Despite enough hiccups to get into the Guinness Book of Records, our friendly game – if there is such a thing – versus Mystics U16 III did go ahead against all the odds last Saturday. At one point it looked as if it had as much chance as Red Rum has of winning the 2024 Grand national! We overcame illness to the u16 coach, replaced by the U14 assistant coach James, who did a brilliant job, a very late change of tip off time plus a lack of referees. Many thanks to Esha and Sheri who stepped in and were superb.
Without our 4 internationals, who have yet to appear together in games or training, our 12 remaining u14s reminded me of Edmund Hillary’s challenge in 1953. They both had a big mountain to climb! Fortunately, it was the younger of the two sides who sprung into action in the first half. I had asked the girls to play harder and smarter than our opponents. I defined harder as getting up and down court faster, winning loose balls , rebounding early and aggressively as well as playing tough defence. Being smarter meant striving to be one move ahead with a plan A and B, doing the simple things well and winning the post-match quiz!
Our exceptional play during the opening 10 minutes yielded a massive 21 point via 7 different scorers. Our opposition appeared as bewildered as Marie Antoinette was just before her head and shoulders parted company. We were nearly as good in the second quarter and went into the interval deservedly 14 ahead at 39-25, something even Psychic Sally could not have foreseen.
In the back of my (tiny) mind, I was concerned that it would be asking too muck of such a young team to over-produce once more in the second half. The U16s have some talented players. Surely they would raise their game. They did. Big time. They used their physical superiority to their advantage by being far more aggressive going to basket and on the boards. This made defensive match ups problematic for our team. We capitulated to go into the final quarter 6 points down. This quickly extended to 11 before an impressive fight back reduced it to 6 at 57-63 by the final whistle.
We had produced basketball of a high level for 30 minutes against strong opponents and the girls should be as proud as I am of their overall performance. Sincere thanks to James, Louise, Dawn, Sheri and Esha for helping to ensure this local derby went ahead (nearly as scheduled.)