Werribee Devils are still adjusting to life without star import Sumar Leslie in Big V basketball women’s division 1.
Leslie was not only one of the most dominant players on the team, averaging 18 points, 5.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game, but she was also a key on-court leader.
Leslie’s season came to a premature end when she broke an elbow in three places, leaving the Devils to fight out the rest of the season without her.
Devils assistant coach Tim Devlin said Leslie’s departure left a big hole.
“It’s been a big transitional phase,” he said. “We’ve got players taking different roles, players getting more attention than they were at the time, so it just takes a bit of getting used to.”
Werribee, third on the ladder with a 10-6 record, has no other option but to find a way without Leslie.
The Devils have a chance to reach the play-offs and go deep, but they need to find a way out of a post-Leslie slump.
A split of games in a doubleheader last weekend was the first sign Werribee is beginning to find a way.
The Devils broke a two-game losing skid with an 82-77 win over Casey Cavaliers at Eagle Stadium on Saturday night.
The Devils had to rise at 8am the next day for a noon tip-off against Latrobe City Energy in Traralgon. They lost 66-64, but produced a performance that suggests they are working towards their best basketball.
“There was a lot more positives this week than we’ve had in the last couple,” Devlin said.
“To turn it around and get a win, and back it up against a fresh team that hadn’t played the night before and control it for 35 minutes – we lost it in the last five minutes – there was a lot of positive signs for us going forward.
“We didn’t get the result that we wanted … but the weekend overall was positive.”
Werribee still has star components in the team in Rohanee Cox and Jessy Price.
Cox, a one-time WNBL most valuable player and Australian Olympian, is averaging a big double-double of 21 points and 11.8 rebounds, while Price is providing an average of 15.3 points, 5.2 rebounds and 4 assists.
“They’re a great one-two combo, one of the best in the league,” Devlin said.
The key for Werribee is finding another outlet behind the Cox-Price duo.
A player of Leslie’s quality cannot be fully replaced, but there is an opportunity for another player to step up on the offensive end and take more shots while the team collectively ups the ante on defence.
“Players need to step up and play in different roles,” Devlin said.
“More responsibility leads to more opportunities.”
Werribee will host fifth-placed Mildura Heat in a big game at Eagle Stadium on Saturday from 8.30pm.
The Devils will wear pink kit to raise awareness for early breast cancer detection and to show support for sufferers.
“It will be a huge night,” Devlin said.
Meanwhile, Werribee Devils’ men endured a tough weekend in the state championship division.
The Devils came up short on both occasions in their weekend doubleheader, losing 83-72 away to McKinnon Cougars on Saturday night then going down 79-75 to Casey Cavaliers on Sunday.
Werribee (9-9) is sixth on the ladder ahead of a trip to Eltham Wildcats (12-4) on Saturday night.