Saturday, June 9, 2018

Undefeated at the mid-way point of the season, there is little doubt that Kelly Wilson and Megan Moody of the Bendigo Braves deserve the Player and Coach of the Month awards respectively for May.

Wilson has been the catalyst for Bendigo’s form, controlling the tempo of each contest from the point guard position while averaging 16.2 points, 6.8 rebounds, 10.7 assists and 2.8 steals per game for May.

With 10.8 assists per game on the season, Wilson is now averaging more than double what any other player is recording per contest and that distribution is also allowing the likes of Nadeen Payne, Kara Tessari and Ash Karaitiana to shine offensively.

Because of those team mates, Wilson has not been required to hit the scoreboard as much and in her first four games of May, her personal high in points was just 13.

She still had a major impact on the games though, coming close to a triple-double against the CoE with eight points, nine rebounds and nine assists on May 4 before recording 12 points, seven boards, 12 assists and two steals the following night against Canberra.

The next weekend in Round 6, Wilson tallied 13 points, nine rebounds and six assists against Melbourne and then in Round 7, she had another double-double in a re-match against the CoE, finishing with 10 points, 13 assists and six steals.

In that contest, she also got to the free-throw line where she hit 6-6 and that ability to get to the charity stripe began to increase her point production over the final two games in May.

She was highly effective against Dandenong two days after their second meeting with the CoE and her 25 points came on just 6-8 shooting and 10-11 shooting from the free-throw line while Wilson also added 25 points, six boards, 12 assists and two steals.

Those past two performances earned her the Player of the Week award and she backed up in Round 8 with a consecutive award after collecting 29 points, six boards, 12 assists and six steals in the Braves’ win against Sandringham- their ninth straight.

Once again, Wilson was able to get her game going from the free-throw line where she nailed 8-8 but she was also 10-12 from the field as the Sabres had no answer for the WNBL Champion.

Wilson’s assists also accounted for 27 points, meaning the point guard was directly involved in 56 of the Braves’ 90 points for the contest while her game-high six steals also led to a 25-9 advantage in points off turnovers for her side.

In her first year at the helm, Megan Moody has the Braves working as a well-oiled machine and they look to be clear favourites for the 2018 Championship while a maiden loss is nowhere on the horizon.

Bendigo made the most of two clashes against the CoE, winning by an average margin of 28 points but they also thrashed Canberra at a time they were positioned in the top eight and defeated current playoff teams in Melbourne, Dandenong and Sandringham.

Even more impressively, only two of those six victories for May came at home and that will help their run home with six of their last ten games to be played at Bendigo Stadium.

Through the distribution of Wilson, the hot-shooting of Payne (who sits fourth in the league with 23.1 points per game) and the improved stroke from distance of Tessari (who has made 30 three-pointers at 53%), the Braves own the most effective offence in the league.

Add to that Ash Karaitiana who is averaging double-figures as well as Gabe Richards who has scored 11.6 points per game in her five outings and Bendigo have serious depth to throw at oppositions as well.

They also own the best defence in the competition, surrendering 63 points per contest compared to the competition average of 72.8.

Wilson is placed third in the league for steals with a total of 26, Bianca Dufelmeier has recorded 17 while Ahlise Hurst is another rising star in the Bendigo system and Maddison Wild is becoming a defensive stalwart in the paint.

Under coach Moody’s tutelage, the Braves are the team to beat in 2018.