THE Albury-Wodonga Lady Bandits caused one of the biggest upsets of the SEABL season so far with an inspired 81-72 win over the Sandringham Lady Sabres at the Lauren Jackson Sports Centre on Saturday night.
Just one week removed from a 70-point annihilation at the hands of Basketball Australia’s Centre of Excellence, the Lady Bandits backed up coach James Ballinger’s bold pre-match prediction of victory with a thoroughly committed performance.
The Border club’s first win of its campaign saw contributors from all parts of the court, with centre Lauren Angel leading the way with 27 points and 11 rebounds.
But she had plenty of help, with new US import Emilee Harmon chiming in with 23 points and a game-high 14 boards, a staggering 10 of those coming at the offensive end.
Young gun Montana Farrah-Seaton continued her bright start to the season with 14 points, nine rebounds and six assists, filling in admirably as a secondary ball handler to playmaker Sophie Kleeman.
And while Kleeman (1/9 shooting) struggled from the field again, she hit perhaps the most important shot of the game, a back-breaking three-point bomb that gave the hosts a seven-point lead with less than two minutes left.
“This is the game we needed,” a quietly satisfied Ballinger said.
“We were just tough, it was a physical dogfight and it had ups and downs.
“For us to fight through that and stick with the plan, I think we did a phenomenal job.
“I thought we did what we needed to do and to do it a little short-handed and banged-up is very pleasing.
“The satisfying part is regardless of the score, we stuck to the game plan for 40 minutes.”
For Sandringham, Hope Walker top-scored with 17 points and eight rebounds but was held well below her season averages of 22.5 points and 11 boards.
Crucially, the Lady Bandits more than held their own in several statistical categories that have traditionally been at the root of their downfall.
Firstly, they won the rebound count 41-35, with both Angel and Harmon ensuring the likes of Walker never had too many offensive boards.
And secondly, with Harmon out-working the Lady Sabres for 10 offensive rebounds, the hosts scored 18 second-chance points to the visitors’ eight.
With a final winning margin of nine points, Ballinger said the value of Harmon and Angel’s debut home performances could not be understated.
“The kid (Harmon) can rebound,” Ballinger said.
“I think there’s been a bit of scepticism about her showing up late but I think tonight showed why we went and got her.
“Winning rebounds count, we just had more bodies.
“I think Lauren did a great job on the defensive boards and Emilee did the same offensively.”
Having hauled themselves off the bottom of the ladder, the Lady Bandits hit the road next weekend with a tough away double against powerhouses Geelong and Knox.