I am still trying to work out how we managed to win this game. I know it had a lot to do with outstanding defence in the second half and a remarkable determination to win. A key part was matching Woodley’s intensity and once we did that we were able to make use of our strengths.
Both the things we did so poorly in the first part of the game and the things we did so well at the end provide really good experiences to learn from for the future, and that future comes as early as next week when we play Woodley again.
We were very poor at the beginning, constantly turning the ball over. A lot of that came from the intensity of their defending and the quality of their team. But we also contributed to it by trying to force opportunities rather than working through an offensive process to create good situations. We need to be more patient and everyone needs to be switched every moment they are on court not just some of the time. However, despite how poor we hung in well and never let them really get away. Their biggest lead was 7 points.
By the time the second half started we were matching them for intensity and slowly starting to reduce the deficit. At some point early in the second half the 5 on court had the courage to change to switch defence to a man to man and that proved to be correct as well as brave. I don’t believe we have ever played man to man better than we did in this game. The work rate and the support for each other were fantastic. A Woodley team with a lot of offensive ability really struggled to break it down.
We finally took the lead for the first time in the game 33-32 in the 2nd minute of the final quarter. We built that lead up to 7 points with 5 minutes to go and were exerting control. Then in the blink of an eye a couple of turnovers gave Woodley 4 easy points and all the momentum. With 2 minutes to go they tied the score 42-42.
Having done so much hard work to fight back and then build a decent lead to then let it slip and lose the momentum it would have been very easy to go on and lose. The fact that we did not speaks volumes about this team. In the critical moments in those last 2 minutes we showed great character and determination. Jade made both free shots to put us back to 2 up and put all the pressure back on Woodley. When their chance came, they could only make one free shot so we stayed ahead. From then on in the last minute they committed fouls and Jenny and Becky both made pressure free shots to just keeping pushing us ahead and when they attacked we played really great defence to stop them scoring without giving away fouls. We did just enough and it was a big win against a tough opponent.
18 of our 46 points came from free throws. Of that we made 12 of 18 in the final quarter when the pressure was at its highest. Some credit here also to the referees, who despite the noise of a home crowd made the big foul calls when it really mattered and overall called 24 fouls against the appropriately named Wildcats compared to 16 against us.
From a coaching perspective two things stand out for me. Firstly, the team on the court adapting to the circumstances of the game and working out what it took to win. The decision to change defence was the epitome of that. The second was the level of trust and mutual support. The importance of the team rather than personal ambition was total and I felt every decision I made to substitute people was accepted without the blink of an eye and that made it much easier to do my job
Scorers were Jenny 16, Becky 15, Reanna 6, Amanda 4, Jade 3, Nicky 2, but that tells so little of the story.
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