BIANCA Donovan is the lone Women’s SBL championship winner on the Perth Redbacks squad and she aims to use her defence on Anita Brown to help them overcome the Mandurah Magic twice this weekend to advance to the 2018 Grand Final.
Donovan provided some championship experience from the 2012 triumph at the South West Slammers to the Redbacks when she joined in 2016, but after a tough couple of years they are now within two wins of a first Grand Final appearance since 2001.
There have been plenty of challenging times for the Redbacks since the championship win of 2000 and Grand Final in 2001 in the Women’s SBL, but Donovan felt with some fine tuning that they were capable of being a strong team when she arrived in 2016.
It took a tough couple of years, but things have come together in 2018 with the arrival of coach Charles Nix along with Mikayla Pirini, Makailah Dyer and Kayla Standish as they finished in second position and cruised through the Stirling Senators in the quarter finals.
But now they need to win twice this weekend to advance to the Grand Final having lost to the Mandurah Magic at home in Game 1 of the semi finals last Friday night.
Game 2 takes place in Mandurah on Friday night and for Donovan, she is backing her defensive prowess to help limit the influence of Magic star import Anita Brown while the offensive weapons from the Redbacks get the job done at the other end of the floor.
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PIRINI FOCUSES ON REDBACKS SUCCESS DESPITE UNCERTAIN FUTURE
DYER ENJOYING LIFE AT REDBACKS AHEAD OF TITLE PUSH
NIX TAKES NEXT STEP AS COACH BUT REDBACKS SUCCESS HIS FOCUS
The Magic are a team that made the Women’s SBL Grand Final in 2017 and after their challenges in 2018, they beat the Rockingham Flames in the quarter finals and then won Game 1 of the semi finals over the Redbacks by a solitary point last Friday at Belmont Oasis.
A huge part in the Magic getting up and firing at the right time of the season has been the efforts of remarkable veteran Casey Mihovilovich and then gun scoring import Brown.
Mihovilovich had nine points, eight assists and five rebounds in Game 1 while Brown put up 33 points on 12/20 shooting from the field and 3/5 from downtown.
Donovan prides herself on her defence and whether she’s trying to slow Brown or Mihovilovich on Friday night and then she hopes Game 3 on Saturday, she backs herself to get the job done.
“Milo is just someone who is extremely talented and even with pressure she still makes those ridiculously good passes and is so composed under pressure. But if we can get up in her face a little bit and hopefully put the ball in our hands,” Donovan said.
“It’s definitely about containing her and not letting her dictate to us what she wants to do. Last week she was making great fade away shots with our hands in her face but if we can keep her shots to that we’ll be happy. If she’s getting to the basket and creating then we can’t settle for that.
“I’m not going to get beaten in the middle and try to keep her shooting outside, unbalanced jump shots. My defence is probably where I should focus in the team both on-ball pressure up the court and then when I do get a player like Anita to defend, making sure she doesn’t score 30 on us.
“People like that are going to score because they are so talented they can score under pressure, but it’s about trying to limit her and my offensive game is not a priority. Definitely defence is a good role I want to take on.”
While Game 1 didn’t quite go to plan for the Redbacks against Mandurah despite just losing by a point, Donovan is confident they can bounce back and perform significantly better in Game 2 even if is on the road in hostile territory.
“I think we’re all feeling pretty excited. Nerves definitely kicked in last week which I think is why we probably didn’t start off how we wanted to but we have two big games this weekend and all week we’ve been preparing for two games,” Donovan said.
“As much as we have to get past the first game first, there’s two games for us to go this weekend as far as we’re concerned so that’s exciting.
“We just have to prepare like we would for any normal game and all season that’s what we have been doing. The things that went wrong last week came down to what we did, it wasn’t like they had an awesome game and blew us away.
“As long as we focus on doing our stuff just like we would on any other day so all the girls’ routine stay the same, then we should be OK. Obviously there is that knowledge that it’s do-or-die and if we lose, we’re out but we have to keep our routines the same and have to prepare for a double-header and think we have two games this weekend.”
