Category: Coach Jim’s Report

Coach Jim's Report

Mystics U14 2 couldn’t catch the Breakers


An away quarter-final tie requiring a 300+ mile round trip to darkest Buckinghamshire to play the country’s number 2 seed sounds daunting for any U14 1st team. That was the latest challenge facing Mystics U14 II and a mere 4 minutes in, with the scoreboard reading 0-11 it appeared to be on a par with someone falling off a cliff – one step too far.

A time-out to insist that nerves needed to disappear plus a suggestion that attempting to beat the land speed record on every possession was not the way to go, was made and heeded. All 5 Mystics showed the obedience displayed by champion sheep dogs to turn things round.

Despite sounding more like an urban street dance crew, Milton Keynes Breakers are a well-drilled, lightning quick side. Nevertheless, by moving the basketball with speed and precision instead of opting to over-dribble which had proved to be as fruitless as a dead apple tree, we went on a stunning 21-12 run to bring the score to 21-23. With the momentum heavily in our favour, foul trouble (which dogged us throughout) forced me to take a key player off (not Chubb or Yale!).

Now unable to use the defensive match-ups which were causing problems for the opposition, the deficit swelled to 15 by half-time as confidence began to sag in some of our players. My half-time cosy little chat focused on self-belief and simple strategies for combatting a 5 out offense with clear outs for one on one drives to basket.

At least one of them must have listened because we totally bossed the third quarter even with having to endure more foul trouble – in this case not a troublesome chicken! We won this 10 minute period 23-18, in no small part thanks to an incredible 16 points from our inspired captain in the quarter. 

In the ascendancy once more, this time our momentum was hampered by 2 loud spurious claims. The first, which appeared to come either from an adult on Milton Keynes’ bench, or someone hiding under it, felt it worthwhile to inform everyone that ‘combination defences are not permitted at this level.’ ?????? Possibly as baffled by this as everyone else was, a home supporter seemed to disagree. ‘It’s a zone,’ he shouted. I can only assume that this was code for ‘That can be the only reason why they are catching up.’

He could have been a VIP because without evidence or consideration, the referees suddenly (and immediately) came over to tell me we were playing a zone! My assistant, James and I both explained simply and factually why this was not the case. Both team’s defences were similar and remained as they had been throughout. One referee listened intently and seemed to waver. The other one didn’t. Ten seconds later he charged us with a technical foul for playing a zone!

Although this didn’t have a huge impact on the eventual outcome, it did throw us out of our stride at the beginning of the fourth period. We missed 5 early lay-ups in a row which resulted in 8 breakaway points at the other end. That plus mounting foul trouble caused the game to gradually slip away. This prompted me to make liberal substitutions throughout the final 6 minutes with such frequency that some players thought they were coming while others thought they were going and vice versa! Our opponents capitalised upon this to stretch the margin to a flattering 24.

This is not a true reflection of how tough a contest it was for both sides.  Milton Keynes coped well with our superior size, shot exceedingly well from their multitude of free throws (garnered from the massive total of 31 fouls awarded against us) and got a number of steals from their press when we had bench players on the floor. Our never-say-die youngsters played their hearts out but struggled defensively with the opposition’s pace and organisation.

There is always likely to be disappointment after a defeat but it is imperative to lose with grace and dignity without blame. On this occasion, the team who made less mistakes won the game but I do believe that if we played them again things might be different! 


Coach Jim's Report

The dance goes on for Mystics U14 2

U14 girls play-offs last 16. Manchester Mystics U14 II 53 Harris Federation Knights 51.

For a second team to qualify for the play-offs is highly commendable. To then get through to the Quarter Finals is exceptional. To do so when trailing by 7 with 90 seconds to go in a tight, low-scoring affair is bordering on the miraculous!

Harris Federation Knights not only has the nation’s longest U14 team name, they are also blessed with possibly the physically strongest. We would have stood no chance in a tug of war head-to-head! When we really needed her, Oldham’s most powerful teenager, Victoria, decided to abscond to Austria (maybe to challenge Arnold Schwarzenegger to an arm wrestle.) We certainly missed her rebounding prowess.

As predicted, this was never going to be a tie in which I could fully involve all 12 Mystics, but I’m pleased to say that they all rejoiced as one in the final celebration, which shows what wonderful team spirit we have. In a game such as this whereby the outcome is as unpredictable as how many crimes Donald Trump will go unpunished for, every substitution is likely to be game-changing. 

It was immediately evident that Harris’s talented #13 made everything tick for them and after Jane picked up her second foul early on, it was left to our much-improved team defence to ward off her strong drives to the basket. They did well collectively, which reduced the opposition to trying their luck with pot shots from distance. It turned out to be their lucky day because 9 of their 14 points came via this route, with three two-handed 3 pointers thudding off the backboard and through the hoop.

This meant that, despite being the more creative side, we could only muster the slenderest of 1st quarter leads at 15-14. A combination of ‘big match nerves’ plus a tendency to rush and look for the killer pass resulted in too many missed lay ups and turnovers. We were also struggling on the boards against a very strong rebounding team.

The second quarter proved to be equally close. This affair was now as tight as any Yorkshireman, most of whom view every pound in their possession as a prisoner! Knights shaded it 15-16 to tie proceedings at 30 apiece at half-time. We were the fundamentally superior outfit, but lack of experience in close games had made us play too quickly and over-complicate things. My half-time team talk centred around slowing down, relaxing making shorter passes and being more aggressive in our rebounding. I assured the girls we would be fine!

The third quarter did not go well. I made too many changes which upset our rhythm so that we only managed 4 baskets in 10 minutes. This meant we trailed by 5 with 10 minutes to play. That may not sound much of a deficit, but in an even, low-scoring game, clawing it back would be as difficult as trying to eat soup with a fork!

We continued to struggle on the boards, but our hard-working team defence meant we were still in with a fighting chance if we stayed focused and more composed. We did. The five who came out for the fourth quarter sparkled like Elizabeth Taylor’s diamond wedding ring as we quickly narrowed the gap to one at 42-43 with 4 unanswered points. A great play by the Londoner’s leading light restored their lead before potential disaster struck. We missed two open lay ups, and they increased the margin to a whopping 7 thanks to a couple of speculative heaves, ironically from the previously anonymous #7, which crashed, rather than swished, home.

Knight’s excellent coach now called a time-out, after which it became obvious, he had told his players to run down the clock. Having spotted this, I called out of my own to offer a counter derived in discussion with my able assistant James. The response from the 6 players I used in the dying embers of the contest was magnificent. We scored 9 points without reply in the final minute and a half, combining it with such good interior team defence that our worthy opponents could not find a way to add to their tally.

The reaction from those on the bench plus the home support was worthy of the occasion. We had won this ‘cup final’ to create another one, away to the country’s number 2 seeded team, Milton Keynes in the land of the plastic cows… If we can capitalise on lessons learned from today’s encounter, we could cause them problems.

Many thanks to Louise and Andy for their never-failing assistance, to James for his insightful observations, to Alina and family for helping to set up the court, to all parents and supporters as well as to a group of young ladies who never give up.

Best wishes