Blues undone by experienced Falcons in NBL1 round 1
It was a tough NBL1 season opener for the Powerade Frankston Blues who were undone by an experienced Waverley Falcons at home on Saturday night.
Despite a big game from captain Steph Reid who poured in game-high’s of 22 points, 3 assists and 4 steals, the youthful Blues line-up had difficulty in matching the scoring firepower of the Falcons. The visitors shot a blistering 50% from three-point territory and boasted five players who scored in double figures led by WNBL star Carley Mijovic 21 points and five three-pointers en route to their 62-74 victory.
With a spread of scorers, Waverley earned the win behind a strong first half, with a 10-19 second term ultimately proving the difference. Yet despite the loss, first year head coach Jess May remained positive, explaining the Blues were missing four key players.
“We had some great positives, we had four players out tonight, our rookies came in and they were really good,” explained May.
“They were at full strength and we were not. Steph [Reid] was really good, Taylor [Saraid] is still managing an injury, and I am confident it will all come together.”
Missing in the round 1 opener were injured forward Milica Ivanov and rising star Erin Riley, however 2018 team MVP Shereesha Richards and Buffalo collegiate star Courtney Wilkins had yet to join the team. All four players are expected to play a significant role with the Blues this season.
“Milly [Ivanov] is dealing with an injury right now and she will be back soon, Courtney [Wilkins] will be here in about May after she graduates, and Erin [Riley] will join the team after the Under-18 nationals.”
Yet despite the missing pieces, the opportunity to play some extended minutes was grasped by 17-year-old Kassie Boorer. The current Frankston junior who is still playing at Under-18 level added 9 points and 3 rebounds in almost 13 minutes off the bench in a promising performance not lost on May.
“Kassie has earned her stripes to be here, she is averaging over 20 points in [Big V] Youth League right now, so it is no surprise that she can come out and do the same thing here.”
With a front court missing the size and presence of Richards, May turned to veteran star Tegan Fowler to provide some leadership and experience. Fowler wound back the clock in going just 1 point short of a double-double in finishing with 9 points and 9 rebounds in 25 minutes. May explained that she saw Fowler as more than just a fill in for Richards until she arrived.
“Tegan is meant to only stay here until Shereesha [Richards] arrives, but if she could stay here full time we would be more than happy to have her all the way. She adds a level of experience that we don’t have with an average age of 21, so it was really good to have her experience and veteran body moving around the court.”
Waverley opened strongly behind the stellar play of WNBL star Carley Mijovic. Mijovic was causing damage inside out, hitting two three-pointers and allowing the Falcons to open up an 8 point lead. Yet midway through the first period, Steph Reid got the scoring moving to spark a Blues’ resurgence to tie the game back up at 13. However a tough buzzer-beating lay-up to Renae Mokrzycki that saw the visitors take a 3 point lead at the first break.
17-year-old Kassie Boorer provided an unlikely scoring avenue early in the second term, helping the Blues keep pace with the Falcons whose depth was being questioned, with first Kelly Bowen and then Mijovic, picking up their third fouls. However the Blues’ inability to hit free throws would prove costly as the Falcons spread of scorers allowed them to extend the margin to 12 at half time.
The third term saw Frankston hold their ground, with three-pointers to Reid and Saraid Taylor keeping the Falcons honest. Veteran centre Tegan Fowler drained two long shots late to keep the margin at 13 heading into the final term.
After a quiet three quarters, import JoAnna Smith finally got herself going with two quick scores as the Blues closed to within 6 points. Reid continued to find ways to get to the free throw line to keep her side in touch, but the experienced Falcons trio of Mijovic, Bowen and Jess Bygate returned fire to restore their lead and ensure they held on for a 12 point win.
While Reid was the Blues standout, Taylor was the only other Frankston player in double figures in adding 10 points. For the Falcons, Mijovic’s big game was complemented by Kelly Bowen’s 10 point and 14 rebound double-double, with 13 points provided by Brianna Bishop and a further 10 from Mokrzycki and a quickfire 10 points off the bench from Mikaela Miller [Box Score].
The Powerade Frankston Blues will head to the Melbourne Sports and Aquatic centre on Sunday, 7 April to take on the Melbourne Tigers in round 2 in searching of their first win of the season.