Mystics u14s game at Sheffield last October was a real humdinger which is also the name of a song by JJ Barnes, northern soul, check it out on youtube! We trailed for virtually the whole game but finished stronger than Hercules to sneak home by five, 48-43. Despite learning a great deal – wine gums £1 a bag at Asda- from this first encounter which I intended to use to our advantage (If I could remember what it was!), we all expected a similarly close fought- I use the word advisedly- contest on this occasion.
I was fully aware (for once) that it would be necessary to get the match-ups right. (I even considered contacting E-harmony!) We would also have to find ways to subdue the threat of Sheffield’s 2 main scorers as well as dealing with their considerable height advantage. (High heels were not an option!)
Given the depth of our squad, I was confident we would give a good account of ourselves. Little did I know- a phrase often directed at me by my dear wife!- that I was about to witness as comprehensive a TEAM performance from a Mystics U14 side as I have seen for many years. I emphasise the word ‘team’ because we managed to overwhelm one of our main competitors while giving all 10 players meaningful court time, with each player making a positive contribution.
This has been a pleasing aspect of our season so far and means that we are less likely to tire in the second half than our opponents tend to (although I do occasionally doze off!) Today’s first half resembled a warm autumnal day (reasonably close!). The second half reminded me of someone extinguishing candles. It was a blow out!
As with any story, a good beginning was a must. Our 5 starters, Courtney Kenyon-Betts, Holly and Lucy Bryan, Beth McLoughlin and Charli Wroe, as opposed to 3 prawn cocktails and 2 soups, gave us exactly that. They came out of the blocks like greyhounds on speed! Beth, Lucy and Charli combined to pile up the points (22 in all) while Courtney and Holly were as miserly as Scrooge in restricting a team to only 11 in 10 minutes. (Half their normal tally.)
We had lost none of our efficiency or togetherness with the appearance of Ellie Atherton and Olivia Forster in the latter stages of the first quarter. The two of them always give all they’ve got and fitted in as well as my feet do into my favourite slippers. (Admittedly, not being rich, I do only have one pair!) Their introduction meant that I had now used 7 players and all 7 had been magnificent. ( Guess the film title!)
At this stage, against tough opponents, an 11 point lead is almost as healthy as 5 a day but could we re-produce an equally scintillating display in the second period? If we could, Sheffield would doubtless find it as difficult to turn things round as it would be to try to pick up ice cubes with chop sticks whilst wearing boxing gloves.
We couldn’t. Sheffield upped their defensive intensity and despite Holly now scoring almost as regularly as a brain-dead US President contrives to alienate fair-minded people, we could only add 2 to our lead at 36-23 by half-time. Before the tip, we would have been as happy as Larry, whoever he is, with a scoreboard showing us just one away from two well-known lemonade drinks- 13 up! However, what followed was more, much more, than any optimist could have hoped for. The work-rate and mental toughness displayed by all 10 Mystics, including the yet to be mentioned trio, Ellie Hatton, Lidja Toland and Lauren Addy was so impressive that it would have exceeded even Charles Dickens lofty expectations.
To win a quarter 23-5 against one of the best sides in the league is nearly as special as the Special One, old big head, thinks he is. We were now, incredibly, sitting on a massive 31 point lead at 59-28. Consequently, with no earthquakes forecast, I made more subs in the fourth quarter than were made for the Royal Navy during World War Two! In no way did this hinder the quality of our basketball. (I’m referring to our play, not the ball itself which is of dubious quality!) We bossed the final 10 minutes to the tune of 22-10 to finish with a dream-like 45 point margin of victory. (Fully 40 more than the last time we met Sheffield.) The 83-38 scoreline is not only a numerical palindrome, it also is even more astounding than it appears when one considers that, before this game, Sheffield averaged 77 points against all other opponents so far this season, conceding only 35 points per game.
Figures can, of course, be misleading- that’s why I find painting by numbers so confusing! – but the 8s and 3s here are a true reflection of our superiority on the day. With more demanding fixtures on the horizon, we must take heart from this but mustn’t get carried away by it. There remains all to play for.
Thanks to my trusted assistants Sammy and James for your truly valued help and to all our brilliant supporters.