Taunton Tigers Womesn adventure in the National Cup ended at Wellsprings on Sunday, when they lost for the second year running to UWIC Archers, 65 – 22. UWIC are presently riding high at the top of National League Division One and are unbeaten in all competitions this season. Their side is stacked out with players possessing GB, Wales, and England international experience, and they presented a formidable and unenviable opposition to this young Taunton side, particularly as Tigers had suffered a close defeat at the hands of UWIC's second string side only one week earlier in the league.
Tigers made a more than composed start to the game and found themselves taking an early lead through scores from the free throw line by Laura Dyke. This put the 1st points on the score board and laid down the gauntlet to the Premier Division side. Whatever concerns Tigers coaching staff had about how the girls would approach the game were eased as the realization dawned that the gulf between the sides could be minimised, in part, by self belief and determination, playing their own game whenever possible, and remaining organized at the defensive end. Baskets were traded evenly until the 6th minute, as Hanna Byrne nailed a big 3 pointer, before a scoring burst of 6 unanswered points from UWIC opened up a 16 – 8 lead at the end of the quarter. Whilst Tigers continued to defend stoutly throughout the 2nd quarter, inroads to the UWIC basket became more difficult for the girls as UWIC pressured the ball in all parts of the court. Inevitably, turnovers by Tigers resulted in more scoring opportunities for UWIC and a further 11 unanswered pints from UWIC swung the game firmly in their favour, as they led at the half-time break, 32 – 9.
The half-time team talk time by UWIC's coach, Damien Jennings, served to increase the UWIC intensity as they quickly added 6 more points to their total, however, in raising intensity they also picked up unnecessary fouls, enabling Tigers, through Lydia Shaikh, the opportunity to cut the deficit from the foul line – whilst not taking full advantage from the foul line, Tigers had stemmed the UWIC tide and restricted them to a 47 – 15 lead at the three quarter stage, and UWIC were clearly frustrated by the defensive skill and efforts of this spirited Tigers team. Great defensive work by Abby Pow, Nicola Hartston and Hannah Watkins, with excellent support from Emily Farthing, Elly Leader and Hannah Maddocks, continued to slow down and disrupt UWIC as baskets were traded evenly until Great Britain international Steph Collins, grabbed 13 impressive points in the last 4 minutes to enable UWIC to run out comfortable winners 65 – 22.
Team manager, Jim Hartston, whilst philosophical about the result, was thrilled with the girls' competitive attitude,
“What a fantastic opportunity for the girls to compete against the current leaders of Division 1 and the form team in British basketball. I'm really proud with the attitude the girls displayed and the manner with which we approached the game and, although there were obviously a few nerves, these were quickly settled. It was really interesting to see the reaction of the opposition faces, when we competed so strongly, particularly at the defensive end.”
“UWIC coach Damien Jennings praised the team's boxing out and defensive skills, which he indicated was better and a higher standard than many in the higher division — restricting UWIC to 25 points less than their normal offensive level. We can take real confidence from this and we will need to retain this combative mind-set when we get back to normal league action next weekend.”