THE days of the Lady Bandits rolling over against superior competition are officially over.
Their record might not show it, but the improvement shown from last season to this season has been night and day.
Once again, the Lady Bandits punched well above their weight in a gallant 82-78 loss to the Ballarat Rush on Friday night.
The second quarter, in which the Rush scored 23 points to 14, was the only major blemish for the Lady Bandits in the four point loss.
As they’ve done all season though, they refused to take it lying down.
They came right back at the Rush, taking the lead on a Jovana Bukvic layup five minutes into the term and ultimately outscoring the visitors 17-15.
They still trailed by four at the final break though, and dug deep to try and haul themselves over the line.
But giving up a six-point run in the opening three minutes made look like too hard a task, before an incredible series of plays brought them back into it in the closing minutes.
Adijat Adams closed the margin to six with a jump shot, and the Lady Bandits were able to secure a jump ball of the Rush’s inbound pass, which ultimately led to a Mel Kirby three-point play.
With 18 seconds left to play, there just wasn’t enough time on the clock for them to get a stop and a three.
Adams led the way for the Lady Bandits with 20 points and 11 rebounds, while Steph Gorman added 12 points, 5 rebounds, three assists and three steals.
Emma Mahady battled hard for her 11 points and nine boards, while every single Lady Bandits scored at least three points.
Head coach Jim Wilson said it was the type of performance he’d come to expect from his side.
“What I wrote on the board before the game was that we needed to get contributions from everyone, on both ends of the floor,” he said.
“Tonight, the young kids did score, they did get shots up early.
“Sometimes they weren't the perfect shot, but they had a crack at it – we'd spoken about not passing up open looks, so I'm still pretty happy.”
Steph Gorman's performance stood out, with the 17-year-old establishing some good chemistry with Madady and Adams on offence and doing an impressive job against Rush veteran Kristy Rinaldi on defence.
Wilson said her leadership as a teenager had become an integral part of the Lady Bandits’ campaign.
“We've probably started taking her for granted – she's one of the older girls of the group and she's only 17,” he said.
“I'm amazed at how hard she plays.
“She's still got some stuff to work on, but every single time she steps on the floor she gives her all.”
What the Lady Bandits did will was force the Rush into some tough shots – the defence stayed on a string and they did well to stop and contain the ball, giving up few fast break points.
Given their relative lack of strength and size, they did well to build pressure on the visitors, resulting in the Lady Bandits being able to force more turnovers during the course of the game – a sure fire sign that, after several years in the wilderness, the Lady Bandits might just be back on the right track.