Month: February 2017

Manchester Mystics

Mystics U14 win at Tameside Royals

Mystics U14s penultimate Northern Conference of the season at Tameside had as much riding on it as a 3 jockeyed horse in terms of both league position and, as far as the girls were concerned, all-important bragging rights. The winners would almost certainly be conference runners-up to Nottingham and go into the play-offs as #4 seeds, guaranteeing 2 potential home games up to the Final Fours against seed #13 (probably Derby) and then, if successful, seed #5 (probably Haringey.) The losers could not hope to be seeded any higher than #7 which would mean only 1 home game and a tough away game in the quarter finals. 

A reshuffled first five brought about by (justified) absence from training took the floor, knowing we would have to attack Tameside’s very effective press and find ways to restrict the prolific scoring of their #6, Maddy Owen. We had managed to do both very well in the home fixture which we won comfortably but today would be different.

We were faced with a court which had more lines than a Shakespeare play, a supportive home crowd and opponents desperate to avenge the loss from game one. it was a local derby, so local that several of the girls play in the same school side as one another and are good friends for most of the time. All this made it nothing short of a showdown! It was City v United, Arsenal v Totteringham, Bury v Rochdale! Even the referees (who were both excellent) were expecting a ‘very close game.’ 

We, too, had our usual loyal band of supporters so this game couldn’t have been played in a library. Even Beethoven would have been able to hear the noise! After a nervy couple of minutes, we settled down well and had the upper hand for most of the first quarter, taking a 15-9 lead despite missing more straightforward opportunities than normal, mainly due to rushing. Then with 2 minutes to go in the quarter, someone must have pushed the ‘feel free to do daft things’ button. We fell apart like an over-cooked leg of lamb, making more mistakes than I made on my first, disastrous driving test in about 1925! This allowed Tameside back into it at 15-14 and would have been even worse had they not missed all 3 of their free throws.

The mini-hangover looked in danger of becoming a maxi one for the first 5 minutes of the second period as our opponents went 20-22 up. I’m pleased to report that this was as bad as it got. The use of a cattle prod would have been my preferred option but, instead, I resorted to psychology to try to turn things round. Of course, it helps that this group of young ladies are incredibly tough mentally and never see anything as a lost cause. I’m going to write this next paragraph slowly, partly because both people who read this rubbish are slow readers and partly because I still can’t quite believe it myself.

For virtually the whole of the remaining 25 minutes Mystics were as irresistible as the finest cream cakes are to a hungry, greedy fat man with a sweet tooth. Purely by being more composed, we ran in an incredible 62 more points with all 10 team members playing their part either on court or on the bench as cheer leaders. Try as they might, Tameside were no more able to stem the flow than King Canute was whenever.

Each Mystic merits an honorable mention. Charli Wroe was outstanding. She dashed up and court like Usain Bolt. The only difference was that she’s small, white and female. He’s not! Holly Bryan ought to be nicknamed ‘Super Glue.’ This has nothing to do with solvent abuse. She simply holds everything together for us at both ends of the floor. She, too, stood out. Our ace defender, Courtney Kenyon-Betts was given the unenviable task of trying to subdue the physically bigger and stronger Maddy Owen, a role she had carried out almost to perfection in the first meeting. This time it proved more problematic but she again did a fine job here and in managing to nullify the press.  Lucy Bryan makes me feel tired just watching her play! She puts me in mind of the Spencer Davis song of the 1960s, ‘Keep on running.’ She never stopped! Her body must contain more energy than a whole crate of Lucozade. Lilja Toland is a good listener and continues to improve. She gave us a performance as polished as a shelf load of Pledge, particularly on defence where she made more steals than the Artful Dodger and played with her usual aplomb to give a masterclass in how to play on and off the ball defence.

