THE Perry Lakes Hawks have had their depth truly tested in recent weeks but they still sit atop the Women’s SBL with coach Deanna Smith cautious over whether the final round bye will turn out a positive or not heading into the playoffs.
The Lady Hawks have still just suffered the one loss so far in 2017 and that was at the hands of the Joondalup City Wolves at the Bendat Basketball Centre back on June 16.
But they had won 14 straight before that and have won five since to be sitting on top of the Women’s SBL and on target for the minor premiership given they have beaten the second placed Mandurah Magic twice as well.
The Hawks have continued winning despite being far from at full strength in recent weeks as well and that reached a tipping point in Rockingham last Friday night with Toni Farnworth, Mia Satie, Sarah Donovan, Janique Kautsky, Georgia Clarke and Samantha Ashby all unavailable.
But Perry Lakes still had enough to claim the 70-47 win over the struggling Flames to improve to a 19-1 record with just two games now remaining until the playoffs.
The Hawks will have the bye in the final round but this weekend have a double-header firstly at home to the South West Slammers on Friday night and then away to the Lakeside Lightning on Saturday night.
Smith is in her first season in charge as coach of the Lady Hawks having retired following last year’s semi-final loss to the Wolves.
She is looking forward to having some troops back for this weekend.
“We should have four of the six back this week for our double-header. The only other one will be Toni obviously and then Janique is a question mark still around her with injury,” Smith said.
“Toni will be back for the finals though. We’ve got the double-header this weekend and then we’ve got the bye and she’ll be back then. We should be full strength going into the finals which will be nice.”
While Perry Lakes have a challenging double-header this weekend leading into the bye next week and then the playoffs, only time will tell if that’s the preparation that will make for some finals success.
Smith is a little nervous over that bye next weekend but the positive is she will have a full team together to practice with and gear up for whoever that first round playoff opponent will end up being.
“We’ll have to wait and see if it’s a good thing or not, but it does scare me because you have a week off and while it’s good to rest your body and things, you aren’t match-hardened. AFL-wise it obviously worked for the Bulldogs really well last year but we’ll wait and see how it goes for us,” she said.
“You just hope that the girls come in with the same passion and desire, and tenacity that they’ve been playing with all season regardless of if you have the bye or not. It will be a good opportunity to get everyone back together and solidify our game plan for finals because we know whoever we face will be quality opposition.
“There won’t be any easy beats in the finals and you don’t really want to peak at the start of the season, so those teams we might face in the first round are starting to peak now at the right time. We just need to make sure we are continuing to keep improving and not settling for not doing what we need to do.”
While it was far from ideal to have six players unavailable last Friday night in Rockingham, Smith enjoyed the chance to give some game time to players who don’t usually see much court time and to reward them for their efforts as part of the squad.
That included Danika Pisconeri getting to start, play 24 minutes and score five points and collect nine rebounds with Annika Renkema also playing 28 minutes for five points and 10 boards as two prime examples that there is plenty of depth at Perry Lakes.
“Every player in our squad from one to 17 that we’ve signed have put in the effort over a really long pre-season and the season. So the fact that you can give some of those players the opportunity to play some really valuable minutes is great,” she said.
“Anni is one of those players who played 30 minutes when she has been sitting as a 10th, 11th or 12th player for us but ready to go. She also had 10 rebounds and did some amazing stuff.
“To me when you get those kinds of opportunities and to take them is great to see as a coach and it’s great for those players, and their confidence. It shows the coaches’ confidence in them as well.”
Perry Lakes certainly has some outstanding top-level talent led by Nat Burton, Farnworth, Gabby O’Sullivan, Lauren Jeffers, Emily Burton and Kate Anthony, but what Smith is most pleased with is the depth in the squad that she has helped put together for 2017.
“For us it’s been an on-going process from the start of the season making sure that our processes are in place heading towards the back end of the season, and making sure we are continuing to improve in those areas,” Smith said.
“For us with our depth whilst we don’t have our full team together, everyone that is stepping in knows that and as a coach it’s pleasing to see that it goes all the way through.
“If someone ever isn’t there or something happens or someone gets injured, we know we can continue to get wins because of our depth. You do want a good run going into finals but the processes we have in place should hold us in good stead come that time.”
Photo by Sebpix Photography