In what was a little slice of local history, Benalla Lady Breakers took to the court for the first time on Saturday night.
But a monumental first victory wasn’t to be, with home team Shepparton Gators sinking a young Breakers side by 32 baskets in the season opener.
Despite not coming back to Benalla with the win, coach Tony Long said he was “ecstatic” with how his team played out its first match.
“The main reasons being, number one, [the players] didn’t give up,” Long said post-match.
“And number two, we committed to running our plays and we were excellent at doing it.
“For me, the game’s score didn’t reflect how many shots we got out of our offence — we just didn’t finish it off.”
Benalla teen Isabella Riley etched her name in local folklore, scoring first points for the Lady Breakers before following up with what was arguably a best-on-court performance for the Breakers.
“[Isabella] did an outstanding role, she controlled the team,” Long said.
“And she had four fouls in that third term and managed to stay in right until the end.
“For her years, she was sensational.”
With the Gators catching the early break to lead 15-8 at quarter-time, the Breakers managed to push aside early nerves to sink a greater percentage of their shots, coming within 10 points by the main break.
But it was the third term where the Gators really got moving, with Kior Zito controlling play and Madeleine Bev Rijs and Alexandra Marshall proving to be handy shooters.
With the Breakers suffering through a scoring drought, it looked like the visitors would go through the third quarter scoreless, before finally breaking through to shoot eight points late in the term.
Carrying momentum into the fourth, the Breakers scored the first four points with Madison Gray putting up a particularly nice shot, but it wasn’t enough for the Breakers to mount a serious comeback and the final score read 69-37.
With its first hit-out now officially in the bank, Long said his team would take plenty from the experience.
“Our individual defence and our picking up of players needs to improve, there is no doubt about that,” he said.
“[Shepp] boxed out very, very well.
“They got a lot of rebounds and second shot attempts out of that.
“But I thought we got a lot of really good shots — I think we got a bit of a shock we were that open when we were taking them.
“There were a lot of rimmers.
“We just need to finish it off.”
Alongside Riley, the Breakers heralded an even spread of effort, with all 11 players producing glimpses of magic.
“Overall it was such a good team effort, everyone got involved,” the coach said.
“[Sarah and Laura] Fawcett from Mansfield, they came in and played roles and did a superb job.
“Everyone worked across the floor. I thought it was a tremendous first game for a group of girls who haven’t played together for a long while.”
• Benalla Breakers will take on Seymour Blasters at the Seymour Sports & Aquatic Centre this Saturday night in round two of CBL NE with the Lady Breakers taking the court at 6pm, followed by the men’s match at 8pm.
And on the Sunday, the club will back it up against Myrtleford Saints in their first home game of the season at the Benalla Indoor Recreation Centre, with the Lady Breakers kicking off from noon ahead of the men’s match at 2pm.