Caledonia Pride faced off against “local” rivals Newcastle Eagles for the first time this season on Saturday at the Crags Centre in Edinburgh. With both teams having picked up 1 win in their opening matches, this looked like being a competitive fixture even before it tipped off.
The game started evenly, quickly moving to 6-6, with two scores from Pollyanna Storie and one by Sian Phillips getting Pride on the board. Eagles then looked to take charge, going on a 6-0 run, was stopped by a customary 3 pointer from Maud Ranger. The teams continued to trade baskets, before another 3 by Ranger gave Pride their first lead of the game at 17-16 – this lead change was to be the first of many over the course of the afternoon. As the first period drew to a close, it was Eagles who had the advantage, as their experienced star Alison Gorrell consistently got to the free-throw line and knocked down her shots to give Newcastle a 26-22 lead after Q1.
Eagles opened the scoring in the 2nd quarter through a Maddie McVicar 3 pointer, giving Eagles what was to be their largest lead of the game at 7 points. However Pride quickly answered through a layup by Storie, who followed this up with a long 2 point jump shot. Maela Faleu cut the Newcastle lead to just 1 with a drive and spin move for a left hand layup, before a period where the teams once again traded scores, it what was turning into a very closely contested affair.
Midway through the quarter, another Ranger 3 pointer got Pride back in front, but this was immediately answered by Maddie McVicar with a 3 of her own. However Pride got contributions from a number of players late in the quarter, as scores from Storie, Sian Phillips, Sophie Loughran and Rose Harvey gave Pride a 2 point lead at the half, with the score 46-44.
Pride were keen to keep their momentum going in the 2nd half, and it was Sian Phillips who got the first score, but a 6-0 run by Eagles, through scores by Jorjah Smith and Abigail Low, was to give Newcastle the advantage once again. But this was to spark a spectacular period for Pride’s Sian Phillips, as she scored in every conceivable way on her way to 11 points in just 5 minutes. However, late in the 3rd quarter Phillips and Ranger both picked up their 4th fouls, taking a seat on the bench for the remainder of the period. However Pride had built a 9 point lead by this point, which Pride’s young line-up not only maintained, but extended through a Rose Harvey 3 pointer at the end of the quarter, as Pride took a 66-56 lead into the final period.
With Phillips and Ranger continuing to sit out the opening minutes of Q4, Eagles’ Alison Gorrell looked to take advantage of Pride’s inexperience, as she quickly cut the lead back to 6 points. But Ella Doherty answered with a 3 pointer from the corner and Sophie Loughran went 1 of 2 from the free-throw line to restore the double digit advantage for the Scots. But Gorrell was having an incredible afternoon and she continued to attack, bringing Eagles right back into the game and tying the scores at 72-72 with 4:35 to play.
Rather than fold however, Pride’s young team rose to the challenge and immediately went on a 6-0 run to restore their advantage, through a long 2 from Storie and a layup and midrange jumper by Phillips. In the final minutes, Eagles were unable to contain Sian Phillips, who was grabbing every defensive rebound and looking to push the ball in transition. Her direct approach of attacking the basket meant Phillips consistently got to the free-throw line, making 6 straight down the stretch to keep Pride in front.
With the score 82-76 with 38 seconds to play, Gorrell hit a big 3 pointer to bring Eagles back within a single score. Newcastle applied full-court pressure after the score and were able to force a turnover as the ball went out of bounds, giving Eagles the opportunity to call a timeout to draw up a play. Out of the timeout, Jorjah Smith looked to find Maddie McVicar for a 3 in the corner, but an incredible defensive play by Pride’s Maud Ranger saw her block the attempt. Gorrell then fouled Phillips, who went to the line and made both to extend the Pride advantage to 5 with 14 seconds to play, before Gorrell was able to draw a foul when shooting a 3 with just 8 seconds on the clock. Gorrell made the first and third of her shots, cutting the gap to 3, and Pride called a timeout to advance the ball.
On the ensuing play, Ella Doherty found Maud Ranger and was immediately fouled by Gorrell, who picked up her 5th and had to leave the game as a result. Ranger calmly swished both free-throws and then came up with a steal on McVicar as Eagles tried to advance the ball, and the buzzer ended a pulsating game with a score of 86-81, as Pride picked up their second win of the season and moved to 2-3 in the WBBL Championship.
In a game of incredible performances, it was Pride’s Sian Phillips who topped everyone with the remarkable stat line of 28 points, 23 rebounds, 6 steals, 4 assists and 2 steals, in what was just the 8th 20/20 performance in WBBL history. Polly Storie continued her strong season with 20 points, 9 rebounds and 4 assists, whilst Maud Ranger picked up another double-double with 14 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists and 4 steals.
For Newcastle, Alison Gorrell put on an amazing display of scoring as she went for 38 points. Jorjah Smith added 17 and Maddie McVicar 14 for Eagles.
After yet another huge performance, Pride’s Sian Phillips was focusing on the performance of the team, saying: “I’m really proud of the team for seeing out our first close game of the season. Throughout the game the team stepped up at key moments and we sealed the win with some crucial 1v1 defence. This ending was satisfying not only because we won but because this is exactly what we have been focusing on in training. It’s great to see the hard work from players and coaches pay off.”
Also speaking after the game, Pride coach Donnie MacDonald said: “We knew going into the game that this was one we had an opportunity to win, so to get the result is fantastic. Obviously everyone will talk about the big performances, but for me it was the contributions made all through our roster on both ends of the floor that was the difference. We say it a lot, but the togetherness of this team is special and everyone contributed to getting that win. We won’t get carried away though, as there were still a lot of mistakes that we want to improve on, but the spirit in the team was great.”
Next up for Pride is another home game against Oaklands Wolves on Sunday 28th February in the WBBL Championship.