Off the bench, Ellie Atherton once more found herself matched up largely with much bigger players. This never daunts her and she showed her usual determination and doggedness. She worked extremely hard and gave us defensive stability when we needed it most despite being knocked over more often than a punch-drunk boxer! Beth McLoughlin played a big part in our initial revival, going hard to basket to get to the foul line and converting most of her free throws. Foul trouble did again limit her minutes but when not on court her input was equally valuable. She was our choir mistress and this helped spur her team on to such an emphatic victory. Ellie Hatton played every second of the third quarter and gave us a classic example of how to play help defence without fouling. Yes, without fouling! (In joke!) She has the capacity to sniff out danger and can be justifiably proud of her contribution. Lauren Addy was going to be our foil to Tameside’s biggest player, G. Ikeh. However, G. Ikeh did not get on court so unfortunately, Lauren got less playing time than most of her team-mates on this occasion. That said, during her 2 spells on court, she played with assurance and confidence, rebounded well and got better and better defensively. Last but by no means oldest, Olivia Forster, with 2 years still left at this level, again did not look out of place. She got stuck in, as always, providing positive moments on and off the ball. She will be a force to be reckoned with in the coming seasons.

Thanks to James, Sammy and Ethan for their unswerving assistance. Thanks, too, to all those who gave their whole-hearted support which we can’t do without.

Next up, on Sunday, we host an accomplished Derby side and will need to be fully focused if we are to avoid what all ice-skaters fear- a slip up!

Jim Carnegie

Rick Dell

Rick Dell has become the Manchester Basketball Centre’s new referees manager

Rick Dell has become the Manchester Basketball Centre’s new Referees Manager.

His appointment will help the club improve standards of officiating at the venue and help nurture the next generation of referees.

A Level 3 referee with more than 20 years’ experience, Rick will begin his role on Monday, 27 February.

His primary focus will be on the club’s community leagues that run on Monday and Friday evenings.

He will also run courses for would-be referees and those looking to move up the officiating ladder.

“I am very happy to be joining a great basketball organisation,” says Rick.

“I am very much looking forward to improving standards and helping referees develop so they can be successful in the National League.”

Trafford Magic U16 Spain

Trafford Magic U16s end Madrid trip on winning note

Trafford Magic claimed a dramatic 50-47 win over Swedish side Malbas to take third spot in the Under 16 event at the International Chus Mateo Academy Tournament in Madrid.

Coached by Aurimas Verbukas and mainly made up of Under 15 players, Magic began with a 99-43 defeat to Finnish team PHYK.

They were beaten 66-24 by local outfit Fuenlabrada and also lost 79-71 to Malbas in their final group game.

But they dug deep on the final day to beat Malbas in the battle for third place and finish the tournament on a high.

PHYK, who could count a number of Finnish internationals in their line-up, were crowned champions.

Trafford Magic U16 Madrid trip

See more photos from the Tournament on our Facebook Page here

Magic Trophy Winners 2017

Magic seal Trophy 3peat with win over London Lituanica

Manchester Magic maintained their spell over London Lituanica for a second weekend in succession to defend their National Trophy crown for the third year in a row with an authoritative  81-53 victory at Hertfordshire Sports Village on Sunday.

Having defeated their opponents 74-61 in NBL Division One League action a week ago, it was simply a case of different day, same story as the Magic achieved a swift double in League and Trophy over the club from the Capital.

The MVP Duane Morgan — Manchester Magic (@Mcr_Magic) February 19, 2017

A game-high 19 points, 5 rebounds, 6 steals and 2 blocks were more than enough for standout star Duane Morgan to emerge from this one-sided outing as the MVP.

Stefan Gill had 16 points and 8 assists, captain Jack Minister added 14 points and 6 rebounds and Simon Anumba 11 points and 8 rebounds.

“This was my first opportunity to play in a championship game and it’s a really good feeling to have won it.” Morgan said.

“We knew that we had to shut them down on defence, so that was a big emphasis for us, along with our high-tempo game.

“We now want to win the league and finish up as the number one side in Division One.

“There’s a great group of guys here at the Manchester Magic. They’ve been very welcoming and made me feel right at home. I feel like I’ve been playing with them for a long time. You want to play for your brothers and I feel like they are mine.”

Trafford Magic U16

Trafford Magic U16 off to Spanish Tournament

Trafford Magic Under 16s head to Spain this week to attend the International Chus Mateo Academy Tournament.

