THE North East Bushrangers found the going tough in their Big V basketball debut when they lost their men’s and women’s matches at Wodonga on Saturday night.
The women lost a thriller to Casey Cavaliers 62-59 and the men lost 76-52.
It was a slow start to the women’s game with both teams nervous before Rachel Jeffery and Sarah Mellington lifted the tempo to lead by two points at half-time thanks to a superior rebound count.
The Cavaliers stepped up the defensive pressure after the break, forcing the Bushrangers into rushed shots, and they grabbed a 51-39 buffer at the final break.
The Bushrangers hit back hard through Jeffery (17 points, five rebounds, three steals), but they were unable to catch up.
Mellington (13) and Stacey de Koeyer (10) were the other major scorers for the Bushrangers.
“We definitely had a lot more positives than negatives,” coach Jason Bannerman said.
“I thought Stacey de Koeyer did a great job running the offence and Alaana Northey stepped up in her first senior game.
“Unfortunately we just had a five-minute sleep out of the break and you can’t afford to do that.
“But for the girls to fight back and take it down to the last shot was a credit to them.”
In the men, the Bushrangers took seven minutes to score as the Cavaliers shot a staggering 83 per cent from beyond the arc to take a 27-9 lead at the first break.
But injecting youngsters Darcy and Lewis Locke, Aaron Fry and Christian Paynter helped the Bushies force Casey into errors and captain Dylan Webb hit the target to reduce the margin to 13 points at half-time.
Webb led the way with 16 points, while Bandits big man Josh McKay was a rock on the boards, finishing with 12 rebounds and eight points.
Coach Jacqui Henry felt her young squad “showed some great signs”.
“To not score for six minutes puts you on the back foot, but the guys were able to compete with Casey for three quarters of the game,” she said.
“But this is the first time we’ve played together, so once we understand each other we will be a lot more competitive.”