A 20-point game from Holly Greene wasn’t enough to get the Warrnambool Mermaids across the line in game one of the Big V Championship play-offs.
The Craigieburn Eagles were too strong for the Mermaids, who went down in a two-point thriller, 67-65, in Melbourne on Saturday night.
The Mermaids will have to re-group and win the final two games to be played in Warrnambool this weekend if they are to take out back-to-back championships.
Greene was the standout for the Mermaids, leading the way with 20 points, seven rebounds, four steals and four assists.
The Eagles got the upper hand early. They out-scored the Mermaids in the first quarter, 21-18, to take a three-point lead into the first break.
The Mermaids fired back in the second, shooting 18 and only allowing the Eagles to make six to take a 27-36 lead into half-time.
Warrnambool coach Lester Pickett said the game came down to the final quarter.
“For the first 10 minutes of the last quarter no one scored,” Pickett said.
“Then they just came out and attacked us.
“We went two-for-two and we put on a bit of a zone defence to try and break them.
“In the last couple of minutes they got out to a three-point buffer.
“We were just trying to foul them to try and get some shots away.” Pickett said the game was tough and at times brutal.
“They were playing a very fierce physical game,” he said.
“It was hard fought, but to our girls’ credit they stuck with them and kept the pace.
“But they were winning off the board and getting shots away that we couldn’t.”
Pickett said the Eagles targeted Warrnambool’s Katie O’Keefe, who was well off her point average, shooting 14.
“She still managed to play a great game, as did Kate Sewell,” Pickett said yesterday.
“But Holly really led from the front and kept us in the game in the last quarter with a couple of steals, and a couple of handy points.
“Nicola Handreck was probably the best guard on the court — so that’s something to take into next week.
Pickett said he didn’t want to use the Eagles’ home court advantage as an excuse for the loss, but conceded nerves could have played a factor.
He said the Mermaids would now regroup ahead of the final two games in Warrnambool this weekend.
Pickett said he remained confident the women could get the job done next weekend.
“We went into this knowing that we had to win two games to take the championship — that hasn’t changed,”he told The Standard.
“We just can’t slip up.”