‘Poised under pressure’: Riley controls the pace of Lady Breakers

By Meg Saultry

Controlling Benalla’s offence this season has been the job of Isabella Riley.

In her first season at CBL level, it’s been a fast, but impressive rise for the teen.

With Benalla putting its first women's team on the court this year, the 16-year-old returned to join the side after playing most of her basketball in Shepparton. 

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The point guard, whose job is to control the pace and offence of the game, has also proven to be the Breakers’ best shooter by far, sinking 126 points across nine games for an average of 14 points a game.

While Riley said her shooting was below her own standard, there is no denying her abilities on court as she steers the Breakers week in, week out.

“At Shepparton, you control the pace and everyone’s relaxed, so I’ve picked it up from there,” Riley said.

“You come back here and if you take control, everyone else will be controlled and poised.”

Riley said there had been plenty to learn in her first outing in a women’s league, but she continues to take it all in her stride.

“It was a big step up obviously playing against more solid women and people a lot older than me,” she said.

“You’re taking the harder hits, so it is about being more controlled because there are a lot more taller or bigger players who can drive past you quicker.

“You’ve just got to kind of chill and relax, and don’t put too much pressure on yourself.

“If you stuff up, you just keep going.” 

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Riley’s season with the Breakers caps off an impressive 12 months of sport, with the teen also taking out the Benalla Saints’ under-17 netball best-and-fairest award back in September.

And it seems the two sports come hand-in-hand when it's time to perform on court.

“I've always found if you play basketball, it helps with netball,” she said.

“You’re a lot more controlled, you know to settle and watch the pass and how to take a lot of intercepts. That helps a lot with my game.”

Riley may also be in with a chance of more accolades this basketball post-season, having been nominated for the CBL All-Star Five, alongside teammate Chelsea Gilcrist.

Riley said it was a “bit of a shock” to be nominated for the honour. 

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“It was quite overwhelming actually, to be nominated considering our team is brand new and I’m playing against players who have played state and Country Cup,” she said.

Riley will play in the VJBL with the North East Bushrangers this winter, as well as returning to line up for the Saints’ junior netball squad in the GVL.