Capital-based pro basketball team Caledonia Pride fought back to defeat Manchester Mystics 72-59 at Oriam and keep a beacon of hope burning that they can reach the Play-Offs.
With Cardiff Archers narrowly beating winless bottom club Oaklands Wolves 75-70 it means Pride must still beat Team Northumbria in their final game, a televised clash in Newcastle on Friday, and hope Cardiff do not pick up an upset win over Leicester Riders. Pride certainly lived up to their name against Mystics, taking the first quarter 15-7 and still leading 32-28 at half-time. Northumbria did their best to prevent Nottingham Wildcats retaining the title but, in the end, went down and will be tough opponents on Friday in a a double-header at Sports Central.
Kirsten Simpson got Pride off to a great start against Manchester, opening the scoring with a three and going on to tally 12 points, adding three rebounds and three assists as well as playing some tough defence, as indeed did all the Capital outfit. Sarah Thomson added another three threes and six rebounds but it was American guard Natalie Bastian who stole the show with 20 points, four rebounds and two steals.
“In the first half, I felt I was getting fouled a lot but in the second half I played much better and it will be all or nothing next Friday,” said Bastian.
Tall centre Tricia Oakes not only played the most minutes for the team (36) but also finished second top scorer with 14 and added a huge 17 rebounds.
Mystics, who crumbled to lose the last quarter 23-8 when they were chasing the game, were without GB star Dominique Allen but veteran coach Jeff Jones refused to blame that for their defeat.
His daughter, GB point guard Georgia, had an off day with her shooting, with only five points and one from 12 from three-point range, much of the credit for which must go to her former Loughborough clubmate Robyn Lewis, who was leech-like in defence.
Jeff Jones, who was seldom off the case of the home refs, was philosophical in defeat: “Pride definitely have improved but, after we took the lead, we imploded.”