Month: November 2016

Manchester Mystics

Manchester Mystic U14 win at Derby Trailblazers

Last Saturday, Mystics U14s travelled to Derby to face the Trailblazers yet I couldn’t find any cowboys on view. (I could now go for a cheap shot and say ‘apart from the refs’ but that would be unfair!) I took 11 players, an awkward number to give meaningful minutes to, even in easy games. I did manage to get all 11 on court in both halves which, in a contest which was relatively close throughout, is no easier than climbing Mount Everest in flip-flops!

On a day when each of our 5 starters, Courtney Kenyon-Betts, Holly Bryan, Ellie Atherton, Beth McLoughlin and Lucy Bryan, made major contributions at one end or the other (and at both for 2 or 3 of them), it was they who were guilty of ignoring one of the 10 Commandments in that they stole the show. We won the game for two main reasons. We played superb team defence and we generally did the simple things well. Mega-talented Serbian superstars are able to thread bounce passes through the eye of a needle but most connoisseurs of the game will agree that u14 girls tend not to be able to.(Lol.) When they over-use the bounce pass, it usually results in a turnover or a spillage. Either one causes a mess so we actively encourage our youngsters to use it sparingly. (Very sparingly.) During this game such passes were spotted as often as the cowboys. This, plus less frequent attempts at forcing difficult passes, meant that we turned the ball over on fewer occasions than we did in our one lost game versus Nottingham.

There are still spells when wearing bibs of a non-sporting kind would have been useful due to unnecessary over-dribbling but, thankfully, the message seems to be slowly getting through that, in a team game, it is essential to share the ball and give as many people as possible the chance to contribute. Most of our number have also come to realise that good defensive footwork and pressure on the ball regularly results in opponents presenting us with the ball so that there is no need to risk silly, unwanted fouls by going for tentative steals off the dribble.

Against a significantly taller team blessed with quickness, it is very much to the girls’ credit that they were able to run such a devastating fast break so often in the first quarter. Devastating, that is, until it came to putting the ball through the hoop. We missed enough chances for any severe critic to label as as ‘hoopless.’ Whilst being far from that, we must become more clinical and finish lay ups ‘with our eyes.’ Instead of a comfortable lead, we finished the first period 6 less than that well-known lemonade, 7-up, at 13-12. Courtney and Holly were as reliable and brilliant as ever in their roles of subduing Derby’s two main offensive weapons (a canon and a flame-thrower!) while Beth’s pin-point, bounceless, passes to Lucy and Ellie, who were both back to their best, were a joy to behold (and to catch!) I was, however, concerned that the opposition’s impressive number 6, Katie Januszewska might end up scoring as many points as her name would get in a game of Scrabble!

Our first five remained influential as they mixed with our six other players, Lilja Toland, Charli Wroe, Olivia Forster, Lauren Addy, Elli Hatton and Kadeja Mohammed, all of whom contributed to some degree to our domination of the second quarter. Derby could find no way through our team defence which proved as unforgiving as any wife is when her husband forgets her birthday. A team sufficiently talented to average almost 70 points per game, failed to score any for the first 9 minutes of the quarter, giving us a 27-15 advantage going into half-time.

We came out a bit too complacently after the interval, giving up 3 baskets due to defence which was as slack as the over-sized jumpers my mother used to knit for me.This was addressed via a time-out and with lessons learned, the girls reminded me of that car programme on tv as they went into top gear. Ellie and Lucy benefited from more passes that were slicker than a hair smeared with Brylcream from Beth, Courtney and Holly to notch 12 combined points in a mere 3 minutes and u13, Lilja subsequently gave a promising all-round display which bodes well for next year as we raced into a 43-21 lead. Holly then rubber-stamped proceding with 4 baskets in a row to extend the margin to 25 so that the remaining 9 minutes could then be devoted principally to the 6 non-starters who gave it their all and only allowed the hosts to eat gently into our lead so that we eventually ran out 57-36 winners against very worthy opponents in a game played most sportingly in great spirit.

I want to finish by praising our bench. We win and lose as a team. I was so pleased to see nearly all of our players encouraging one-another, cheering each other on and generally being very positive when waiting for their opportunity to shine. As everyone is aware, even though we are a National League team rather than a Community one, in our less demanding fixtures, I always ensure that every single player gets to play almost equal minutes. This is not possible in tougher games and I do appreciate that the vast majority of parents and players accept this and put our team first. Thank you for that.

Thank you also to my able assistants James and Sammy for all their time and effort and to all parents for their support, even the ones who almost got red cards!

