LATROBE City Energy suffered losses in both men’s and women’s BigV division one season openers at Traralgon on Saturday.
AMERICAN import Ashton Pitts stepped off the plane and straight on to court for Energy’s round one clash with Blackburn Vikings, and made an immediate impact on debut.
In 26 minutes of court time the six foot eight signing pulled down a game high 16 rebounds to go with 13 points, three assists and two blocks.
The only blight on the big man’s game was a touch of inaccuracy, shooting 35.3 percent from the field, a problem shared by the side at large as it went down 81-69.
“Ash is going to be really good for us… he struggled a little bit early offensively to find his rhythm in the system but with a couple more training sessions I’d expect an even better performance this week,” coach Les Stothard said.
“But 13 points and 16 rebounds in his first game after being in the country less than 48 hours is a testament to the sort of player he is going to be for us.”
Energy jumped out to a four-point advantage by the first break, but managed just 26 points to the Vikings’ 47 in the following two quarters.
Latrobe City recovered to win the final quarter 27-22 but could not salvage the spoils after shooting under 40 per cent in field goals for the match.
“We started quite well and brought the energy and intensity that we wanted to, but to give up 27 points in the second quarter was, to say the least very, average and in the end it was probably the difference in the game,” Stothard said.
Calvin Rees made his presence felt at both ends with four blocks, 12 points and seven rebounds, six of which were on the defensive end.
Billy Hughes was accurate in his 20-minute spell, hitting three of four shots from outside the perimeter, as Energy went through 12 troops on the night.
Jordan Canovan failed to have his usual influence, netting with just three of 15 field goal attempts, while the returning Vashon Weaver fared little better with two of eight sticking.
“While it is a little concerning the guys didn’t shoot the ball well I wouldn’t expect it to be a problem in the coming weeks,” Stothard said.
“Our preparation wasn’t great, we hadn’t trained a lot through CBL and other commitments.
“With Ashton coming in it probably threw out the balance a little bit and we’ve got to learn how to play together again.”
A full four quarters from Carly Mullen-Bianconi was not enough to get Energy across the line against Craigieburn Eagles in a 75-64 loss at home.
Lining up without American import Lindsay Horbatuck, whose clearance from Bulgarian side Haskovo did not come through in time for round one, Mullen-Bianconi played well above her height in the centre role.
She posted a double-double with 20 points and 13 boards, backed up by 38-minute marathon woman Mikaela Dickson with 16 points.
“Carly was absolutely fantastic… when we add Lindsay to the team they’re going to be quite a good pairing,” coach Andrew Harlow said.
Energy went to the main break on level pegging at 39-all, but the Eagles broke away in a 23-12 third term, which proved the difference at the final siren.
Using just seven players to the Eagles’ 12, fresh legs proved pivotal as the match progressed.
“Without Lindsay we were a little bit thin on the ground but we had to go with what we had,” Harlow said.
An extra 16 rebounds and better return from the free throw line, along with superior height, allowed Craigieburn to dictate terms.
“Our girls were absolutely brilliant to be honest; we had limited preparation and it just happened to be size in the end, we were just a little bit small… and the bigs got on top of us,” Harlow said.
Despite losing Jamilee and Danni Pearce to Southern Peninsula, Harlow said he was confident with his squad moving forward.
“It was extremely positive and very encouraging for the rest of the season… there’s a good core group of girls there.”
Both sides play at home again on Saturday against Camberwell Dragons.