The Southside Flyers showed off their brilliant offence in Round 1, but in the first edition of this season’s Michelle Timms Cup, it was on defence where they did all their work.
Hosting the Melbourne Boomers at the State Basketball Centre, it was clear the Flyers came in with a goal to unravel their opponents’ game as fully as possible.
It started with Maddy Rocci’s job on Kristy Wallace, and finished with youngster Nyadiew Puoch’s late contributions in the final term.
From one to five and all across the bench, every Flyer was fully committed to ruining their opponent’s night, and making life hard for them. They achieved that by holding the Boomers to just 57 points, the lowest score of the season.
Rocci teamed up with sister-in-law Aimie to apply full-court pressure to Wallace, or whoever else had the unfortunate honour of bringing the ball up the court.
That attention extended into the arc. Wallace got off to a brilliant start last week against the Lynx, but with the Flyers crowding the paint, she had shot 2-9 by the early minutes of the second term.
With frustrations building, Boomers coach Chris Lucas sent rookie Paige Burrows to the floor instead.
Cheryl Chambers and Southside’s other target was star import Tiffany Mitchell, who kicked off her season dropping 32 points and nine assists against the Perth Lynx.
While she would get hot in the second term, she was held to four, two and four points in the three other quarters, ultimately shooting at just 33 per cent from the field.
With no dangerous perimeter shooters – the Boomers hit just seven long range shots – the Flyers could focus on taking away Wallace and Mitchell’s games in the paint.
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When the Boomers would inevitably miss their attempts, Kayla Thornton (11 rebounds) was there to crash the glass, with 10 of those coming on the defensive end.
Bec Cole (four steals), Maddy Rocci and Sara Blicavs (two steals each) were also incredibly active on defence, constantly finding tips and turning those into scores.
Southside created 16 points from turnovers and 12 fast break points while limiting Melbourne to only 16 points in the paint – the Boomers scored an incredible 54 points inside the arc last week.
The mere presence of Lauren Jackson was enough to scare Olivia Nelson-Ododa off the court – she fouled out and managed just four rebounds and two points from her 17 minutes on court.
All in all, the Boomers managed just a dismal 28 per cent from the field. Mia Murray couldn’t hit her bail-out threes, going 2-9 from deep, leaving everyone else battling multiple Flyers in the key.
No Melbourne player that took more than two shots recorded a field goal percentage over 36 per cent.
Coach Chambers can come away from this game pleased not only with the total success of her defensive game plan, but faith in the depth of her roster.
Compared to the Boomers, who gave 33-plus minutes to four of their starters, none of her starters hit over 30 minutes on the court.
Puoch and Aimie Rocci both played big minutes off the bench, while Abby Bishop and Carley Ernst both also came on to play considerable roles on defence.
Finishing with nine points, a rebound and a steal, the young Puoch showed plenty of promise, and showed off the unique skillset she possesses.
She’s on the tall side for a guard, and can shoot like one, but also provides a presence under the post that a bigger player should.
Now sitting two from their first two games with a very clear shift in game plan between both, Southside has shown that it should be considered one of the teams to beat.
The Flyers will enjoy a week’s break before heading to Townsville on November 16 to face the Fire, while the Boomers will back up on Sunday against the Adelaide Lightning.
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