Warriors reap rewards after reset

Dakota Blacka has been influential off the bench in recent weeks. 400974 Picture: GARY SISSONS.

By Jonty Ralphsmith and Marcus Uhe

Pakenham’s youth women have continued their strong form with a 73-61 win over an undermanned Wyndham.

The ladder-leading Warriors have now won four of their last five games, with their only loss across that period being by one point to Whittlesea.

Coach Ben Gaze puts the lift down to a reset as they approached the tailend of the season.

“We’ve had a change of intensity during games and at training and had a change of game plan a little bit,” the coach revealed.

“We’re trying to play a bit more up-tempo and put some heat on the rim.”

In the Warriors past three games, they have averaged almost 17 points from the bench, a marked lift from earlier in the season as the coach has given them more responsibility.

Dakota Blacka in particular has provided a spark, averaging five rebounds and two steals across her last three games from an average of 14 minutes of game time.

“I’ve recently made a conscious effort to bleed the bench through earlier in quarters,” Gaze said.

“That way consistently through the game we have one or two bench players floating through at all times rather than having them all on the court at the one time.

“Dakota has been playing really well – we’ve been putting her into the two position for Tyla Scorah and that allows her to play with Stella to ease into the game, and then we give Stella a rest and hand the ball over to Dakota.

“She’s been playing with a lot of tenacity and Kody West-Linnett has been able to come into the team more consistently in the last few weeks that help facilitate different things.”

Chloe Zielinski’s form in the past fortnight has been stunning, backing up last week’s 25-point, 18-rebound, six-steal effort with 25 points, 15 rebounds and four assists on Saturday.

The smaller-statured currently sits fourth in the league for overall rebounds per game, and second for offensive rebounds.

The strong fortnight follows an inconsistent start to the year as she has spent time across both the youth and senior programs.

“In the last couple of weeks she’s put together strong performances as she understands how the other girls play and how she plays,” Gaze said

“Sometimes we scratch our heads about how she gets some of the rebounds she does with her size but her tenacity for the ball helps her a lot.

“It gives us the ability for us to play her as a four and when we do have some mismatches, we can exploit that at the offensive end.”

The Warriors were dominant in general play on Saturday, with their occasional inefficiency keeping Wyndham at a nagging margin.

Threes to West-Linnett and Stella O’Loughlin late in the third extended the three quarter time margin to 15, before Shanelle Kingston and O’Loughlin scored the first four points of the last quarter to stave off the visitors’ threat.

Chelsea Schreuder locked down in a disruptive defensive performance, while O’Loughlin finished with 31, reward for her consistent shooting across the course of the match.

“It goes to show the way she is pushing the tempo and our style of play is benefitting her at that end of the floor,” Gaze said.

The Warriors currently occupy first spot on the youth league one ladder, and finish the season with back-to-back double headers, starting with a home clash against seventh-placed Albury-Wodonga and away bout against eighth-placed Geelong this weekend.