LAST year's QBL women's bridesmaids Bundaberg Radiology Bears know exactly how much they have to improve if they are to go one better this season after being given a lesson by Gladstone Port City Power on Saturday night.
The Power again showed why they are favourites to make it a hat-trick of titles, delighting their big home crowd with an impressive 105-88 victory over the Bears to maintain their perfect record in four matches this campaign.
Bundaberg men's team the Bulls was competitive against the Power but also lost 89-78, with former long-serving Bundaberg champion Todd Meyerding playing a key role for Gladstone.
The Bears matched the high flyers in the first term of their first league clash since the grand final in August last year, with scores locked together at 30-all at quarter-time.
But Gladstone turned up the heat and took control by easily winning the next two quarters 27-16 and 30-21 respectively before Bundaberg reduced the deficit by outscoring them 21-18 in the last 10 minutes.
The Power simply had too many guns with their Australian representatives Natalie Hurst and Jessica Bibby turning in signature performances, with Hurst playing the full match for a 26-point haul and Bibby chalking up 28 points in her 36m 12sec on the court.
Rebecca Haynes similarly had a whale of a game, also playing every minute and weighing in with 22 points and 20 rebounds, while Diana Neves had 20 to her name.
The Bears' star American import Yvonne Turner racked up 28 points while Alice Honnery sank 15 points and grabbed 10 rebounds, but the Power's greater depth came to the fore.
After beating Maroochydore first-up, the Bears have two losses in a row and they have no respite in sight with a tough road double-header against Townsville and Cairns this Friday and Saturday before another away double against Maroochydore and South West Metro.
The Bulls served it up to the Power, leading 23-22 at quarter-time and 66-65 at three-quarter time despite being outscored 26-17 in the second period. But Gladstone powered home, doubling Bundaberg's return 24-12 in the last 10 minutes.
Bundaberg big gun, American Will Shackleford, bounced back after being kept quiet by Gold Coast a week early, spending all but 38 seconds in the heat of battle and notching a dynamic double of a game high 34 points and 21 rebounds.
Fellow American Rodrick Stewart picked up 19 points while new signing Brent Wallace was eased into it with just 15:11 game time and stalwart Kyle Kiernan made a surprise early return from injury, getting through 35:09 and was solid as usual.
But Meyerding, who was sacked in controversial circumstances by the Bulls but still lives and works in Bundaberg, took great satisfaction in contributing to the Power's win with 11 points and seven rebounds, while fellow ex-Bull David Hard did well in his limited time of 8:22.