Jim Carnegie

Manchester Mystics

Manchester Mystics U14 win at Stockport Lapwings and at home to Tameside Royals

Mystics U14s’ 2 games over last week-end, although both against ‘local rivals,’ were always going to be as different as ballroom dancing and rugby league. On Saturday we faced Stockport’s young, inexperienced side who never gave up and did all they could to be competitive but found things as challenging as a fridge participating in the Olympic high jump. With no less than 8 Mystics hitting double figures, including 20 from our youngest player, Olivia Forster who still has 2 more seasons in this age group, the 119-14 ‘pressless’ scoreline reflects the fact that our girls weren’t really stretched. (This is a pity because we are in genuine need of more height!)

Such an outing was far from ideal preparation for Sunday’s top of the table clash versus Tameside. They, like us, had gone down only to Nottingham but they had subsequently beaten Nottingham, to leave the 3 teams, plus Sheffield, who we had defeated, all with a single loss following very close outcomes in every contest. This fixture, too, was expected to be as tight as wearing shoes which are 2 sizes too small.

We had a game plan but theory and practice don’t always go hand in hand. After all, the England footballers had a game plan against Iceland and look how badly they slipped up! We suffered a pre-game setback when we learned that the influential Charli Wroe had added a couple more dates to extend her North American tour by a couple of days and so would be missing from our line-up for a third consecutive game. Our starting 5, the ever-improving quintet of of Courtney Kenyon-Betts, Holly Bryan, Lucy Bryan, Beth McLoughlin and Ellie Atherton were like poets in that they were well-versed as to which individual they would be responsible for. These match-ups appeared to be working as smoothly as an expensive Swiss watch early on as we raced into a 12-4 lead with all 5 scoring for us.

From a position as strong as the long-haired Samson, we then faltered just as he did following his schoolboy error visit to the hairdressers because we inexplicably moved away from doing the simplest thing to get the job done to the most complicated. We opted to look for killer passes and forced shots for the closing 2 minutes of the first quarter and paid the price. The watch was now tocking when it should have been ticking which set off alarm bells (which, appropriately is designed to wake you up!) It was now 12-10 (the score, not the time!). Was the timepiece broken or did it merely need rewinding?

I asked the players to slow down and get back to playing no-risk basketball. They did precisely that and this enabled us to totally nullify Tameside’s press which brings them so much success. Offensively, Holly, who was magnificent from minute 1 to minute 37 (when she finally got a well-deserved rest) and Ellie who was almost back to her best following injury, proved as hard to stop as molten volcanic lava while Courtney again showed why I consider her to be as good an on-the-ball defender as anyone I have seen at this level in 43 years of coaching. (I began coaching when I was only six!) At various times in this second period, Lilja Toland, Ellie Hatton and young Olivia also played a big part defensively to limit the normally free-scoring Tamesiders to just 4 points over the entire 10 minutes. This, combined with a willingness to share the ball more permitted us to dominate the quarter to the tune of 18-4 ans go into half-time 30-14 to the good even though, if I’m being critical, and I am being critical, we squandered more opportunities to add to our tally than most women have pairs of shoes that they never wear!

After the break, Lauren Addy and Lucy Bryan did very well to help maintain our defensive intensity throughout the third period during which we created enough situations to be like burglars and run away with the booty but some of our finishing was wayward as a broken sat-nav. Nevertheless, we still managed to increase the margin by 5 by playing with great determination and concentration, particularly on defence. The attitude of the whole team was akin to that of most cyclists at traffic lights – nothing was going to stop us from getting to where we wanted to get to.

The fourth quarter saw more of the same and was notable for the commitment and fighting spirit shown, in particular, by Beth and Ellie H, as well as an appearance by Kadeja who wasted no time in showing what a good passer she has become. The 53-27 victory ultimately turned out to be as comfortable as fur-lined slippers and was achieved largely due to outstanding team defence. This limited powerful opponents, who came into the game averaging a staggering 102 points per game over their previous 7 outings, to a mere quarter of that with no opponent managing to score more than 4 points- an amazing achievement which contained as much energy as a giant-sized packet of Duracell batteries in a display that was as dominant as a giraffe in a ‘which animal has the longest neck’ contest. Next up is Derby away. Stay focused girls!

Many thanks to James and Sammy for the terrific jobs they do as assistant coach and team manager plus all parents for their wonderful support.

Jim Carnegie

Jones and Allen GB squad

GB Women miss out on place at EuroBasket

GB Women suffered a 71 -52 defeat against Italy in Lucca on Saturday night ending their hopes of a place at this summer’s EuroBasket. Mystics’ Georgia Jones played 20 minutes had 5 points, 3 assists and a steal.

GB finished their schedule of qualifiers with a 55 – 97 victory over Albania in Tirana on Wednesday night to finish 3rd in Group C with 3 wins and 3 losses. Georgia Jones played 17 minutes had 2 points and 2 assists while Dominique Allen played 10 minutes and had 2 points and 2 rebounds.

