Taunton Tigers Women tipped off their league campaign with a hard fought away win against Solent Suns. These 2 sides last met in the national league over 2 seasons ago and, to date, Tigers had never won any of their encounters with this side, which has an excellent pedigree in English Women's Basketball. Form is difficult to read at this time of the season, however, a very tough game was expected from the Solent outfit, which had been represented at Division 1 level only last season.
For their part, Tigers were anxious to take away the disappointment of their defeat to Bristol Storm in the National Trophy of 2 weeks earlier and also keen to get their season underway with an improved performance. The girls have trained well over the past 2 months, have had a very competitive run-out in Tigers pre-season tournament, and have waited impatiently for the season to get under way to test out refinements in their offensive options.
Tigers got off to a great start and quickly eased into the lead. Tigers running of the lanes is a cause for concern to most sides and now, coupled with an organized half court offence, it was paying dividends. Excellent player and ball movement created all sorts of problems to the Solent defence and, with Hannah Watkins on fire inside, the girls were getting their just scoring rewards as they regularly penetrated into the paint to take the quarter 15 – 10.
The 2nd quarter proved to be the most productive for Tigers. Solent did their utmost to stem the scoring flow, good all-round team play enabled Tigers to stretch their lead further, as they hit 11 unanswered points midway through the quarter. Bench rotation brought renewed energy to Tigers and continued to present different issues to Solent, and although a late burst of scoring brought them back into the game, they trailled Tigers 35 – 27 at the half-time break.
The 3rd quarter was a struggle for Tigers as they failed to maintain the momentum of the first half, and with Solent increasing their defensive pressure, Tigers were forced to work hard for any offensive opportunities. 11 unanswered points from Solent edged them into the lead, before a brace of baskets allowed Tigers to end the quarter leading by one point at 43 – 42.
The last quarter was a really tense affair as Solent threatened, then took away, the slender Tigers lead, helped by a particularly resilient zone defence and a few unforced errors by Tigers. A basket by Hannah Watkins steadied the nerves as Tigers eased their nose ahead again. Both sides were feeling the pressure as first Solent missed 7 foul shots, whilst Tigers missed 6 of their own. With Tigers picking up fouls, the value of a deep bench came into it's own as the girls toughed it out. A big 3 pointer from Solent snatched the lead away with only one minute remaining, however, an instant 3 point reposte by Jenny Ridgway gave a 2 point cushion with 30 seconds remaining. Two more missed foul shots by Tigers presented Solent the ball and another opportunity for them to tie the game from the foul line. Only one shot was made, and with one last foul going Tigers way on the buzzer — a really tight game was taken by 53 – 51.
Tigers coach, Jim Hartston commented after the game,
“This was a great first league win of the season for the girls and they all played their full part and contributed well in, what has been an excellent team effort in a really tough game. I don't think that many team's will relish facing Solent here — they have a big inside presence and will give defences a hard time — you certainly know you've been in a game!”