It was another classic battle with Millicent defeating North Gambier for the third time this season in another tight encounter.
The Tigers again showed they will be as competitive as anyone in the upcoming finals series, although losing wing defender Lauren Buddle to an Achilles injury has certainly not helped their premiership campaign.
Buddle has allowed Mel Renko to move into the centre and has combined well with the circle defenders, Maddie Whaites and Noni McConnell, to pressure opposition into error and creating turnover ball.
On the flip side, North has been running with eight players, rotating their mid court, so a re-jigging of the line-up will not be as disruptive as it could have been.
North held a one goal lead at the first break and won the second quarter by one as well but it was the third quarter that turned the game, the Saints taking it by eight to take a six goal lead into the final quarter before eventually winning by five goals.
As expected it was a battle of the tall shooters, North’s Caroline Davey netting 50 from 56 and Millicent’s Tabatha Sanderson converting 47 from 53, with both shooters having a perfect quarter each – Davey opened the match with 12 straight, while Sanderson finished with a flurry in the final quarter with 13 without a miss.
Of course, someone has to get the ball to the tall timber at the post and North’s Brianna Walters and Millicent’s Lucy Denton did it well, with both being named in their respective team’s best.
Both used their pace and accuracy on the feed to ensure both shooters had plenty of opportunities to hit the scoreboard.
The third quarter dominance from the Saints was as much about the defensive work as it was what Millicent did with ball in hand, keeping North to only 14 scoring opportunities as Denton and Duldig applied the pressure out front and Hannah Nitschke and Portia McRae created enough turnover ball to give the Saints the ascendancy and Sanderson’s 16 from 17, courtesy of some creative feeding from Demi Verbena, ensured Millicent got band for their buck.
Normally losing three times to a team during the minor round would be deflating for an opposition but North knows they are in striking distance and will now turn their attention to taking on West Gambier, both this weekend and then in the knockout semi-final the following weekend.
EAST GAMBIER V SOUTH GAMBIER
Much like the previous weekend against North Gambier, South Gambier played a strong first half against the undefeated Bulldogs and trailed by only five at quarter time and 11 at the main break.
Missing tall shooter Grace Edwards, who suffered a season ending ankle injury mid week, the young shooting combination of Alyssa Duncan and Lara Munro shower no fear, combining well and using their agility and understanding from some seasons in junior ranks together, to work their way through the tough East defence of Lisa Fyfe and Bo Creek.
In the end, it was a 28 goal loss but the young South shooting combination certainly made the most of their opportunities, netting 36 from 42, in a promising glimpse into the future for the Demons.
But in the end, the Bulldogs relentless pressure and speed with ball in hand wore the Demons down, recording the comfortable victory with Emily Hunter and Tarsh McCallum dominating the mid court and Tenille Gray and Amryn Bosko revelling in plenty of supply to ensure the scoreboard was eventually weighted in the home side’s favour.
Gray was at her prolific best, taking plenty of ball high in the court and using her usual deception on the pass to work plenty of shots from close range or dishing off to her composed younger shooting partner.
South defenders Brandi and Ellie Bouchier still got some touches but the weight of supply told a story.
Hunter, Tyne Bosko, Fyfe and Creek still had their moments of creating turnover ball, especially when the ball was delivered cross court or in the air, while another four quarters with McCallum back in the line-up after a long injury lay off, can only be valuable for the competition pacesetters.
East certainly trialled some offensive and defensive plays during the contest, readying themselves for when they will be seriously tested by Millicent this weekend and in a twist in the draw – the following week, in finals.
Duncan was clearly the best for the Demons – thrown back into the shooting circle after a season on the attacking wing and not missing a beat. In fact, she was then general of the forward line, accurate on the finish and combined well with Munro.
Ellie Bouchier also made her mark while taking on the toughest defensive gig in the competition – denying Tenille Gray easy ball – and while Gray was clearly on of East’s best, Ellie Bouchier took some strong rebounds, got her hands to some critical ball and was strong over the shot.
WEST GAMBIER V CASTERTON SANDFORD
Glad to be back on court, Casterton Sandford but in a strong first half against the finals bound Roos, trailing by 11 at the main break.
Paige Murrell used her pace and timing on the drive to secure a number of scoring opportunities for the Cats, netting 18 from 22 in the opening half.
The defensive pressure from Caeleigh Humphries and Ebany Jarrad was also impressive as they battled the height and accuracy of Sarah Ritter and smarts of Lisa McGregor to try and minimise the scoreboard damage
That being said, Sarah Ritter was outstanding again, netting 54 from 65, as she continued to hit the long and close range shots, while McGregor really picked up her scoring in the second half with 16 from 18.
Kit was the third quarter when the damage was done – West taking the quarter 24-10 which put the result beyond doubt.
The hard running Tara Bryant and Scarlett Jarrad had a great tussle through the mid court, while West defender Amy Cram was marshalling the troops in the defensive third and creating plenty of turnover ball with her ability to read the play and cut off many a foray forward from the Cats.
Celebrating her 50 game milestone, Zhane Crawford did her best to stop Carlee Ransom influencing the contest with a consistent performance on the defensive wing for the Cats, while Murrell thrived on the move to goal attack in the final quarter, converting eight from nine as her pace and timing against proved pivotal.
It looms as the final minor round match for the Cats with lockdown set to stymie their final round clash with South Gambier, while West now face North Gambier in the final minor round before taking the Tigers on again in the first semi final.