By Hayley Wildes
DANDENONG RANGERS 2018/19 WNBL SEASON REVIEW
In a season that started out with so much promise, the Dandenong Rangers were unable to hold onto the momentum they built up in the opening two games of the season and struggled their way to a 9-12 record for the season.
The Rangers kicked off their season in the best possible style; defeating the defending Champion Townsville Fire in Townsville. At the time, it looked like a win that could kick-start a terrific season.
Unfortunately, whilst winning their next game (at home against Sydney Uni), Dandenong would lose four games in a row and slump to 2-4 on the season.
Second half fade-outs were very much an issue throughout the entire season and that was the case early on too.
Even contributions from across the board was another issue. Bec Cole was simply sublime all season long, but far too often it was left to her power the offence as the team would go long stretches without making a bucket.
A three-game winning streak in mid-December gave the Rangers life, owning a 7-6 record, but just they looked to be turning their season around, they suffered a four-game losing streak.
It was a tough stretch for Dandenong, taking on top four teams in all four games and their offence couldn’t keep up with firepower of their opposition – this fact was highlighted by an ugly 43-point loss, 86-43, to Canberra at home.
To Dandenong’s credit, they continued to fight until the very end, even with post-season action beyond reach. A couple of late-season wins against Townsville and Sydney Uni were impressive and the Rangers owned a final record of 9-12 to finish fifth on the ladder.
Whilst the season clearly didn’t go to plan for the Rangers, the play of Cole – in her first season with Dandenong – was a bright spot to say the least. Her offensive arsenal; be it driving to the bucket, shooting from deep or making plays for others was a highlight and her shooting efficiency was just as impressive.
With the ball in her hands a lot, Cole was always composed and shooting 51% from the field, 38% from deep and 86% from the line showcases just that. Her 19.43 points per game was second best in the league, further highlighting her standing the competition and her 2.4 steals per game also was second best in the WNBL.
She finished the season averaging 19.4 points, 3.6 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 2.4 steals in 31 minutes per game. Cole was relied upon to make plays so often and can certainly hold her head up high after a tremendous season.
Another bright spot in the season was the return of Sara Blicavs. The superstar returned from an ACL injury on 16 December against the Bendigo Spirit and helped Dandenong to a 24-point win. Just seeing Blicavs back on court was a treat for all basketball fans.
Betnijah Laney was another standout for the Rangers, with her toughness and energy shining through. The import was important on both ends of the court, averaging 14 points, 6.9 rebounds and 4.4 assists per game.
The retirement of Kayla Pedersen will leave a big hole to fill for the Rangers. Pedersen – who announced her retirement prior to the Rangers final game of the season – played three seasons for Dandenong and in her final year of pro ball averaged 9.7 points, 6.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists per game.
Her defensive tenacity stands out when looking back on her career and she truly gave it her all for Dandenong.
The play of Carley Mijovic (9.1 points and 3.5 rebounds), Rachel Jarry (7.2 points and 4.58 rebounds) and Tessa Lavey (6.8 points, 3.2 assists and 2.4 rebounds) was important to the Rangers and when that trio played well, good things generally happened for the Dandenong.
The Rangers had chances to make this season a great one, but unfortunately it will be remembered as a season that didn’t live up to the hype. With the play of Bec Cole standing out, fans were treated to a truly special individual season, but the team simply couldn’t get wins when they needed them most.