The Maitland Mustangs open women’s team are hoping it’s third time lucky in their Waratah Basketball League semi-final clash against Bathurst on Saturday.
It’s the third year in a row the team has made it to the post-season, with players confident that this year they can push on to the grand final.
The Mustangs finished equal third at the end of the regular season and were shunted down to fourth, based on points for and against.
They’ll take on a strong Bathurst team which finished first on the ladder.
“It’ll be a tough game,” said Mustangs player Casandra Screen, who’ll miss the match with ankle and knee injuries. Screen will be joined on the sidelines by Jo Everett, who is nursing a busted ACL.
Despite their absences, senior player Kellie Fox is confident they’re a strong chance of rolling the top placed side.
“Home court advantage is a big help. This is where most of us have grown up playing, most of us have been here since under 12s,” Fox said.
“It’s a final series, anything can happen.”
The players said coach Mark Wawszkowicz was a big part of their charge to the semis after a tough start to the season.
“The girls have responded really well to his coaching,” Fox said.
Everett also attributed their consistent results in the last three seasons with the Mustangs’ strong junior base.
“The junior teams are really strong and it’s starting to show in the seniors,” she said.
The Mustangs played Bathurst once earlier this season, losing heavily. They said a strong team effort would be required to roll them on Saturday.
“Our biggest strength we have is we’re a well rounded group of girls,” Fox said.
“We’ve got girls that are really smart, some that are really good at driving to the basket, we’ve got depth.”
The Mustangs will play their semi-final at 11am Saturday, and if victorious, will progress to the grand final at 11.30am the following day.
The trio said that if they were to take out the grand final, it would be a pivotal moment for Mustangs basketball.
“It’d be the biggest moment for sure, for senior women it’d be one of our best results ever,” Fox said.
“It’d be huge,” Screen said.
The Mustangs will be one of 28 teams playing at Maitland Federation Centre over the weekend, with thousands expected to flock to town for the Waratah League’s finals campaign.
Centre operations manager, Wendy Reilly, said it’s a big weekend for the association.
“This is the top level of basketball in NSW,” she said.