Trafford Magic U16 Head Coach Ollie Verbukas is excited about taking his team to Spain, he said: “The whole team is looking forward to this great opportunity to play and compete in the Chus Mateo Tournament in Spain, Madrid.

“This will help our U15 team a great deal and will give them a valuable experience playing against one of the best European clubs in Fluenabrada and against other top teams from Spain, Sweden and Finland.

“I would like to say a huge thank you to all the people that donated, helping the team be able to participate in the Tournament.”

The Tournament has 3 categories Under 14 and Under 16 Boys and Under 14 Girls, Trafford will face Under 16 teams from Finland, Sweden and Spain.

Tournament Schedule/Results (Times are Spanish times):
Friday 17th February
12:30pm Magic 43 – 99 HBA PHYK (Finland)
6:45pm Magic 24 – 66 CB Fuenlabrada (Spain)
Saturday 18th February
4:00pm Magic 71 – 79 Malbas (Sweden)
Sunday 19th February
12:30pm 3rd/4th place Magic 50 – 47 Malbas (Sweden)

Video of the games will be available here

(updated 19/02/2017 at 13:14)

Manchester Mystics

Mystics U14 lose close game at Nottingham

In a change of style, my report on this occasion will be divided into 2 categories- fact and opinion. Mystics U14s jaunt into the land of Maid Marion and Friar Tuck (a good name for a fast food chain- opinion!), to play the powerful Nottingham Wildcats, was destined to be better than any reality t.v. show in terms of quality, drama and excitement.(Opinion but very nearly fact.) As the top 2 teams in the Northern Conference, we had already been involved in a really close affair which saw Nottingham edge home by 4 (43-47) largely due to their vastly superior size advantage.(More or less fact.) Psychic Sally had predicted that a similarly even encounter was in store today. (Pure fantasy but likely to be a fact!)

After an all-too-brief warm up following an U16 game on our court (fact), we began sluggishly and were immediately put on the back foot due to a possible world record.(Mostly guesswork.) The home side’s first 6 offences all brought gifts for them. They scored with the first and drew fouls with the next 5 in quick succession.(Fact.) This meant that in less time than it takes me to burn toast, the foul count was 0-5 against us.(Undeniable fact.) Even more damaging, one of our least vertically challenged and most influential players, Holly Bryan had been blown for 2 fouls within the first 90 seconds.(Devastating, game changing fact.)

The impact of this was compounded by the fact (fact!) that in the first meeting between the 2 sides, Nottingham had had (sorry for the stutter) 1 starter- soup of the day- missing. As (bad) luck would have it, she, too, is yet another tall, athletic individual who could jump through the roof. (Slight exaggeration.) We’d had both Charli Wroe and Olivia Forster missing then so if Charli stood on Olivia’s shoulders, we’d be able to have a comparable match-up in height.(Contrived fact.) Faced with such physical inequalities, our game plan involved trying to contain our worthy opponents during the initial skirmishes and eventually wear them down in the latter stages.(Wishful thinking but half the plan did come largely to fruition.)

In anticipation of such a demanding challenge ahead which was likely to be as tight as a size 8 foot in a size 5 shoe. (Joke), I knew that team unity and togetherness was vital so, prior to tip off, I explained to every girls that this was not an occasion in which I could ensure all 10 of them a similar amount of court time, as happens in most of our games. (Irrefutable fact.) I added that whether on court or on the bench, they could all make a positive contribution to the team effort. (A fact taken in by virtually all players.) In the event, I did, somehow manage to get all 10 on court in the first half.(Miracle.) Inevitably, some individuals/combinations were more efficient than others.(Opinion, probably subjective.) 

After a scrappy 8 minutes, with both defences in the ascendancy, there was very little in it at 8-10. (Mixture of opinion and fact.) This did deteriorate to 8-13 by the end of the first quarter as the home side benefitted by sinking 3 of the 6 free throws they were awarded in the final 2 minutes.(Fact.) The 5 point deficit was soon wiped out as, partly due to foul trouble, I hit on the combination of Courtney Kenyon-Betts, Lucy Bryan, Ellie Atherton, Lilja Toland and Lauren Addy which worked well for us at both ends of the court. They performed as harmoniously as any Welsh Male Voice Choir to bring us parity at 17-17. We were now looking the better side (biased opinion) until changes were forced upon us when both Lucy and Ellie joined Holly and Beth McLoughlin in foul trouble.(Reality.) The upheaval caused by this translated into a cruel 0-11 run up to half-time in the course of which Nottingham were donated no less than 8 more free throws than we were. (They were given 8. We received 0.) (Factual sour grapes.)

