Pride were back home at the Crags Centre in Edinburgh on Saturday, facing Cardiff Met Archers in the WBBL Championship. Archers went into the game two spots and two wins above Pride in the standings, having won the reverse fixture by 13 points at the beginning of March, suggesting that a competitive game was to be expected.
It was the visitors who opened the scoring on their first possession, as former Pride captain Robyn Lewis attacked the basket and scored on a turnaround shot. A frustrating spell of 2 minutes then followed for Pride, as they were successful in getting stops on defence and creating good opportunities close to the basket for key players, but were unable to get those shots to drop. The drought was ended in familiar fashion however, as Sian Phillips grabbed an offensive rebound and put it back to score. Pride continued the strong defence and extended the scoring run to 9-0, as Ella Doherty, Maud Ranger and Pollyanna Storie all got on the scoresheet early. Eabha Kerr became the sixth different scorer for Pride as they moved to an 11-4 lead, but Archers were now beginning to break down the Pride defence more consistently and brought the game back to a tie at 17 on a Lewis 3 pointer. Maud Ranger had the last say in the first quarter however, as she hit a 2 point jump shot late in the period to give Pride a 19-17 lead at the quarter break.
Ranger scored again to open Q2, but the Archers’ pair of Shannon Hatch and Laura Shanahan were starting to give Pride lots of problems, as they scored both from the perimeter and attacking the basket. Early in the quarter, Pride had an answer every time Cardiff got close, as Elise Tweedie and Sian Phillips were taking advantage of their inside advantage, however midway through the quarter, Archers moved back in front through free-throws by Kim Kheing, with the score 29-27. Sophie immediately Loughran answered, and that pattern would follow for the remainder of the half, as one team would take the lead before the other immediately came back and the teams went into the halftime interval tied at 40-40, with Ella Doherty stepping up to score the final 7 points of the period for Pride.
Pride made a strong start to the 2nd half, as layups from Pollyanna Storie and Maud Ranger gave the home side an early advantage. But Cardiff were fighting really hard in this game and a 6-0 run saw them move back into the lead, as young Wales and GB junior international Isabel Bunyan particularly impressed. Bunyan’s GB teammate Ella Doherty was in fine form for Pride though, and she came straight back to cut into Archers’ lead, before a Ranger 3 moved Pride back in front by 1 with 3 minutes left in Q3. Both teams traded scores in the final minutes of the period, but Pride maintained their slim lead going into the final quarter break with the score 55-54.
The visitors were sensing an opportunity to make take a win back to Wales and came out firing in the 4th quarter, as an early 6-2 run gave them a little daylight. Sian Phillips ended that run with a layup, before Shannon Hatch immediately answered with a long 2, and a pull-up jump shot by Ella Doherty was countered by a Laura Shanahan drive as the teams were going toe to toe for the win late in the game. Pride finally tied the game once more on a Pollyanna Storie layup with just over 4 minutes to play, before Storie converted on the fastbreak following a pass from Phillips, as Pride took the lead at 67-65. The home side then stepped up their defensive intensity and held Archers scoreless for over 4 minutes, however only 2 points from a Sian Phillips layup were added to the scoreboard during that spell, as the lead was extended to 4 points in the final stages.
Late drama was to come however, as a Pride missed shot with 19 seconds remaining was rebounded by Archers and a foul on the break sent them to the free-throw line with 12 seconds on the clock. Robyn Lewis scored the first foul shot and missed the second, but Isabel Bunyan secured the rebound and passed to Laura Shanahan who scored the layup to make it a 1 point game with 9 seconds to play. Pride called timeout and ran a play to get the ball in the hands of Maud Ranger, who was immediately fouled by Archers. Ranger made both free-throws to give Pride a 3 point advantage and after Archers missed a 3 pointer out of the ensuing timeout, Ranger was sent to the line once again with just 0.9 seconds on the clock, making both to secure the win for Pride 73-68.
Ranger finished the game with 24 points and 16 rebounds for Pride, and Sian Phillips added another customary double-double with 18 points and 13 rebounds along with 4 blocked shots. Ella Doherty also continued her recent run of good form with 15 points and 7 rebounds.
For Archers, veteran wing Laura Shanahan picked up a career high 22 points, with Shannon Hatch adding 17 points and 8 rebounds. The returning Robyn Lewis scored an efficient 11 points for Cardiff and Isabel Bunyan made it four players in double figures with 10 points.
Commenting after the game, Pride’s Ella Doherty had mixed emotions, saying: “It was a tough one for us yesterday. Although it was good to get a win, we didn’t perform up to our standard that we have shown we can play at the past few weeks. We have a week until our next game so we’re really wanting to get back into training and fix some things so we can get back to playing our way.”
Similarly, coach Donnie MacDonald reflected on the performance more than the result: “It’s obviously nice to get a win after a difficult run of results, but compared to our recent performances, I think we played far from our best today. We really wanted to get that 13+ point win for the head-to-head and we weren’t able to get that done. Right now, I’m most disappointed with how I prepared the team for this game to get the outcome we really wanted, but we can use this as further motivation for consistent competitive performances in practice and games in the last 2 weeks of the season.”
Next up for Pride is a double-header on the road, as they face Manchester Met Mystics on Saturday 24th April followed by Oaklands Wolves on Sunday 25th.
Photos courtesy of Donald Stewart