Rangers silence the Blues on ANZAC Day eve
In the annual ANZAZ Day eve clash between the Frankston Powerade Blues and the Dandenong Rangers, it was the visitors who came away with a workmanlike 87-63 victory in front of a full house at Frankston Basketball Stadium to open NBL1 round 4.
Despite a game-high 28 points and 7 assists from star guard Steph Reid, the Blues were unable to find a way to slow the Ranger’s WNBL stars. The competition’s leading scorer Bec Cole was at times was almost unguardable, finishing with a team-high 27 points and 6 assists while receiving great support from Colleen Planeta who added 22 points.
In the opening term both teams struggled to find the bottom of the net consistently, yet Cole’s class was shining through early as she combined with Aimee Clydesdale (13 points and 7 assists) to cause the Blues some headaches. When Rosie Fadljevic hit a three-pointer, the Rangers’ lead had extended 9 as they threatened to put some distance between them and Frankston.
Fresh off a gold medal winning performance for Victoria Metro at the Under-18 Australian Championships in Townsville, Erin Riley’s injection into the game brought with it an immediate spark. The youngster was active at both ends of the floor before scoring her first points on debut from beyond the arc. She then beat the shot clock as the quarter wound down on a broken play to close the margin to just 4 points at the first break.
While Dandenong scored first through Maddi Puli to open the second, Reid then looked to take over. With the ball on a string and the Rangers guards unable to stay in front of her, she would go on to score the Blues’ next seven straight points. However at the other end, Planeta, Cole and Clydesdale were creating some havoc of their own, with the Rangers using on and off ball screens to keep the scoreboard ticking over. For all their good work, the Blues were having difficulty containing the star trio, and when Cole hit a three from the right wing, their lead had ballooned to 14. A basket inside by Taylor was sandwiched between two Reid triples, but a late score by Fadljevic ensured the margin was 13 at half time.
A flurry of baskets saw the Blues go on a 9-3 run capped by a Smith triple as the Blues threatened to overrun the Rangers mid-way through the third. Yet Planeta once again emerged, scoring in reply before blocking both Taylor’s and Smith’s shots at the other end on the next possession. Clydesdale restored Dandenong’s double-digit lead, which would extend to 15 at the final break.
Reid continued to battle hard for the Blues as Abby Chernishoff provided a spark off the bench. However despite being held to just 3 points in the second half in being closely guarded by Smith, Cole broke the shackles late to help push the lead out to 22. From there, both teams invested valuable playing time into their youngsters as the Rangers cruised to a 24 point victory.
While Reid was a clear shining light for Jess May’s team, Saraid Taylor played a less heralded role inside with veteran Tegan Fowler not suiting up and Shereesha Richards yet to joing the team. Taylor gathered 11 points and 7 rebounds, and underlined her importance to he Blues thin front court. Smith shot just 3-13 from the fielding including 1-7 from beyond the arc for her 7 points, and while she did not get going offensively, her defensive assignment on Cole was for the most part well executed. Riley in her first game was impressive, adding 7 points, 4 rebounds and 2 steals.
For the Rangers, Cole and Planeta were a dominant combination, yet Fadljevic added 14 points and 8 rebounds, and Clydesdale chimed in with 13 points, 5 rebounds and 7 assists to provide multiple scoring avenues all evening as they shot 50% from the field.
Dandenong will return home on Saturday to host Melbourne as they look to maintain their unbeaten record, while the Blues’ task to register their second win of the season will get no easier as they next head to The Graveyard to take on perennial contenders Nunawading that same day to close out round 4.