work hard and they’d shoot it and get it back three times, those sort of things hurt us but we’ll get better at that.”
Five quick points to open the fourth quarter gave the crowd something to cheer and the Lady Bandits continued to work hard, earning a sliver of respect by outscoring the reigning champions for the final period.