Oaklands Wolves travelled to Edinburgh to take on Caledonia Pride in the WBBL Championship on Sunday, continuing a rivalry that has been closely contested since both teams entered the league together in 2016. Pride were looking to build on their win over Newcastle one week earlier, whilst an injury depleted Oaklands were seeking their first Championship win of the season.
The game started brightly, with Oaklands opening the scoring through Lauren Milligan before Pride answered back with a post score by Pollyanna Storie. Further scores for Oaklands were countered by a Sian Phillips free-throw, as Wolves briefly built what was to be the biggest lead of the 1st quarter at 6-3, before Maud Ranger knocked down a contested 3 pointer and was fouled in the process, but was unable to complete the 4 point play.
Both teams continued to trade baskets, but it wasn’t until the 3:05 mark of the period before Pride were able to take their first lead of the game, as a layup by Phillips made the score 12-11. Elise Tweedie added the final 6 points of the 1st quarter for Pride, as she continued to demonstrate her development in her first season in the WBBL, but each time Oaklands countered and the game remained tied at 18-18 at the end of the period.
The 2nd quarter opened in similar fashion to the 1st, as a Beth Sarson layup for Wolves saw Pride reply through a Rose Harvey 3 pointer. But the scoring was then to dry up for Pride and it was to be another 6 minutes before they added more points to the scoreboard. However Oaklands were not finding scores easy to come by either, and were only able to add 6 points during that time through free-throws by Louise Rouse and a 3 pointer by Estonian international Greeta Uprus. This meant that when Sian Phillips finally ended the scoring drought with a driving layup, Pride were still very much in contention with the score 26-23 to Wolves.
Rouse and Phillips each added 2 points to the board in the minute that followed, but the final 2 minutes of the 2nd period were to see Oaklands take control of the game by capitalising on a number of errors by Pride, as a 10-2 scoring run during that time saw them extend to an 11 point lead at the half, with the score 38-27.
During the break, Pride talked about trying to play positively in the opening minutes of the 2nd half, but Oaklands got the first score of the period to add to their lead. Sian Phillips quickly answered at the other end, before Oaklands came straight back through Hungarian youth international Dorka Boros. But Pride were showing customary spirit and immediately replied, with Pollyanna Storie hitting a 3 pointer from the left corner and Ella Doherty then followed up with a long 2 as Pride reduced the Oaklands lead to single figures on the 8:06 mark.
The pace of scoring slowed down considerably after this however, and Pride began to be compromised by foul trouble, as Pollyanna Storie picked up her 4th foul and sat out the majority of the quarter. But another spark was to come for Pride late in the period, when with the score at 46-36 and 3 minutes left in the quarter, Sian Phillips and Sophie Leslie hit 3 pointers on consecutive plays to cut the Oaklands lead to just 4 points. With Boros making 2 of 4 free-throws in between Pride scores by Maud Ranger and Maela Faleu, the score was back to 48-46 and it was all to play for once again. Big players step up in big moments however, and Wolves’ American guard Amari Carter, who had been conspicuously quiet all game, finally made her mark on events, scoring the final 4 points of the quarter for Oaklands and giving them a 6 point cushion at the break at 52-46.
Carter continued her personal run into the 4th quarter, scoring the first 4 points of the quarter, before Sian Phillips stopped the bleeding for Pride. Carter continued to be a thorn in the side for Pride, but the Scottish side were now countering her scoring, with Phillips once again outstanding and Maela Faleu showing her ability to get to the basket. However the Oaklands lead was being maintained around the 10 point mark and time was fast running out for Pride if they wanted to get back into the game. However each time Pride cut into the lead, Oaklands replied to maintain their advantage, and with just under 1 minute to play in the game, Wolves extended to their largest lead of the game at 14 points, with the score 72-58. Pride weren’t giving up on the game however, with the chance that head-to-head scores may come into play for league positions later in the season, and Sian Phillips added the last 4 points of the game to cut the lead to 10, as the game finished with a score of 72-62 in favour of Oaklands Wolves.
Sian Phillips was the game’s top scorer with 22 points, to which she added 16 rebounds 4 blocks, 2 assists and 2 steals in yet another all action display. Maud Ranger added 9 points and 9 rebounds for Pride, with Elise Tweedie chipping in 8 points.
Amari Carter’s strong finish to the game for Oaklands saw her finish with 20 points, with Greeta Uprus, Louise Rouse and Lauren Milligan adding 14, 12 and 10 respectively in a balanced scoring game for Wolves.
Pride coach Donnie MacDonald commented after the game: “We have to be honest and say that was a poor performance today. On the defensive end, we lacked the discipline to stick to our principles in key moments and offensively we were a bit predictable and didn’t read advantages when we had them. As coach, I take responsibility for the performance – it was my job to prepare the team and to hold them to our standards, and clearly today that needed to be better, so I will look back over this one and focus on having a great week of practice. But this season is a process for us, so what is most important is that we learn lessons from today and find a way to be more disciplined against Cardiff next week.”
Pride travel to Wales next weekend to take on Cardiff Met Archers in the WBBL Championship.
Photographs courtesy of Donald Stewart.