Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters are into the WBBL Championship Play-off semi-finals after winning 75-90 on the road at Manchester Mystics in a clash between the league’s fourth and fifth placed sides.
Hatters, Play-off winners in 2015, came into the game having lost their last two league games, and three of their last four on the road, to finish in their lowest ever position in the WBBL. And they were soon a long way behind in this game as Mystics raced into a double-digit lead at 22-9 when Rheanne Bailey, Lauren Thomas-Johnson and Amy Browne hit early three-pointers.
But Hatters then rattled off a quick nine points in response, capped by Jo Lowry’s ‘and-one’, and they were back within one shot when Georgia Gayle hit a three-pointer. Helen Naylor then opened the second stanza with another triple, and Hatters were soon in front at 32-30 when Steph Gandy scored consecutively.
The teams – who won once each in league meetings, the head-to-head settled by just three points – could then barely be separated until the latter stages, with seven lead changes and the teams tied on six occasions.
But Hatters, who beat Mystics in the regular season run in and took that head-to-head, came on strong late on, winning the fourth quarter 28-10, beginning as Gandy and Naylor opened the period to put them in front.
Naomi Campbell scored five to keep Hatters in front, and Gayle made an ‘and-one’ as that pair scored all of the points in the decisive 11-2 run, Campbell proving crucial with ten fourth quarter points as Gayle’s triple made the score 82-73.
The lead was double-figures when Naylor scored heading into the final minute, to keep Hatters in the race for The O2 Arena and a shot at regaining the title.
Report by WBBL