Commanding win lifts Blaze to third position

Wagga Blaze are proving to be one of the most competitive teams in the Waratah League, in third place after their third consecutive win on Saturday.

Blaze defeated St George Saints 70 to 41 at Bolton Park.

Saints were no pushovers, dangerous in the first quarter, challenging to penetrate offensively with big Chantelle Manoe guarding the hoop.

Wagga’s Somma Stephens ran off the bench, lifting the intensity of the match, winning turnovers and directing younger players.

Once Wagga started to establish a lead in the second quarter, St George’s communication broke down.

Wagga gained the mental edge, dominating the second half in the 29-point showdown.

Despite the big win, Wagga coach Peter O’Leary said it wasn’t their best performance.

“We got our win, that’s what we were gunning for,” he said.

“It wasn’t all that pretty, we’ve played better than that.

“I was disappointed in our start, it was a tough grind, we were just going basket for basket with them.”

O’Leary changed the game plan, giving them leverage over St George.

“We kept trying to go inside to Jordan (Barrett) but she was getting beaten down by the St George girls,” he said.

“It was very physical inside of there, her and Claudia (Barton) put up with a lot.

“We had to change our offensive plan a little bit, and once we started to get ahead, the whole team lifted.”

Barton and Barrett worked back to cause havoc for St George, picking up rebounds for Wagga.

“I’m pretty happy with our bigs, they were strong in the defensive end,” O’Leary said.

Maddie Clyne top scored for Wagga with 23 points, Steph Male scored 16 points and the heavily-guarded Barrett scored 14.

“Maddie Clyne was certainly our most dominant player,” O’Leary said.

O’Leary said it was encouraging for the girls to play to a packed house at Bolton Park.

With four players injured, and a bye this weekend, O’Leary will hold a couple of light training sessions this week, and lift the intensity next week.

Ella Finemore, who didn’t play due to injury, returns to training, Tara Horne is still out of action, and Hannah Martin and Brooke Walsh both have niggling injuries (back).

“We’ll go through a shooting program this week,” O’Leary said.

“We’ll crank it up at training next Monday.”

Next, Wagga plays Goulburn at Bolton Park on May 27.

“It should be a closely-matched game,” he said.


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