Match Report 31st January 2018
Blues vs. Warwick University at Cambridge University Sports Centre (5:30pm)
We’re all a little wearier for witnessing the match fought between the Women’s Basketball Blues and the University of Warwick last Wednesday evening. This was the first match off between these two opponents and it took Cambridge quite some time to find any rhythm against this new rival. Scoring was opened by Warwick captain Angela, who was to prove their most valuable player all game, combining speed and drive to great effect and putting the Blues on the back foot from the outset. A steadying couple of goals came from Blues forwards Becky Illingworth and Claire Ratican shortly afterwards but it was Blues captain Leo de Jonge who settled-down her team, scoring a highly pressured field goal followed by some solid drives from the top of the key to draw fouls and score a couple of free-throws to close the quarter at 8 vs 8.
After regrouping at quarter time, the Blues came out ready to accelerate. Mie Monti started the renewed attack with a successful drive to the basket while Illingworth was unstoppable driving from the wings to pull up for a couple of successful jump-shots. Their efforts were bolstered by de Jonge in attack but it was the raised intensity of the Blues’ zone defence which closed down the driving attempts of Warwick, who were held to only four points in the second quarter. Cambridge went to half time with a lead of 20 vs 12
Warwick had a lot of work to do if they were to claw back the deficit and they came out fighting in the third quarter which took Cambridge by surprise. Angela was relentless for Warwick with the help of her forwards, using double screens at the perimeter to drive to the basket, breaking down the Blue’s previously solid defence and scoring a much-needed 10 points to put her team back in contention. Cambridge’s offence was a more shared affair, with goals being scored by Illingworth, Lara Sieg and Emily Lees but it was not enough to keep their lead and the third quarter closed at 31 vs 30 to Warwick.
In the fourth quarter, Blue’s forward Herta Gatter came in to her own, being able to work effectively in the gaps of the visitor’s defence and scored three goals in quick succession. Her efforts were countered by Angela, but it was previously quiet Warwick forward Greta, who rose to Gatter’s challenge. Greta went to work inside the key and the Blue’s tired defence failed to shut her down. Greta drew some crucial fouls and was sent to the line twice in the final minutes to tie the game at 42 vs 42 and send the match in to overtime.
At the outset of the overtime period, the Blues heightened their defensive concentration. After being punished in the third quarter for reducing defensive pressure, Cambridge realised this was the crucial factor in winning the match and fought through their fatigue to close the key. Lees was instrumental in securing a number of defensive rebounds, while Ratican’s quick hands blocked a number of shot attempts from Lici and Greta. In offence, point-guard Carla Rios kept Warwick on their toes with a beautiful outside shot and a couple of free throws, but a planned screen and roll move between Rios and Ratican failed to produce a goal in the dying seconds, taking the match in to a second overtime period at 49 apiece.
In the second overtime period, the Blues dug deep to close out the match, missing their captain de Jonge and veteran point-guard Monti due to fouls. Lees and Illingworth were influential in continuing Cambridge’s attack inside, while a well-timed drive from Annie Lyons saw her score from the free-throw line to give the Blues an early lead. In return, Angela wove through the zone to score another two points, but the determination of Ratican at the other end saw her draw a quick foul and score both foul shots to give Cambridge the lead by three. However, there was another twist in store for the Blues, with Warwick forward Juella scoring a Hail-Mary three-pointer from the corner in the final minute to level the score once again. In frustration, the Blues went in to attack again and Ratican was able to draw another foul in the depths of the key to be sent to the line. She managed to score one free throw with only seconds remaining and a final full court-press from the Blues saw them hear the final buzzer ring to a victory of 57 vs 56.
This was certainly not a beautiful game to watch, but the Blues came away with a hard-fought win and showed great mental strength to hold off such a persistent opponent during an epic three-hour battle. Cambridge are on the road next week, facing Birmingham in what should prove another tough encounter.
Scorers: de Jonge (captain) 13; Illingworth 13; Ratican 9; Gatter 8; Lees 5; Rios 5; Sieg 2; Monti 1; Lyons 1.