17-28 down to a buoyant team of talented athletes (although 4 of their 10 players saw no court time), on their home court with all the advantages this can bring (veiled suggestion), could have been deemed to be as daunting a task to many young teams as attempting to cross the Atlantic in a pedalo (nonsense!) but not for Mystics. The situation did get even worse at 19-34 but following a time-out during which I may have said something sensible (doubtful), the cavalry arrived in the form of 3s from Courtney and Lucy plus a breakaway 2 also from Lucy to give us renewed hope at 26-34. (More wishful thinking.) The only additions to the score for either side in the last 3 minutes of the third period came from free throws, 6 for them (3 made), 2 for us (1 made.) (Fact.) This took it to 27-37 as we entered the fourth quarter. Could we take heart from the fact that we had just won the third quarter? (Question.)

Lilja, who had an outstanding game, opened the scoring, only for the 10 point margin to be re-established via yet 2 more free throws for the hosts.(Fact.) Offensive rebounds and put backs by Nottingham’s impressive bigs established a more comfortable lead for them at 31-43 with 7 minutes left. There was now no reason to try to protect Holly from possibly fouling out too soon. With 4 fouls collected as swiftly as my window cleaner pretends to wash my windows, she had spent more time sitting on her backside than she had on court. Her re-introduction sparked a highly commendable comeback which only just failed to see us sneak home. Our 3 leading scorers for the season so far- Holly, Lucy and Charli- all converted to bring us within striking distance at 42-49 (long shot!) Then, 4 more free throws yielded 2 points for one team- guess which one-(fact) to restore the gap to 9 at 42-51 with time rapidly running out.

All seemed lost but this Mystics team never quits. Holly still had time to score 5 points to get us to within 2 baskets at 47-51 before time ran out. Well played both sides! Nottingham had again made effective use of their superiority in size but we had coped relatively well with this. (Opinion.) They had looked the better side in the first half, we did in the second.(Opinion backed up by the scores in each quarter.) We also coped with having to re-shuffle the pack to deal (see what I did there?) with 4 of our 5 starters accumulating 4+ fouls each relatively early in the piece, showing our strength in depth to good effect.

When I point out that both sides made 50% of their free throws (fact), it may also appear that we even coped here as well. However, if I add the fact that we made 6 out of our 12 (one eighth of our total points) but they were given a possible world record 35 of which they made 17 (one third of their total points), even a bottom set Maths pupil could ascertain that this was too much to cope with. Perhaps we should learn not to foul so much……(Opinion.)

There is no reason for us to see this narrow defeat as in any way negative. We finished far stronger than our opponents, winning the fourth quarter by 6, and can now look forward to our final 2 league games against Tameside and Derby, the outcomes of which will have a greater effect on our season than this minor hiccup. Well played girls. You are so tough mentally. You gave it everything and almost pulled it off.

Thanks to James and Sammy for all they do and to all of those parents who support our team so wholeheartedly and selflessly.

PS. The U16s are unable to play us this Sunday so unfortunately we have no game this weekend.

Jim Carnegie

Manchester Mystics

Mystics U14 win big against Tameside Juniors

Mystics short trip to play Tameside’s second string last Sunday turned out to be as comfortable as fur-lined slippers, as it was always likely to be against very young opponents. Tameside tried very hard and, unlike Charli’s mum’s washing machine, kept going but were unable to cope with our all-round fire-power which was as explosive as expensive Chinese fireworks.

In a game where we gave away more fouls (16) than points (15), our sternest test was trying to decipher which colour markings were basketball appropriate. The court floor was covered with so many lines that they could easily have been painted by Picasso during his psychedelic period after a heavy night out! The lines were even more confusing than in any Shakespeare play, especially as the usual choice of red or black had both been overlooked in favour of yellow which could be spotted if you squinted!

