Manchester Thunder took the spoils in the hotly anticipated game against second-placed Saracens Mavericks 49-57
Manchester Thunder were slow out of the blocks with the Hertfordshire-based side finding goal shooter George Fisher way to easily and they edge the first quarter 16-15.
The second quarter started in the same vein with Mavericks building an early five-goal lead. But the black and yellows were in no mood to let Mavericks start the party. They started to find their form in the second quarter as the new combination with Laura Malcolm at wing attack started to gel. Thunder were hustling and hassling wherever they could and chipped away at Mavericks lead. Involving Mvula more in the game enabled Thunder to go into the half time break with a two-goal advantage 28-30.
At half time neither team were bold enough to make any changes and who could blame them in such a tight game. Karen Greig’s side slowly turned the screw on Mavericks and started to build a lead with O’Hanlon and Malcolm running the show in the middle and Kerry Almond setting the tone with two driving intercepts urging her team on. Meanwhile, Emma Dovey was having a battle and a half with Kadeen Corbin. Mavericks reacted by bringing on Steph Collard at wing defence and moving Michelle Drayne to centre and Georgia Lees to wing attack. The changes were ineffective and Thunder were in control with the scores at 38-45 going into the final break.
The crowd did their best to cheer their team on and the atmosphere was electric, Thunder were feeding off it – always seeming to perform better as underdogs – and they increased their lead to nine. Mavericks coach Kat Ratnapala had seen enough and with a last throw of the dice brought Karyn Bailey on at goal shooter with Fisher moving out to goal attack. The calming influence of Bailey went in Mavericks favour as they chipped away at Thunder’s lead. But with the experience of O’Hanlon and Malcolm combining with Turner, Thunder calmly sealed the win and took the points home to Manchester with them. Final score: 49-57.
Head coach Karen Greig was pleased with her team’s performance and said: “We were slow out of the blocks in the first quarter and I think it took us seven or eight minutes to adjust to what Mavericks were doing. Once we did adjust and we turned on our game plan I thought we hassled really well, we played possession well. The consistency let’ us down in parts but overall it was a great team performance.”
“We knew we were going to feel uncomfortable and we knew Mavericks did make us feel uncomfortable, but we coped with that well not like in previous games. All seven out on court and those on the bench had each other backs. It was hard work and ultimately they did a great job to come through and take a convincing win in the end.”
Saracens Mavericks starting 7:
GS Fisher GA K Corbin WA S Corbin C Lees WD Drayne GD Tripp GK Quashie
Manchester Thunder starting 7:
GS Mvula GA Turner WA Malcolm C O’Hanlon WD Carter GD Dovey GK Almond