Taunton Tigers Women returned to their Wellsprings lair to face the daunting challenge of current league leaders Bristol Storm. Whilst Tigers have found difficulty in gaining any momentum in their season, Bristol Storm have started their season with a bang and had secured 7 wins already this season, topping the league and remaining in strong contention in the Trophy and the National Cup. Both these 2 sides joined the national league together 3 seasons ago and whilst Tigers have shaded almost all of their previous encounters a really tough game was expected between these 2 sides, who finished 2nd and 3rd in Division 2 last season.
Nothing could have prepared either side or the crowd, for what turned out to be an extra-ordinarily low scoring, but highly competitive first half. Tigers started briskly and quickly got into their stride and by the 8th minute had established a 6 – 1 lead before the ever-dangerous Ravn hit 6 unanswered points to snatch a 7 – 6 lead for Storm at the end of the quarter. The start of the second quarter started as the first quarter had ended, with Storm in the ascendancy and breaking quickly to test the Tigers defence at every opportunity. Whilst Storm increased their lead slightly it was becoming obvious that Tigers were dealing well with closing down the outside threats and also beginning to stifle the inside threats through hard work and good defensive rotation. As happened the previous week, it was the energy and natural exuberance of Emily Farthing which proved the catalyst for Tiger's fight-back as she nailed a brace of lay ups. She was ably assisted by a welcome 3 pointer from Emma Gough and was well supported by the business and hustle of Abby Pow and Hanna Byrne, enabling the Tigers to enter the locker room trailing by a mere 16 – 18 points at the half.
The half time break spurred Tigers on to better things, and it was a more confident side, with real self belief that they could compete well with the league leaders, which took to the floor. Whilst the Storm inside players Henderson, Ravn and Fox continued to present a threat, the ever dependable Hannah Watkins and Laura Dyke were dominating the defensive boards and this, coupled with the ball pressure on the Storm guards exerted by Nicky Hartston and Hannah Maddocks made it difficult for the opposition to get the ball inside. Inevitably, turnovers ensued and Tigers took full advantage as they hit 12 unanswered points to lead 32 – 23 by the midway point in the quarter, with a brace of 3 pointers from Lydia Shaikh, who was having a fine game, and Laura Dyke, who was on fire with her trademark jump shots. A time out by Storm undid some of the scoring damage, however it was Tigers who finished the quarter the stronger, leading 38 – 32.
Storm made all the running at the start of the last stanza and managed by the midway point to pull the score back to 42 – 41, largely through trips to the foul line. However, as is often the case in chasing games, Storm's pressure was leaving gaps in other parts of the court and another 3 pointer and a lay-up by Lydia Shaikh enabled Tigers to take full advantage and take a 5 point lead into the last minute. Tigers remained firm and calm under pressure and were moving the ball with mature purpose as they closed out a very competitive and hard fought game winning 53 – 46
Team Coach Jim Hartston was absolutely delighted with the girls' performance,
“Storm always present a real threat to our team, and we so often seem to cancel out each other's best efforts, particularly as we know so much about each other's games. This was a fantastic team effort today, interspersed with some fine individual performances, particularly by Laura Dyke who hit a game high of 17 points. This game was a real test of character for us and to come through it in the way we did should be the spark to spur us on. The team as a whole dug deep today and came through strongly and in a controlled manner, they should be really proud of themselves.”