It was a scorching hot evening in Manchester but it was a slow burner on court as Thunder put in a professional performance against Severn Stars.
It was composed and controlled from the Black and Yellows but Stars were a real test, and asked questions of them in all areas of the court, but Thunder did enough to win 55-49 in front of a sold out home crowd.
Head coach Karen Grieg was generally very pleased with her side’s showing at the Thunderdome, with their only blip coming at the end of the fourth quarter.
“For three and a half quarters we were solid,” she said.
“We had a three or four minute wobble in the last quarter but apart from that I was pleased with the performance”
“A lot less errors than other games”
“Stars threw everything at the last quarter knowing it would be a tough ask but we must stick to our game plan when teams put us under pressure”
“We know the game against Dragons will be tough but we must play with the same purpose and intensity”
It was a less than clinical start for both sides saw them fall into a pattern of ‘to me-to you’ with neither side daring to take their chances or gain a comfortable advantage.
The threat of a repeat of Thunder’s last game against Stars hung over Wright Robinson, where the Black and Yellows fell to a ten goal deficit before clinching the win by one goal. A one goal lead for Thunder at quarter time seemed to tell the story of their season – plenty of opportunity but lacking the final shot.
It was a more composed performance from Thunder in the second quarter as they managed to keep the score creeping in the right direction.
Thunder were able to muster up a comfortable lead of 31-24 at half time with plenty of opportunities to increase.
They were aggressive and composed in both attack and defence, and didn’t offer many opportunities for Stars to break them down.
Moving Iona Darroch to centre worked wonders for them, as they started to wrestle back some momentum.
They kept hassling Thunder and did close the gap to five goal midway through the third period.
Stars enjoyed a good spell but, apart from some sloppy passing exchanges, Thunder kept their own score ticking over, staying in front and not panicking on the ball.
Kathryn Turner and Joyce Mvula seemed content enough to take their shots, – and relieved to see them drop in, to reward good work from their feeders Caroline O’Hanlon and Liana Leota.
The game fell flat and threatened to peter out but Stars did just enough to keep things interesting and the scores within two consolidated turnovers, very doable.
But Thunder just needed to keep their concentration, and the introduction of Amy Carter for an effective Bea Skingley at wing defence seemed to add even more structure and balance to the home side’s game.
The game did liven up, and it was a feisty few minutes as the final buzzer approached, with both defences pouncing on rebounds and getting tips right to the final whistle.
Stars had real belief with two minutes to play, as they came to within three goals, but a stubborn Thunder stood firm and held off a late fightback from their visitors.
Player of the match Joyce Mvula said: “It feels so good. I’m so grateful. I was very confident and we believe in each other. We kept working hard for the win.”
Thunder starting 7:
GK Kerry Almond, GD Dovey, WD Skingsley, C O’Hanlon, WA Leota, GA Turner, GS Mvula
Stars starting 7:
GK Maweni, GD Cook, WD Gibson, C Malcolm, WA Darroch, GA Holtzhausen, GS Cardwell