Despite the visitors getting the first points on the board on Saturday afternoon Goulburn Bears were not about to let Wagga Blaze take hold.
Then basketball contest between Wagga Wagga and Goulburn was always going to be an exciting one and although Wagga was missing a couple of its key players they were still a very competitive side that took the court in the unheated Goulburn Basketball Stadium, often referred to as the Bear Pit.
It was Shakera Barnes who picked up the first point for the Blaze after being fouled by Naomi Lucas during a shot attempt. She then pushed Wagga out to three points up with a basket before her teammate Jessica Sommerfield brought Goulburn’s Abbey Emmerton to the free throw line for two from two. Jordan Huntley added added two points to the Bears score but Shakera Barnes answered back giving the blaze a 5-4 lead. with four and a half minutes left in the first quarter Goulburn’s Paige Penning evened the score at 5-5. Mae Grant then added two more points for the Bears followed by two from Naomi Lucas. Khiani Clark closed the gap to 9-7 with two points to the Blaze. Barnes evened the score at 9-9 with a little over two minutes left on the clock. This was proving a fast and sometimes physical encounter with both teams showing a willingness to contest any opportunity for possession. Mae Grant picked off the next basket for Goulburn. Then with eight seconds left she took a shot from outside the circle skipping Goulburn out to a 14-9 lead art the first quarter break.
Lucas was first to score for Goulburn in the second quarter followed by Huntley who took netted two from the free throw line after being fouled by Barnes. Huntley followed this up with a two pointer before Sommerfield put the Flames first points for the quarter on the board. bringing the score to 22-11. Georgia Noack added two more points for Goulburn briefly extending the lead to 13 points but then she and Barnes each picked up a foul. Before the end of the quarter Barnes would add six points to Wagga’s score and Noack and Abbey Emmerton each added two points bringing the half time score to 27-17 in Goulburn’s favour.
Only having seven players the Blaze needed to protect their foul count ensuring they did not lose their key players. Goulburn was sharing the scoring around a little more than Wagga who were mostly relying on Barnes.
Emmerton opened Goulburn’s third quarter account with Huntley, Lucas, Georgia, Teague and Grant bringing the score at the end of the third quarter to 40-29. Khiani Clark Sommerfield, Kara Bloomfield, Maddy Clyne, Barnes were Wagga Wagga’s points contributors.
A technical issue with the scoring system early in the fourth quarter held up play for a few minutes while the board was reset. Olivia Fawns added Wagga’s first fourth points to the board. Noack, Lucas and Huntley all answered back with two points each before Barnes found the net again. Clark and Sommerville also potted shots through the hoop bringing the score back to 46-37 and Sommerville shortened the deficit by a further two before Courtney Edwards potted two from two at the free throw line after being fouled by Clark.
Abbey Emmerton then fouled Clark sending her to the line but only one shot found its mark. at 48-40 with less than a minute remaining Sommerville fouled Lucas who came up with one point for Goulburn.
With about a couple of second to go Jordan Huntley let fly from outside the circle and as the ball was flying through the air the buzzer sounded, the ball found the hole and the three points counted giving Goulburn Bears a 52-40 win over Wagga Wagga Blaze.
After the game Goulburn coach Peter Lucas complimented Wagga Wagga on a competitive display.
“It was a game we expected to win particularly considering the Blaze were missing several of their key players,” he said. “They are a very good team but were reliant on a couple of players for their scoring, whereas most of our team contributed to the points.”