Caledonia Pride welcomed Durham Palatinates to the Crags Centre in Edinburgh on Sunday, in what looked like being a competitive matchup. Pride had taken the away win earlier in the season and Durham were still seeking their first victory of the season, however recent performances, including a very close game against Oaklands the previous day, had suggested Palatinates would prove a tougher nut for Pride to crack this time around.

After misses for each team on their opening possessions, Pride opened the scoring through a driving layup by Pollyanna Storie, before Kara Elderkin to tie the scoring on the next possession with a pair of free-throws. There then followed a very scrappy spell 4 minute, with both teams unable to convert their opportunities and committing turnovers, with the only scoring being two free-throws by Pride’s Sian Phillips. An Ella Doherty layup led to a Durham timeout and the visitors emerged with a greater sense of focus, immediately scoring through Katie Bennett as they went on a 15-2 run through the final 4 minutes of the opening quarter to take a lead of 17-8 into the first break.

Durham extended the lead to 11 points through free-throws for Lies Van Straaten, which was immediately answered by a Sian Phillips layup, only for former Pride player and Scotland senior international Claire Paxton to restore the lead with a layup of her own. But Pride then began to find their stride, going on an 8-0 run through scores by Doherty and Phillips, before a step back 3 by Rose Harvey and a layup by Maud Ranger. Paxton answered before a two more Ranger scores and a Pollyanna Storie layup moved Pride back into the lead at 24-23. But a 7-0 run from Durham in the final 90 seconds of the half saw them restore their advantage, going into the break leading 30-24.

The 3rd quarter started with a string of errors from Pride, starting with giving up an offensive rebound which was converted into 2 points for Durham by Elderkin, before a pair of turnovers gifted the visitors two uncontested breakaway layups. Pride called an early timeout after less than a minute played to address the issues, and a period followed where defences were on top and neither team scored in over 2:20 of play. But it was once again Durham who were next on the scoreboard and it wasn’t until the 4:25 mark before Pride opened their second half account through an Elise Tweedie layup, ending a 21-0 run for Durham going back to late in Q2.

With the Durham lead having reached 20 points, a gap which would give Durham the head-to-head advantage on the season, Pride began to play with more urgency and hit back through scores by Ella Doherty and Pollyanna Storie. Durham countered, but a 2 point jump shot by Maud Ranger ended the scoring for the 3rd quarter, with the score 50-16 to the visiting Durham side.

With just a single quarter remaining, Pride knew that they needed to started the 4th strongly if they wanted to get back into the game, and that is exactly what they did. 6 points from Ella Doherty and 2 from Maud Ranger saw Pride go on an 8-0 run to half the Durham lead in the first 2:30 of the period. However the next 3 minutes would prove to be scoreless for both teams, before Kara Elderkin restored Durham’s double digit lead.

Pride weren’t done yet though, as a 3 pointer by Ranger was followed by strong driving layup by Doherty, before Pollyanna Storie hit a 3 that reduced the deficit to just 2 points. Pride then tied the game at 52-52 through a layup by Rose Harvey, only for Durham to get a breakaway off the inbounds and immediately retake the lead within just a few seconds of Harvey’s score. Elderkin increased that lead to 4 points with a pair of free-throws, but Ella Doherty answered with another layup to keep Pride within one score. But Durham were looking the more composed team in the final minute and a layup by Katie Bennett was followed up by a steal by Bennett and a layup by Jazmin Gyulai to give Durham a 6 point advantage with just 27 seconds remaining. Out of a Pride timeout, Ella Doherty was fouled on a drive and converted both free-throws to cut the deficit to 4, but that was as close as Pride were to get and the foul game saw Durham make 3 out of 4 free-throws in the final seconds to take the 63-56 win.

Some small consolation for Pride however was that they took the season head-to-head after their 18 point away win earlier in the season, which may prove crucial in final league positions.

Ella Doherty was Pride’s top performer on the day with 17 points, 5 rebounds and 7 steals. Captain Maud Ranger added 13 points and 7 rebounds for Pride.

For Durham, young Spanish guard Goretti Hurtado Barbeito continued her impressive recent form with 15 points, 5 rebounds and 6 assists, whilst experienced forward Kara Elderkin added 12 points and 16 rebounds.

Speaking after the game Ella Doherty said: “It’s was a tough game for us all. We executed some of the things we had been working on in training better than we have in previous games but we struggled to find the energy in the first 3 quarters. Our energy comes from our communication and that wasn’t consistent enough. We have a big game on Wednesday so we’re hoping to look forward and make needed improvements in training this week.”

Coach Donnie MacDonald also commented: “That was an unacceptable performance from us today. We were completely unconnected, with virtually no communication on the floor, and only really showed the desire to play with energy once we were down 20. We have a run of tough games coming up, so we will really need to find a way of coming together to play as a team if we genuinely want to compete in those games.”

Pride don’t have long to wait for their next game, as Nottingham Wildcats visit travel to Edinburgh on Wednesday for the rescheduled WBBL Championship game.

Photographs courtesy of Donald Stewart