THE Warwick Senators showed they are a team to be reckoned with in the Women’s SBL in 2019 opening up a big lead and then pulling away again to survive the fight back from the defending champion Lakeside Lightning at Warwick Stadium on Friday night.
The Senators are a totally renovated line-up in 2019 under new coach Dion Dagostino and he has them up and firing as he gets close to having his full squad available.
They dominated much of the first half against Lakeside on Friday night at one stage leading 39-19. But the defending champions, even in their first game with import big Hannah Stewart and minus captain Courtney Mansfield (nee Byrnes), were always going to fire back.
That set the stage for a terrific finish between two teams who deserve to be in the title discussion this season, but with Stacey Barr’s ability to score when it mattered most, the Senators came away with the 71-63 victory.
That improves Warwick to 8-3 on the season ahead of a clash with the 10-4 Willetton Tigers on Saturday night while Lakeside is now 9-2 having only lost once all of 2018 on the way to the championship.
With Rebekah and Hannah Throns both back for the Senators from college and with Lakeside championship winner from last year Sam Roscoe playing her fifth game, Dion Dagostino’s side is settling into the season nicely.
In a lot of ways the season for Lakeside is starting now with coach Craig Mansfield and captain Courtney just returning from getting married with import big Hannah Stewart arriving this week too and given she’s replacing a guard in Ali Schwagmeyer, it changes the Lightning’s make up.
And it looked like a settled Warwick team against a Lakeside line-up trying to find its feet for the first half on Friday night at Warwick Stadium as the Senators opened up a 39-19 advantage by late in the first half.
But threes just before half-time for Lakeside to Jae Flynn and Ellyce Ironmonger at least kept them within touch just 14 points behind.
Stewart then came out and drained a three to open the second half for the Lightning and when Ironmonger hit another from deep, the margin was just eight. When Stewart hit her second triple of the third period soon after, the Lightning trailed by only five and it was game on.
Warwick still led by five heading into three quarter-time but 45 seconds into the fourth quarter and Lakeside had levelled scores thanks to five quick points from Ash Grant and Jess Van Schie.
Stacey Barr responded with a three-point play for the Senators who added another and-one just 30 seconds later. Barr continued to be the difference making enough crucial shots to keep the Senators on top as they held on for the eight-point victory.
Warwick ended up with 10 more rebounds than a Lakeside team who played with three genuine bigs for much of the night. That led to 16 second chance points to just five for the Lightning.
The Lightning also had 21 turnovers from which the Senators scored 12 points from.
Stacey Barr finished the night with 20 points and eight rebounds for the Senators despite missing all seven of her attempts from downtown.
Samaria Howard was tremendous as well with 17 points and 12 rebounds while Caitlyn Jones contributed 11 points, eight rebounds and five assists, Bianca Villegas 10 points and nine boards, and Sam Roscoe eight points, five rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocked shots.
Switching to the three spot for much of the game, Ash Grant top-scored for Lakeside with 20 points and 13 rebounds while new import big Hannah Stewart put up 14 points and 11 rebounds on debut.
Ellyce Ironmonger hit two threes on the night for 10 points and five rebounds with GeAnna Lualu-Summers having a tough offensive night going 2/16 from the field for nine points, four rebounds and three assists.
Jess Van Schie did contribute seven points, six rebounds and three steals while Tiahrn Flynn had four assists and two steals in her 200th SBL appearance.
Newly-married Lightning coach Craig Mansfield was happy with much of what he saw once his team got into the game just before half-time considering he always knew there would be growing pains.
“You always want to win but the overall sentiment afterwards is really positive. We competed pretty well even though we got beaten up on the glass which given the height we had on the floor was concerning,” Mansfield said.
“But from mid to late in the second quarter through to two-thirds of the way through the fourth quarter we defended really well.
“But all credit to the Senators, they protected their home court and Bianca Villegas was excellent through the middle portion of the game, and then Stacey Barr did a couple of really good things individually at the end when we made some defensive mistakes, but she was excellent and took advantage.
“All credit to them and we’ll see them again and there’s every chance we could see them in the final, they’re a really talented team.”
With Lakeside now settling into a considerably bigger line-up with Hannah Stewart replacing Ali Schwagmeyer and with him starting taller with Ash Grant, Stewart and Ellyce Ironmonger, Mansfield knows it will take some time for it to click but he’s looking forward to seeing how it comes together.
“The expectation is always that we would have some teething problems now because we’ve gone from playing no bigs, one big and two bigs at the absolute maximum on the floor to playing three,” Mansfield said.
“We’ve slid Ash to the three spot and Hannah is coming in from a completely different system. I only got off the plane Wednesday so she’s only had one session with the full group but I thought she did particularly well and settled in through the second half.
“So to be honest, I was pretty happy with a lot of that game. The onus is on us to look at some film and figure out how we make little intrinsic tweaks to our system with the different players, but we are happy with the overall system. And we won’t take any shortcuts.
“Claire and Amy Jacobs had been playing really well but they are flying off to college so we have to work out our system and rotation without them and of the girls who will be here in the finals. We could have played them in this game and it might have affected the result, but we aren’t taking shortcuts and are getting ready for the rest of the season.”
WOMEN’S SBL FIXTURES – WEEK 11
Texture WA Perth Redbacks 72 lost to Chambers Franklyn Joondalup City Wolves 79
Bethanie Warwick Senators 71 defeated Lakeside Lightning 63
Willetton Tigers v Bethanie Warwick Senators – Willetton Basketball Stadium 5.00pm
ID Athletic Perry Lakes Hawks v Prestige Honda Melville Cockburn Cougars – Bendat Basketball Centre 6.00pm
Class 1 Orthodontics Rockingham Flames v Schweigen East Perth Eagles – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6.00pm
Print Sync South West Slammers v Kalamunda Eastern Suns – Eaton Recreation Centre 6.00pm