The Perth Redbacks women came up short against the Mandurah Magic on Friday night but coach Craig Allen is anticipating a strong response in their final regular-season game a week later.
The Redbacks women came into Round 17 of the NBL1 West competition on a three-game winning streak and were full of motivation to try and end the regular inside the top four.
That set the stage for a cracking and important contest for both teams at Belmont Oasis on Friday night, but by the end of the evening, Casey Mihovilovich had been the most influential player on the court in her 506th game for the Magic.
She led them to the crucial 81-66 victory that keeps them in the playoff race while the Redbacks will be rueing a golden chance on their home floor to go closer to a top-four spot now slipping to 10-7 with just the one game to come this Friday at home to the Cockburn Cougars.
The Magic led 24-19 by quarter-time on the back of a three from Kelsey Brett just before the end of the opening period.
It was a tight affair throughout the second quarter, though, and the game was well and truly up for grabs at the half-time break with Mandurah only clinging to a 43-40 advantage.
Mandurah took over in the third quarter, though, and when Emma Klasztorny knocked down a three-pointer, they were up 11 halfway through the period.
It then became a bank party the rest of the quarter with Mihovilovich nailing two three-pointers before three-quarter-time, both off the backboard. Sarah Allen did the same for the Redbacks but the Magic had worked their way well on top heading into the fourth leading 67-50.
The Magic knew they needed to win to keep their playoff hopes alive following Tuesday’s loss to Perry Lakes and they never looked like letting the Redbacks seriously back into it in the final term as they went on to score the crucial 81-66 win.
Captain Jess Jakens top-scored for the Redbacks with 20 points, three rebounds, three steals and two assists while shooting 8/11 from the floor.
Sarah Allen stepped up with 13 points for the Redbacks shooting a perfect 5/5 from the field and 3/3 from the three-point line with Raya Thompson adding 11 points and five rebounds, and Makailah Dyer 11 points despite a tough 3/15 shooting night with 0/7 from downtown.
Redbacks coach Craig Allen did fear his group might have been a little flat after a funeral some attended during the day, but he did expect a significantly better performance with what was at stake.
“We were really flat, we didn’t execute what we were looking at doing at all and at the end of the day our effort levels let us down. We got burnt on defensive transition and all those effort things that you are looking for,” Allen said.
“Everyone was flat and it was a big day for some of the girls so from that side of it, it was a hard introduction to the game and understandably so some of them were really quite down. But at the end of the day, we didn’t execute in the 40 minutes of game time.”
While rightfully disappointed with how his own team played, Allen paid full credit to how well the Magic did perform led by the irrepressible Mihovilovich.
“They played well, 100 per cent so there’s no question they needed what they needed to do and credit to them,” Allen said.
“They still have that sniff as far as finals go and they’ve got that Rockingham game tomorrow and then finishing up next week where they can still end up in that last spot in the eight.
“Obviously they’ve got some experienced players out there who know how to get the job done at this time of the year and at the end of the day, they just totally outplayed us. Casey Milo is just a marvel as well and she was the most influential player out there on that court, 100 per cent.”
While disappointed with the Friday night result against Magic, Allen was quick to turn his focus to hoping the Redbacks bounce back strongly on Friday back at home against the Cougars to build some momentum to take into the NBL1 West finals.
“It would have been nice to build momentum but now all the momentum has to happen from next week for us now. We have to just literally let that one go and get back together, and try to build into that finals regime now starting from next week,” Allen said.
“It puts a little bit of pressure on both teams to secure where we want to go because obviously, we want to create some sort of momentum going into finals as well.
“The week will be a bit of a review of this game but really we have to wash our hands of that and plan for next week, plan for finals and see if we can do what we do.
“We didn’t do that in the game against Mandurah and at the end of the day, it’s all about us. You don’t like ever losing games, but sometimes you can accept getting beaten if you are outplayed.
“You don’t like giving away games, though, and we just have to clean up some stuff that we do and we’ll talk more about that this week, and stay together as a group. The focus will be to get together as a group and see what we can get done.”