THE Wagga Blaze are one win away from securing top spot in their pool before the Waratah League division one finals after demolishing Shoalhaven 81-28 at Bolton Park Stadium on Saturday.
Captain Stephanie Male and import Khiani Clark led the way offensively for the hosts, who blew the Tigers away 51-17 in the second half to improve their record to 8-1 before next week's final regular season game against Goulburn at home.
Queanbeyan (9-1) currently sits top of the pool after holding off Goulburn 66-58, but the Blaze can leapfrog them into spot given they have the season split over the Yowies.
Finishing top would allow the defending champions to avoid Coffs Harbour (6-2) and play Tamworth (3-5) in the semi final for the right to play in the decider.
The finals weekend will take place in the second week of August at Gosford.
The blowout win allowed Blaze coach Peter O'Leary to hand 15-year-old Temora product Ruby Watterson a debut, with key players Amelia Hassett, Abbey Morton and Abby Favell all unavailable.
"Ruby always travels to training and she performed quite well on Saturday, I was quite impressed with her," O'Leary said.
"We had a great second half, I think they (Shoalhaven) were outgunned with a couple of injuries, but we were undermanned as well.
"Our biggest issue is staying focused when you play a game then have four weeks off, and so forth. Last night was a must win game for us to cement us in the finals.
"We've got the season split on Queanbeyan, so we'll jump over the top of them (on the table) should we win next weekend."
Youngster Madeleine Clear was also influential against the Hornets while Maddison Clyne, who has been dealing with illness, eased her way back into the rotation with a few minutes.
"Our standout was probably Stephanie Male, she really drove the team," O'Leary said.
"We defended really well last night and that was the basis on our performance."
Heat big Hannah Ryan also suited up, despite arriving in Wagga just 30 minutes before the game after travelling home from the Australian University Championships on the Gold Coast.
Ryan played two games per day in Queensland last week but still provided invaluable minutes for the Heat, particularly on the defensive end.
The Blaze will take on the Bears at Bolton Park Sports Stadium this Saturday from 5pm.
Men's side the Heat will look to repeat their upset victory over the Hawks earlier this season when they travel to Illawarra.