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Thomas-Johnson steps up as Mystics end WBBL regular season on a high

  Saturday, April 22, 2017

Manchester Mystics completed their regular season schedule in the WBBL with a 79-71 victory over Oaklands Wolves in front of a sizeable crowd at the National Basketball Performance Centre.

Lauren Thomas-Johnson led Mystics with 25 points and 10 rebounds, playing out of her usual position to compensate for the absence of fellow Great Britain international Dominique Allen.

The lack of a recognised center caused Mystics a few early problems, as Oaklands started stronger on the boards. This enabled the lower-ranked visitors to take advantage of extra opportunities to score inside and keep the game tight at 35-27 at the end of the first half.

However, Thomas-Johnson came out firing after the interval, scoring her team’s first eight points of the second half. Mystics pushed the lead out as high as 18 points early in the fourth quarter and at that stage it was unassailable.

Thomas-Johnson commented: “Because we’ve not got Dominique and I’ve been playing the big man, I just feel like I’ve had to step up in the sense of rebounding and making sure I’m boxing out. I’m guarding a big now, so there’s pressure to be a bit stronger.

“I actually have a new-found respect for big men, because they have to fight and fight on defence and then have to fight and fight on offence to get position. It’s tiring.”

Mystics’ guard unit also showed fight, with Georgia Jones making an impact despite struggling to find her best shooting form. Jones dished out nine assists – a category in which she is almost certain to finish as the league’s leader for 2016-17 – to go with 13 points.

The final 79-71 scoreline somewhat flattered Oaklands, as Kyla Nelson hit a speculative three-pointer from almost halfway on the final buzzer to keep the margin of defeat within single digits. The youthful Wolves finish the season with an unwanted 0-18 record and the wooden spoon.

By contrast, the Mystics – who themselves propped up the WBBL table just a year ago – are guaranteed to finish at least fifth with their 12-6 record, and could place as high as third, depending on other results.

Mystics will be amongst the contenders in the WBBL playoffs, which begin next weekend, with opposition yet to be confirmed.

Thomas-Johnson added: “We’ve pretty much beaten everyone in the league, it’s just now that focus on doing it again. It’s hard to beat a team twice, it’s hard to beat a team three times and it’s especially hard to beat a team four teams. We’ve just got to focus, focus, focus.”

Report by Graeme Roberts

Image Credits: Mansoor Ahmed

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