Caledonia Pride celebrate historic first success

Natalie Bastian was top scorer and netted the winning point

Natalie Bastian was top scorer and netted the winning point

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Scotland women’s professional basketball team Caledonia Pride came of age on Saturday when they recovered from 12 down to score a last-gasp 79-78 victory over one of the great names of the UK women’s game, Sheffield Hatters.

It was the Edinburgh team’s first home WBBL win since they began their campaign and their second overall as they had notched one win away to bottom club Oaklands, who visit Oriam on Saturday.

Interestingly this game was not played at Oriam, the national performance centre at Heriot-Watt University where their previous home games have been held, but at their training venue at Edinburgh University’s Pleasance CSE and by the end the normally politely applauding support of mainly mums, dads and friends had exploded into raucous raptures.

It was well-deserved as Pride coach Bart Sengers acknowledged. “Hard work pays off,” he said.

“From losing 88-43 (to Hatters) to losing 69-50, to winning 79-78 in six months, I’m so proud of this group and everyone behind them that’s making this possible. It’s a complete culture change and we’re only getting started.

“We played with our hearts and refused to give up. You need a bit of luck to come back like that but it started with our fighting the way we did and keeping pushing no matter what. We always said the fourth quarter would be an advantage to us.”

The bigger, stronger Hatters, coached by GB women’s assistant coach Vanessa Ellis and including GB stars Helen Naylor, Steph Gandy and under-20 cap Georgia Gayle, had fought back from 43-39 down at half-time to lead 72-64 with five minutes remaining.

But they crumbled against Pride’s press and the non-stop running of guards Robyn Lewis and Natalie Bastian, backed up by forwards Hannah Robb and Kirsten Simpson, and centre Tricia Oakes.

“We gave it away,” said Ellis after Robb had a hit a three with 19 seconds on the clock to narrow the gap to one and Bastian drove to the basket to draw the crucial foul which she then converted with two free throws for the win.

Bastian finished top scorer with 24 points, Robb added 13 and eight rebounds and Oakes had another “double double” with 12 points and 12 rebounds.

Lewis added nine points, Sarah Thomson eight, Beth Mackie seven, Simpson three and Hilary Wood three.