HORSHAM’S women capped a successful Country Basketball League debut season on Saturday night with a big grand final win over the Portland Coasters.
It was the first season in more than a decade that Horsham fielded a women’s team in any competition, and the win marked the first premiership for the town’s women.
The Hornets entered the match as underdogs after their Portland opponents posted an undefeated regular season, but took confidence from a strong semi-final performance against Warrnambool.
In the first quarter it looked as if the expected arm-wrestle might eventuate.
Portland had a five-point advantage midway through the quarter, with centre Julie Caldow crashing the offensive boards and guard Brooke Morrissey shooting well from the perimeter.
Consecutive three pointers from coach Sharon Fedke brought the Hornets to life.
Caitlin Story also helped turn the tide when she entered the game, scoring six first-quarter points and helping keep Caldow away from offensive rebounds.
A late Hornets run turned a six-point deficit into a five-point advantage at quarter time, and the home team never looked back.
Young Horsham superstar Chloe Bibby made up for a quiet first quarter with repeated drives to the basket, scoring in the paint with a range of layups, floaters and jump hooks.
Bibby finished with a team high 27 points, but her impact was felt all over the court.
She filled out the stat sheet with team highs of 11 rebounds, six assists and six steals.
Bibby and Madison Iredell helped stretch the lead to 12 at half-time, with the final margin blowing out to 93-70 in favour of the Hornets.
Fedke said she was elated with the effort of her team.
“I’m just over the moon, I just couldn’t have asked for anything more from the girls,” she said.
“We played the same way to beat Warrnambool and I think I knew in my heart that if we could do the same again that we would win.
“We played the same way to beat Warrnambool and I think I knew in my heart that if we could do the same again that we would win."
“It all came down to our defence – we were able to shut them down and then from that good defence we got our running game going.
“Once that happened in the second quarter, we broke their backs a little bit and they never really recovered.”
Bibby’s stellar season was capped after the match when she was named the conference MVP and best-on- court in the final.
In 2013, the 15-year-old represented Basketball Victoria Country at the national championships and made her WNBL debut.
Fedke said Bibby deserved all of her accolades.
“Chloe is a star of the future and the scores tonight show the impact she had,” she said.
“Once she found her edge and got into the game she just went with it from there so she’s definitely a star of the future.
“Chloe was our top scorer but I could list everyone on the team for the contributions they made.”
Almost every Hornet scored in the match. Guard Mikayla McAuliffe scored 13 points and Iredell, Fedke, Story, Jedda Heard, Emma Nikkerud, Faith McKenzie and Alexandra Hiscock each had six or more points.
Morrissey was one of Portland’s best with 13 points, but was harassed by the Horsham guards all night and finished with five turnovers.
Caldow had 12 points and 17 rebounds, 10 of which came at the offensive end.
Ellen Zeunert and Kayla Pickert also played well for the runners up with 31 points between them.
The Hornets will travel to Bendigo at the weekend to play in the CBL all-conference finals as south-west conference premiers.
Fedke said the team would be without Bibby, who has state basketball commitments, but would not put any pressure on themselves to win.
“We figure we’ve won the grand final already and anything else is a bonus,” she said.
“I think that what we’ve done so far in our first year is wonderful and I’m just so proud of the girls."