The latest match in the Blues’ season saw them hit the road to face off against Birmingham, whom they had previously beat at home by ten points in November. Cambridge knew this was going to prove a difficult game despite their winning history, as they made the journey with only eight players and missing their captain Leonie de Jonge and coach Amalio Fernández-Pacheco.
In the opening minutes, the Blues went in to a box and one zone defence in order to shut down dominant Birmingham point-guard Muller who had punished the Blues from the perimeter last time these two teams met. However, it was soon apparent that Muller wasn’t the only threat to the Cambridge defence, with Solkhon shooting a couple of field-goals early in the piece. In offence, the Blues found it hard to establish their game. Play from the outside was shut down by tough internal defence from Birmingham, seeing drives by guards Mie Monti and Carla Rios go unrewarded. It was up to Becky Illingworth and Emily Less to instigate the Blues inside game, scoring a couple of highly contested goals under immense pressure low in the key. Despite this difficulty, Cambridge went to the break only three points behind their hosts, 13 vs 10.
However, Birmingham turned up the heat in the second quarter, with guards Gold, Muller and Harrison hitting numerous two and three-pointers from the outside with little response from Cambridge. Illingworth continued to power to the key but was unable to get off any clear shots or draw the fouls she deserved. Lara Sieg and Herta Gatter were able to find some consistency from the corner of the key but it wasn’t enough to combat Birmingham’s offensive tide. Half time was called with a 36 vs 18 lead to Birmingham.
The Blues created more scoring opportunities in the third quarter, with Lyons, Monti, Lees and Gatter finding the basket in offence but Cambridge were unable to stop Birmingham’s outside shooting and it wasn’t until the fourth quarter when they upped their defensive play that any real competition for the match was established. By changing defensive strategy to a man-to-man format, the Blues forced a number of turnovers from Birmingham and some quality shooting from Sieg, Gatter and Ratican down the other end saw the Blues win the final quarter by two points, yet it was too little too late for Cambridge and the final score went 64 vs 42 to Birmingham.
The Blues will be looking to shake off this decisive loss and regroup quickly for their Cup match against East London at Home on Friday. The Blues welcome and appreciate home-court support so come down to the University Sports Centre to cheer them on against a tough Cup opponent tomorrow night at 6:30pm.
Scorers: Lees 10; Ratican 8; Gatter 8; Illingworth 6; Sieg 6; Monti 2; Lyons 2