JUST two rounds before play-offs the Mermaids will aim to hold onto a home-court advantage after knocking off conference rival Whittlesea yesterday.
Warrnambool’s 11th straight victory was a hard-fought contest, with home team Whittlesea pushing the reigning champion right up to the dying seconds.
A late-game three-pointer brought the Pacers within five points and nerves began to show as the Mermaids missed free throws to ice the game.
For the quarter’s final possessions Warrnambool aimed to get the ball into the experienced hands of Katie O’Keefe, who was able to seal the win (63-58) and put the Mermaids into second spot on the Big V division one ladder.
Coach Lester Pickett described the close game as “the first fight we’ve had for a while”.
“It was a team effort and the whole team contributed in their own little way,” he said.
“We’ve been blowing them out lately but this was a closer game.
“We got up by about 10 in the first quarter and I thought ‘Here we go again’, but Whittlesea stuck at their task and worked hard.”
For the Pacers, yesterday’s game followed a loss to league leader Altona the previous night.
Pickett said he used lessons from the sides’ last clash in May, when Whittlesea physically dominated the young Mermaids’ squad at home.
“We were a lot more composed this time around. We tried to run them a little bit more.
“They’re big-set girls and we’re a bit on the skinny side compared to them, but we worked hard,” he said.
“They beat us by 20 the first time, but now we’ve beaten everyone in the league so there’s nothing to fear.
“That’s handy when you come to the finals, to be able to say ‘We’ve done this and done that,’ but you’ve still got to do it again.
“More important is we own home court at the moment.
“That was our goal so we’ve just got to win our last two to make sure we don’t lose it,” he said.
“Whittlesea have a couple of hard games to go and we’ve got Altona.
“We’ve been playing very hard since the first week of May — we haven’t been beat and we’ll work hard to keep that going.”
This week the Mermaids face Altona on the road before Keilor visits the Arc for the final game of the regular season.