Despite the huge margin of victory, we began as if our 5 starters had been partying throughout Saturday night. I called an early time-out and reminded our zombie impersonators to forget the jelly and ice-cream and get down to business. Thereafter, for the most part, we were focused and incisive. Although the game was as one-sided as a straight line, both teams did gain something positive from it. As is our custom, at no time did we press Tameside which allowed them to have plenty of possession and prevented them from feeling completely overwhelmed. For us, Ellie Atherton and Courtney Kenyon-Betts, two of our defensive king-pins (or queen-pins?), shone offensively along with 4 of the 5 our players who are still eligible to play at this level. Charli Wroe, Olivia Forster, Lilja Toland and Kizzie Spence combined to score 54 of our 115 points which bodes very well for 2017-18. Herein, some credit must be afforded to 3 of our more prolific scorers, Holly and Lucy Bryan and Beth McLoughlin who were all happy to put the team first and take a back seat offensively. I was pleased to note a huge improvement in the defensive contribution made by Lauren Addy and Ellie Hatton, both of whom were excellent in this department today.

With a mere 3 conference games remaining, we are now sure to be seeded in the top 7, even if we slip up badly and lose all 3 tough opponents – Nottingham, Tameside and Derby. This gives us a home tie in the last 16. Who we face obviously depends on whether we lose 3,2,1 or none of those games. Lose 2 or 3 and we will be seeded 7 and be at home to the 10th seed which could well be Tameside. Lose 1 and we’ll be seed #4 and at home to seed 13, probably Derby. Win all 3 and we’ll be seed #1 and at home to seed 16, probably Hatfield. Get through the last 16 round and last 8 opponents may be Sheffield at home for #1 seeds, Haringey at home for #4 seeds or Richmond away for #7 seeds. All this is based on educated guesses on my part but won’t be far off.

Thanks to Sammy and James for their superb assistance and to our loyal band of supporters.

Jim Carnegie

Mystics Stat Stars January

Mystics fill up WBBL stat stars list for January

The Mystics have filled up the WBBL Stat Stars list for the month of January. To add to her already impressive month, Dominique Allen leads the league in field goal percentage, shooting 67% for the field, she also comes in second place in rebounds with an average of 11 per game, small wonder then that she is the WBBL player of the month!

Joining Dominique on the Stat Stars list is Georgia Jones who led the league in assists, averaging 8.3 per game, while Rheanne Bailey has been hot from the charity stripe, shooting 88.2% from the free throw line, second best in the league. 

WBBL Stat Stars for January:
Mystics’ Dominique Allen 67% FG% 1st, 11 Rebounds Per Game 2nd — Manchester Mystics (@Mcr_Mystics) February 2, 2017

WBBL Stat Stars for January:
Mystics’ Georgia Jones 8.3 Assists Per Game 1st — Manchester Mystics (@Mcr_Mystics) February 2, 2017

WBBL Stat Stars for January:
Mystics’ Rheanne Bailey 88.2% FT% 2nd — Manchester Mystics (@Mcr_Mystics) February 2, 2017

Dominique Allen

Allen crowned Molten WBBL Player of the Month

Congratulations to Manchester Mystics and Great Britain centre Dominique Allen who has received another individual accolade after being named Molten WBBL Player of the Month for January in recognition of her terrific performances for the Mystics.

It’s been a fantastic month for Allen and the award follows on from her being named MVP at the inaugural WBBL Cup Final at the Barclaycard Arena, when she propelled Mystics to their first piece of WBBL silverware.

While that was the highlight of what has been a great start to the new calendar year, Allen also produced the goods either side of that memorable day in Birmingham.

She averaged a fine double-double during the period after harvesting 15.5 points and 11 rebounds per game, also topping the shooting charts by converting a stellar 67% from the floor across her four outings.

Allen fought off stiff competition from previous monthly winners Steph Gandy of Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters and Ashley Harris of Nottingham Wildcats to take the gong.

In other news, Mystics’ Amy Browne makes the WBBL All-Star 5 for week 13 while Dominique Allen comes off the bench, congratulations to both.