Queensland Firebirds coach Roselee Jencke has hailed the performance of Laura Clemesha in filling the shoes of missing captain Laura Geitz in their season-opening 56-56 draw with the Sunshine Coast Lightning.
Facing sharpshooter Caitlin Bassett, Clemesha could not have had a more difficult task as she looked to establish herself as the ANZ Championship winners’ goalkeeper in 2017, with the pregnant Geitz taking the year off.
Bassett, who joined the fledgling Lightning from the West Coast Fever, scored with all 23 efforts in the first half, en route to recording 48 from 51, but Jencke was impressed with the way she stayed competitive throughout.
Indeed Jencke pointed to crucial late interjections from Clemesha which helped the Firebirds escape with a draw after being seven goals down earlier in the fourth quarter.
“Clem came up against one of the best shooters in the country and also the world,” Jencke said.
“To be able to go head-to-head with ‘C-Bass’ and gain that experience was really valuable for her today. She’ll learn a lot from it. It will be better for Clem each week.
“She came out at valuable times and was a pest and created turnovers which was fantastic for her to do and for the team.”
Although happy with her side showing their battling qualities after the long break, Jencke rued a rare drop of standards in the second quarter, when the Firebirds were outscored 16-10 and put themselves in danger of losing the first Queensland derby.
“We were a little bit flat in the second quarter,” Jencke said.
“We weren’t working hard enough, our intensity level dropped. We weren’t putting enough pressure on them in their first phase and contesting the ball really hard.”