Lancashire Spinners could be a reasonable name for a NW folk group as well as a thriving basketball club. Thankfully. there was no such music playing last Sunday when we arrived at Elton High School’s pristine new sports hall where it is twice as warm as the old one which doubled as an igloo.
A victory would enhance Mystics U14s prospects of a home tie in the last 16 round of the play-offs in early April. It duly arrived thanks to an excellent first half display, during which Charli Wroe and Olivia Forster were outstanding.
Blessed with a squad of 13 players who all display superb attitudes and commitment, when we are faced with opposition we are expected to beat, I like to offer 1 or 2 places in the first 5 as a reward to those who don’t normally start. Esha Nayar started in the previous game and did well. This time, the honour to accompany Charli, Olivia and Lily Hayes was bestowed upon cousins Eleni Vourliotis and Jo Vourliotis. They did not let themselves, or anyone else, down.
This new combination looked at home (even though we were playing away) defensively but a bit like everyone on a cruise – all at sea – on offense. This was hardly surprising given that we had no game the previous week, this particular 5 had rarely, if ever, played together and 3 of the 5 are a year young. With the score at 4-4, I introduced regular starters Emily Wood and Nia Molloy. We immediately sprung to life like a 5 star mattress with 14 unanswered points in under 5 minutes.
We were equally dominant throughout the whole of the second quarter which meant that the outcome was in little doubt by half time at 43-13 with all 12 Mystics having shown their true worth. (In diamonds, not lire.) This huge lead persuaded me to largely ignore the formidable services of Charli and Olivia for much of the remaining 20 minutes in order to give others the opportunity to do what the sun does. (Shine.)
We didn’t find it as difficult as trying to eat soup with a fork but did find it hard going without them, only winning the third quarter 11-10 and the fourth 16-15. We suffered from a lack of movement and poor finishing on offense while defensively, our relatively small line-up struggled to keep 6ft +++ Rebecca Smith off the offensive boards. She scored 18 of her 22 points in the second half.
That said, there was still plenty to admire from our perspective. Lily and the super-athletic Kizzy Spence stood out for their exceptional defensive rebounding, Eleni, Nia, Esha and Lia Vourliotis showed a pleasing ever-increasing ability to play help defence without fouling unnecessarily while Emily and Zara Masadeh-Tate did most of the scoring. 2 of our youngest players, Jo and Daisy Bryan again held their own at both ends of the court and with 7 players returning to play at this age group next season, the future looks brighter than any citrus fruit.
Unfortunately, we are again without a game next week which is hardly good preparation for the week after that when we travel abroad to South Yorkshire to play fellow play-off contenders, Hatfield.
Thanks to James and Sam for their help on the day and to all supporters for getting behind our team.