THE Bendigo Braves women don’t lack for talent, but one of their star players believes there is another reason for their brilliant start to the season.
The Braves thumped Sandringham last week to improve their record to 9-0 and set up a top-of-the-table clash with Kilsyth on Saturday night.
Kelly Wilson collected her second consecutive SEABL Player of the Week honour for her role in the win, while Nadeen Payne scored 28 points in another strong display.
Star power is something the team has plenty of, but forward Payne this week said the group’s greatest strength may be most evident away from the court.
It has even led to Payne conceding she has been somewhat surprised with just how well the team has played through nine matches.
“I have been a little bit (surprised), yeah. Honestly it’s really rare to find a team where everyone gets along, everyone connects and just clicks,” she said.
“This is one of the best groups I have been a part of where it has translated onto the court. I think that’s credit to our coaches, the players, all our staff, we’re just a really close team.
“Our chemistry is really positive. I know that’s easy to say because we are 9-0 but through the whole preseason and everything it has stayed the same and we just believe in what we’re building.”
Wilson and Payne have been clear on-court standouts, but one striking element of the team has been regular outbursts from bench players.
Kara Tessari has started the season brilliantly, Maddie Wild has been a frontcourt force and on Friday night Bianca Dufelmeier stepped in and had her best game of the season with 18 points, including hitting four three-pointers.
“It’s been great to see everyone come in and just believe in themselves and know that when we pass them the ball, we want them to shoot it and we trust them to make it,” Payne said.
With Wilson running the point and Payne’s athleticism in the front court the Braves aren’t scared to push the tempo offensively and are running sides into the ground.
With the return of Gabe Richards imminent – coach Megan Moody last week told the Weekly Richards would return for Saturday’s match – Payne believes Bendigo can still improve markedly.
“With Gabe out we play a very different style of basketball. When she’s here we play a very executed, beautiful style because Kelly and Gabe are just on another level,” she said.
“I’d like to think Kelly and I are on a certain level, but her and Gabe are just incredible to watch, it’s beautiful team basketball.
“It’s hard to guard, I don’t know how teams are going to stop us, I genuinely don’t know how.
“We have so many scoring opportunities, our defence has improved week to week, but on that end to shut key people down is what we need to do.”
Kilsyth is 8-2 and lost to Nunawading last week, but the Braves are prepared for their toughest test yet against a determined Cobras outfit.
Kilsyth has Australian Opal Steph Blicavs and 2017 SEABL MVP Angela Beadle as well as the experienced Alison Downie and Jasmine Gill.
“We are really looking forward to it, they’re playing some great basketball and it will be a really competitive game,” she said.
“I thought when we played Melbourne it showed great character and I think this will be the same, these kind of games build our character and build us as a team so we can’t wait.”
– Joel Peterson