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Ballarat in a rush to the playoffs
After starting the season 1-11, the Ballarat Rush are bringing themselves into playoff contention with three wins from their past five games, intensifying the East Conference finals race in the final five rounds of the regular season.
Making the tough call to go with their juniors and release new additions such as Jess May could be looked back on as a masterstroke as Ballarat's game-play has significantly improved since that decision.
A 20-point win over fellow cellar-dwellers Sandringham was a positive start and it was followed by just a one-point loss to the Centre of Excellence the following day. In Round 11, they trounced last year's Championships Brisbane by 12 points, holding them to 54 points on 32% shooting.
A loss to the South Conference leaders Hobart ensued but they got back on track last weekend with a strong 65-62 defeat of Geelong, who sit second in the East. Their defence has been the hallmark of the victories, averaging just 61 points against in their past five games compared to 80 before then.
In her third SEABL season, Abbey Wehrung has led the charge with 17.4 points per game, up from her career average of 12. She ended a run of five straight matches with 20+ points last round but still scored 19 against the Lady Supercats to take her average in the past six games to 22.5.
She has been ably assisted by Olivia Thompson (12 points and a team-high nine rebounds per game) and Shanae Greaves (11 and 6). Veteran Kristy Rinaldi's two double-doubles for the year have also been achieved in the past three matches and her leadership on the court will prove valuable for the likes of Eliza Roughead, Molly Matthews and Kasey Burton down the track.
The Rush still sit four wins behind fourth placed Brisbane with five matches remaining but two of those are against sides that will most likely not make the playoffs in Albury-Wodonga and Frankston while the Lady Spartans would only mark down their clashes with Canberra as games they should win.
Further adding to their playoff credentials, Ballarat own the second best recent form in the conference with only Dandenong bettering them. Brisbane have dropped three of their past four while Nunawading is not safe in third place either as they are in free-fall after Bec Cole's injury, losing four of their last five.
It would be a fairy-tale run to the finals if the Rush were to make it but after missing out last season, they must keep the dream alive while the possibility is there.