Destroyer 'AJ' gives birthday girl extra help
BASKETBALL: Having just celebrated her 19th birthday, Rachel Mate was feeling upbeat about her latest match for Ipswich.
However, even she never expected what was about to happen at Llewellyn Stadium this afternoon.
Mate's new teammate Amanda "AJ” Johnson turned on an awesome display, finishing with 42 points in just her second state league match.
The American's powerhouse performance secured Ipswich's victory 101-78 over Logan Thunder after a tough first half battle.
Having been equal top point-scorer in Ipswich's season-opening win over Cairns, Mate made another terrific contribution today with 17 points.
But she could only watch in awe as AJ took command of the match before being rested late in the game.
"She hit one and I just turned and looked wide-eyed, (thinking) oh my God,'' Mate said.
"She's just giving up all this energy the way she plays . . . and gets us all going so that's so valuable.''
In her second season with Force, Mate was relaxed and at ease about being a key member of the 2018 side.
"I'm feeling good. I'm real happy to be back,'' she said.
"It's a really nice atmosphere again this year, making you feel comfortable.''
The second year psychology student said her new teammate AJ was fulfilling another valuable role.
With Californian player Johnson also having a Degree in psychology, Mate has someone handy to proof read her assignments.
Although Force won yesterday's match comfortably in the end, Mate said it was a credit to the team's commitment after a seesawing first half.
"Brad (head coach Brad George) just said in the changeroom we sort of weathered the storm the whole time,'' Mate said.
"In the championship quarter, we just put the foot down and got up.''
After Force established an early 10-2 lead with Mate influential, Logan hit the lead, holding on to be 19-17 up at the end of the first quarter.
A Catherine MacGregor three-pointer early in the second quarter kept Ipswich in touch before "AJ'' and captain Bree Farley stepped up to build Force's 48-40 advantage.
In the third quarter, Logan came back strongly again before AJ completed her one-woman demolition job.
With Pat Benatar's Hit Me With Your Best Shot playing around Llewellyn Stadium, Force consolidated to go into the final break 72-60 ahead.
In the final 10 minutes, Johnson shot her points tally into the forties, before earning a well-deserved rest with her team up by 20 points.
That gave MacGregor, Loie Webb, Iris Cubit and Emilee Tahata some valuable minutes as the Force women prepare for back-to-back away matches against Brisbane and Southern Districts.
Mate was expecting an intense battle next against her former Brisbane team.
She was thrilled to be enjoying more court time with her Queensland under-21 teammate Kate Head, who has stepped up early in the season.
"She was just fantastic in that. It's so good to transfer into the QBL as well,'' Mate said.
State of play
QBL Women: Ipswich Force 101 (Amanda Johnson 42, Rachel Mate 17) def Logan Thunder 78 at Llewellyn Stadium.
Next match: Saturday v Brisbane Capitals at NAB Stadium.