THE Perth Redbacks are one step away from a semi-final berth after a dominant 92-67 win over the Stirling Senators in Game 1 on Friday night.
The game started in a scrappy affair with both teams guilty of simple errors in the opening minutes of the game.
The visitors issued an early indication of their game plan, relentlessly pushing the ball up the floor at every opportunity. However, the home team remained resolute in their efforts and with seven players registering scores in the first quarter, Perth finished with an 18-13 quarter-time lead.
The Redbacks blitzed the start of the second quarter and seemingly left the visitors still in the quarter-time huddle with a pivotal 12-0 three-minute burst, with Kayla Steindl the architect of the damage.
Perth’s attack was aided by a swarming defense that held the opposition scoreless for near the opening four minutes of the second quarter. Eventually, the Senators’ offence began to find its rhythm with improved half court defense forcing their opponents into turnovers that helped ignite their attack. Emma Berryman productive with six points off the bench.
But it was Perth who had the final say in the opening half as they closed the first half with a strong finish on the back of Mikayla Pirini hitting back to back threes and a Denielle Lipscombe steal and lay-up which served to halt and undo any progress the Senators had made previously. At the half, the home team extended their advantage, 45-29.
The third quarter greeted fans with a Steindl vs Amber Land match-up inside that post purists would crave, as the opposing bigs became the focal point of the attack. While the quarter was a high scoring event with both teams scoring regularly, it was again the locals who outscored their opponents to push the lead out to a 27 point margin, 75-48.
With a hefty lead to claw back, the Senators girls started the last quarter with urgency and reduced the lead to 21 with multiple baskets inside in the early minutes. However with the trio of Pirini, Steindl and Makailah Dyer holding strong on both ends of the court, the margin never got closer, allowing both coaches to rest their starters with plenty of time remaining. In the end, it was a convincing 92-67 win for the Redbacks and register a 1-0 lead.
Leading players for Perth were Steindl with 21 points and 13 rebounds, Dyer with 15 points and six rebounds while captain Mikayla Pirini exploded in the second half with 21 points, including 5/6 three pointers along with seven assists.
For Stirling, veteran Land was the lone offensive shining star with 25 points and seven rebounds, the only Senator to score double digits. Forward Jodee Sontay battled hard all night and finished with eight points, nine rebounds and five assists.
Charles Nix’s team did a tremendous job controlling the tempo with Pirini and Dyer sharing point guard duties and directing the flow of the game to Perth’s advantage. Steindl also proved too difficult to contain, scoring in a variety of ways inside and outside the key.
Stirling will need to find other contributors on offence and improve their defense significantly if they are to entertain the prospect of forcing a deciding third game in this quarter-final series.
The series now moves to Warwick next weekend as the Senators look to keep their playoff dreams alive.