The Redbacks cruised through the quarter finals with two 20-plus point wins over the Stirling Senators. Donovan doesn’t necessarily feel that was ideal preparation for the semi finals and the Magic, but she feels they should be right up to speed now.
“Stirling are a great team but we really weren’t challenged as much as we should have been in a quarter-final to prepare us for a semi-final when Mandurah had come back from a scratch and fight where they had to play tough to win to get through,” she said.
“They were probably better prepared where we probably had that slightly easier run in which showed in the first quarter and we weren’t ready. We respect Mandurah so much and we know that going down there on Friday is going to be just the same, if not worse, with their crowd behind them.
“We know the atmosphere down there is always nice and hectic but we’re not shying away from what we want to do. We will just be a lot more ready for it than we were last week.”
Donovan couldn’t be happier with the way things have gone at the Redbacks in 2018 and it’s not just the additions of Dyer, Pirini and Standish under coach Nix, but the players who have remained who are in career-best form in a lot of cases as well.
“It’s been an amazing year and even JJ has always been a threat for us, but by having the support of Miky, Mak and Kayla has seen her grow a lot in her position as well. I’ve never seen Lori play as well as she has this season and she’s only getting better with the support of them,” Donovan said.
“It’s been awesome and the vibe is good. Alix is doing well after we thought she was going to retire and even the girls have more confidence. Last year you wouldn’t have got boo out of them, but this year they are all talking and getting amongst it.
“That in itself is something that we take pride in and this season is completely different with the atmosphere changing, the tempo has changed and we do work really hard at trainings. That’s something that we haven’t done as well in the past.”
While nobody at the Redbacks was thinking as far ahead early in the season as a Grand Final, what Nix instilled in the group as coach was that if they did all the right things, that results would take care of themselves.
“Early on in the season we weren’t thinking that far ahead, we put certain goals in place and we wanted to beat teams on rebounds, get a certain amount of assists, a certain amount of points and keep teams to a certain number of points,” she said.
“Nixy continuously said if we did the right things we would end up where we deserved and throughout the season we proved that we do deserve to be here. But it’s not over yet, we still need to finish off the season.”
Donovan is the lone championship-winner on the Redbacks team having achieved that with the Slammers in 2012 on top of being part of a team a year later that finished eighth but eliminated the regular season champion Willetton Tigers.
That remains a career highlight for Donovan but it helps her believe what’s possible and for her to pass that on to her Redbacks teammates.
“It’s definitely a highlight and it does make you realise what’s possible. Even the year after we finished eighth on the ladder and knocked out Willo in the first round so that’s where I get that belief from but where I also understand you have to respect every player on the court,” Donovan said.
“As much as Milo and Anita might be the stars for Mandurah, it’s the ninth and 10th player who come on if they have to that could score if you don’t respect them. And in Grand Finals anyone can step up so what I learned from those finals experiences was that respecting every player is really important.
“You have to embrace the atmosphere at this time of the year and it’s still just as nerve-racking, but at the same time I’ve never been part of a team like this with the coaching staff backing us 110 per cent. If we follow the process like we have for most of the year, then we are pretty confident to go in and give it a good go.”
Donovan saw firsthand what that championship meant to everyone at the Slammers and the local Bunbury community in 2012, and she has no doubt how much success would mean to the Redbacks given the hard times they’ve been through since last playing in a Women’s Grand Final in 2001.
“The main thing is that it’s not just a Grand Final to a lot of the girls, it’s for the people who have been involved at the club for so many years and never thought they could be in the finals let alone the semis or a Grand Final,” Donovan said.
“For us to be serious contenders to win it is just crazy. I think during the season that hit a few of the games at some point that we were actually winning so many games and could win a Grand Final.
“It just comes down to the last few games and even if you don’t truly believe, once you are in the finals you are a chance and it doesn’t matter where you finish.
“It’s about what you do in the finals series and that’s why we approach Friday like we did every other game, do what we need to do and then hopefully the result will go our way.”