Manchester Mystics

Mystics U14 narrowly beaten by Nottingham

Following on from yet another game as untaxing as the havens of Jersey and the Isle of Man against the very young Tameside Royals back up squad which our U14s sauntered gently through 100-19, Mystics were suddenly required to step about 5 levels to compete with championship rivals, Nottingham Wildcats. We almost managed it but ended up losing a very tough, even contest by a slender 4 points.

We missed two key elements, not hydrogen or argon but leading scorer, Charli Wroe plus too many high percentage shots which proved as costly as letting my wife loose with my credit card, against highly disciplined, much bigger and often uncompromising opponents who used their size advantage to good effect. As we tend to do against the better sides, we started poorly to trail by 6 at 5-11 five minutes in. In such a close game, this ultimately proved crucial. Our first four offenses proved as fruitless as a dead apple tree due to sloppy passing. An early substitution put an end to this and improved our team defence but did nothing to assist our offensive efficiency which struggled to find a way through a packed key. We remained as potent as watered down shandy until I re-introduced Beth McLoughlin. She responded with a 3 and a 2 while the outstanding Holly Bryant hit her seventh point of the quarter to complete our mini-revival which saw us shade the quarter 12-11.

Having settled down, we had given glimpses of some effective ball and player movement with the two Ronnies, sorry Ellies, prominent. This continued to be the case for the opening 5 minutes of the second period with a second 3 from Beth and two 2s from Lucy Bryant who came into the game like someone caught in the rain without an umbrella- under the weather- and one each from Holly and the unshakeable Courtney Kenyon-Betts. With these two also doing a wonderful job containing the opposition’s star performers, DJ Cassanova and Laetitia Willis, things were looking as rosey as Noddy’s cheeks and Fergie’s nose combined at 23-13.

Nottingham’s response was to sink even deeper in the key to make it as congested as the M6 at rush hour. Our response to this was to over-dribble and then try to force a pass through a space as tight as Pavarotti’s neck in a size 10 collar. Unsurprisingly, our scoring suddenly took on the look of a plum turning into a prune. It dried up. A brain freeze then resulted in an unnecessary foul which saw Nottingham convert 2 free throws prior to a 3 pointer to close the gap to 23-20 at half-time.

Despite the under-par beginning and end to the half, we remained confident of maintaining our unbeaten record provided that we had movement on offense and played smart defence. We managed both for most of the third period with Holly and Courtney showing great composure but, with just one minute of the 10 to go, we gave up our 4 point lead due to more silly fouls, presenting our opponents with a string of free-throws which enabled them to draw level at 32-32.

An unexpected twist to events at the outset of the fourth quarter then caught us on the hop via a totally unforeseen scoring spree from Nottingham’s biggest player, Natalie Skathaki. Lauren Addy had done a terrific job in limiting her influence but her 11 points in  only 5 minutes swung the game in the visitor’s favour. Trailing 39-43, we had sufficient opportunities to regain the lead but poor finishing, missing 7 free throws in a row, a disinclination to share the ball and a touch of bad luck with 3 shots rouletting round the ring and spinning out rather than in, denied us in spite of a generally excellent all-round defensive display

To the girls credit, we did cut the deficit from 7 to 3 by playing with real intensity in the final stages but ran out of time to finish 43-47. The disappointment displayed after the final whistle may be upsetting but it does mean that the girls don’t like losing. We should be able to use this positively to spur everyone on to work harder in training and learn from our mistakes so that we can raise our level over the rest of the season. We will be put to the test next Sunday at home to Tameside who. like us, Nottingham and Sheffield, have lost just once so far.

Thanks to James, Sammy, Phil and Chloe for their assistance and to all parents for their much-valued support and co-operation.

Jim Carnegie

Jones and Allen GB squad

Mystics invited to GB Women’s training camp for EuroBasket Qualifiers in November

Mystics’ Dominique Allen and Georgia Jones selected in the final 16 players invited to the GB Women’s training camp for the upcoming EuroBasket Qualifiers in November. The squad also includes former Mystic Mollie Campbell. GB face two away ties against Italy (at Palatagliate, Lucca, Italy on Saturday 19th November) and Albania (at Tirana, Asllan Rusi, Albania, on Wednesday 23rd November), both games are away, needing victory in Italy to keep their hopes alive of making it to EuroBasket in Czech Republic

Full squad here

Duane Morgan

Magic add American Duane Morgan

The Manchester Magic have added 6′ 7″ American big man Duane Morgan to their roster for the 2016-17 season. Duane is available to play this weekend at Lancashire Spinners on Saturday at 5:45pm and at Team Northumbria on Sunday at 4:00pm.

Morgan, from New Jersey, attended Adelphi University, a Division 2 College of NE-10 conference (the same conference as Ellis Cooper) on the East Coast, where he averaged 9.9 points per game and 4.9 rebounds per game across his 4-year career between 2011-2015. Last season he was playing professionally in Argentina before getting injured.