Saturday, February 11, 2017
Manchester Mystics bowed out of the WBBL Trophy with a 59-71 loss to Nottingham Wildcats in their final group game at the National Basketball Performance Centre.
Jeff Jones’s team have already beaten the Wildcats twice this season, including in the WBBL Cup final, but it was third time lucky for the visitors as their superior energy and shooting to gain a little revenge and book their spot in the semi-final.
Ashley Harris, who despite being the league’s top scorer had been relatively quiet in the two previous encounters between the two sides, put on a dominant display this time around, with a huge double-double of 25 points and 17 rebounds.
Harris was backed up by the dependable Siobhan Prior, who had 17 points and eight rebounds, while Portuguese guard Joana Ferreira pushed the pace and showed some superb passing skills on her way to nine points and eight assists.
After a fairly even start to the game, Nottingham pulled out to a 10-point lead late in the second quarter, only for Mystics to close the gap to four by the interval. The Wildcats came out firing in the third quarter, hitting the first seven points to regain a double-digit advantage, leaving Mystics playing catch-up for the rest of the game.
Despite the best efforts of Dominique Allen, who collected 18 points, 16 rebounds and five steals, and Amy Browne’s solid showing of 16 points and six rebounds, Mystics were unable to overturn the Wildcats’ lead.
Georgia Jones added 10 points and nine rebounds, but struggled with her shot, making just four of her 18 field goal attempts in the game, while Mystics as a team hit only four three-pointers to the Wildcats’ eight. Mystics were also out-rebounded 48-36 in the absence of Nicola Welling and in a contest that had a low foul count given how physical it was at times.
Coach Jones was philosophical about the defeat, accepting that his team were second best on the night. Jones said: “They came ready to play. They were hungrier than we were. They were just ready to go and we weren’t.
“I’d say they executed a little bit better than us. Defensively they did a pretty good job on us. They just played a better basketball game. Sometimes that happens.
“They lose people but they replace them and they still have Harris who’s a really good player. I think some of their other players stepped up a little bit today that hadn’t done in the last couple of games.
“We’re a finesse team and whether the game was played that cleanly or not is irrelevant – you do whatever you have to do to beat the team you’re playing and we have to learn how to cope with the physicality of it and respond better.”
Mystics now turn their focus to the WBBL Championship and face four consecutive games on the road, starting with an instant rematch against Nottingham on 19th February. They then travel to Leicester, Barking Abbey and Cardiff before their next home fixture against Team Northumbria on 8th April.
Report by Graeme Roberts