It might not be for much longer that Ash Isenbarger is without a home in the WNBL if Friday night’s performance is anything to go by as she opened the West Coast Classic by putting the Lakeside Lightning on her back in an opening night win over the Willetton Tigers.
Isenbarger, formerly Grant before marrying fellow Lakeside star Jack, has certainly already proven over the years she is up to playing at the WNBL level, and she showed teams might be missing out by not signing her for the 2020-21 campaign based on Friday night’s showing.
It was both the first night in the West Coast Classic and also the first official top level match held on the Showcourt at Willetton Basketball Stadium, but in the end it proved a night that Isenbarger and Lakeside would have been delighted with under new coach Steve Bezant.
All teams are going to have a new look in the West Coast Classic to what they would have expected to put out there in the SBL had it started four months ago, and neither the Tigers nor Lightning had an import available on Friday or are expected to over the next 10 weeks.
That meant that experienced local players like Isenbarger are at an even higher premium and she produced an outstanding performance for the Lightning to finish with 26 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two steals on shooting 9/15 from the field and 7/8 from the foul line.
She was instrumental in Lakeside’s eventual 63-52 victory that spoiled the unveiling for Willetton of the redeveloped Willetton Basketball Stadium, but that opening still went smoothly for the Tigers with more than 500 fans in attendance on the evening.
It was an understandably scrappy opening to the game but Lakeside did work on top early with the game’s first seven points with Willetton not getting on the board until a layup from point guard Hayley Winter halfway through the opening period.
But Isenbarger responded again inside with two points more and Lakeside led 9-2, and still 13-8 by quarter-time.
Isenbarger then opened the second period with a three-pointer to make it 16-8 before Desiree Kelley responded in kind for the Tigers.
The Lightning remained in control by half-time, though, leading 32-17 at the break but Willetton then fired up in the third starting with back-to-back threes from Kelley.
The comeback wasn’t quite to be, though, with the Lightning having all the answers and despite Imogen Ayliffe getting harder to stop the longer the game went for Willetton, Lakeside still cruised to the 11-point victory.
On top of Isenbarger’s big game for the Lightning, Claire Jacobs finished with 11 points and five rebounds, Amy Jacobs seven points and two boards, Kyrah Daniels five points and two steals, and Courtney Mansfield five points and four rebounds.
Desiree Kelley top-scored for the Tigers with 13 points and 10 rebounds while hitting three triples throughout the evening.
Rising star Imogen Ayliffe is back at Willetton from college and was impressive inside with 12 points and 11 rebounds with Emily Counsel contributing nine points and five boards, Emma Gandini nine points, five steals, four rebounds and three assists, and Hayley Winter four points, four boards and three assists.
Lakeside now gets ready to play the Perry Lakes Hawks at home next Friday night while Willetton backs up on Saturday night against the Kalamunda Eastern Suns at Ray Owen Sports Centre.
WEST COAST CLASSIC 2020 – WOMEN
Joondalup Wolves 75 defeated Perth Redbacks 49
Willetton Tigers 52 lost to Lakeside Lightning 63
East Perth Eagles 66 lost to Kalamunda Eastern Suns 83
South West Slammers 56 lost to Mandurah Magic 64
Perry Lakes Hawks 77 lost to Warwick Senators 82
Mandurah Magic v Perth Redbacks – Mandurah Aquatic and Recreation Centre 5pm
Rockingham Flames v Cockburn Cougars – Mike Barnett Sports Complex 6pm
Kalamunda Eastern Suns v Willetton Tigers – Ray Owen Sports Centre 6.30pm