Captain Lauren Mansfield was stretched out on the medical bench, looking as far as the eyes could see after the game to a long queue of eager autograph hunters.
The unwanted attention was not by design after the 28-year-old Australian Opal guard was resting her ankle up from a nasty fall that at first sight on Saturday night could have been a possible season-ending injury.
“Her ankle is sprained – it’s no biggie,” Launceston Tornadoes coach Derrick Washington assured fans.
“There’s no break.”
The gasps halfway through the final quarter had marred a dominant 76-63 victory over Sydney Uni Sparks at Elphin Sports Centre.
Mansfield’s injury came about in such an innocuous circumstances.
She looked to squeeze past two Sparks defenders when her ankle struck the knee of rival guard Shanae Greaves.
Mansfield did first hobble and had to be carried off the court, as the Tornadoes were up comfortably by 16 points.
Team physiotherapist Scott Beetson was quick to treat the injury as team manager Jenn Hegarty comforted a distressed Mansfield.
The injury even provoked Sparks coach Belinda Snell, a teammate of Mansfield’s in the Opals Asian Cup campaign last year, to check on the star’s welfare.
A cool Washington was playing down the injury, but admitted he was concerned that less than a month back from her playing in Europe the Tornadoes could have lost Mansfield indefinitely.
“At the end, that’s my general,” he said. “Since I have had my general back, we’ve been balling through.
“She’ll be right, we’ll tape her ankle and she’ll be cool.”
But Washington could not commit to her return next week or anything past that.
The Tornadoes started the home clash in brilliant touch.
But unlike past two games where the side has piled on 91 points and then a SEABL season-record 115, it was defence that was their focus.
At one stage, the scoreline read 17-5 late in the hosts’ favour during the first quarter.
“I told them before the game if you want to win this game, we have to play real defence,” Washington said
“That’s where we started out. Emma Haywood play defence tonight, Ally Wilson did, Lauren Mansfield did, everybody contributed at the defensive end.
“We rebounded the ball as a committee. I’ve always said we have to do it together and they came out real solid.”
The Torns stretched the lead out to a 41-29 score to equal that of the first term before Uni put on seven consecutive points to end the half.
But nine points in the first 75 seconds of the second half put pay to an upset result.
Ally Wilson scored a team-high 21 points, Emma Haywood in a breakout game shot 17, Lauren Nicholson was dangerous with 15, Lauren Mansfield added 12 before injury and Ellie Collins 11 points, ensuring the starting five shot all points.
“Anybody can have a good night in our team,” he said.
“We want to make sure we emphasise team.
“If we continue to do that and stay with my vision of what I have, I think the sky’s the limit.”