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Report: Bristol Flyers Women 59-42 Essex Blades

The only way for the Essex Blades was into the lose column as they were dispatched by a confident and impressive Flyers Women’s team, in a game where they held the visitors to no points for an entire quarter.

The game started off stilted, with the Blades committing three fouls in the first minute of the game. Hannah Watkins was big for the Flyers at the early stage of the game, scoring five points and making three rebounds, while Liisa Juul put up an equally strong and successful effort on defence.

Four minutes in the Flyers new signing, Maialen Zilbeti, came off the bench and, on her second attempt at basket, made a field goal to give her new team a 10-4 lead. A late scoring run from Efi Basoukou and Freya Cooney put Essex back on top, but a final layup from Amani Clark meant the Flyers would close out the first quarter with a 12-11 lead.

There was an eventful start to the second quarter: Efi Basoukou made an early layup, Maialen Zilbeti then made a three-point jumper to take back the lead for the Flyers, to which Essex’s Harriet Welham responded with a three of her own. Zilbeti would finish her Flyers debut as the game’s top scorer with 16 points.

The Flyers upped their defence in this quarter, but the Blades gave as good as they got. They consistently blocked shots and continued being loose with fouls - including heavy fouls on Amani Clark and Fiona Fox - regularly sending the Flyers to the free-throw line, where most of their points in the quarter would come from.

While Welham continued to rack up points for the away team, she had nine of her ten total points in the quarter, Amani Clark impressed on defence and had big success with steals, preventing Essex building their lead.

The lead changed seven times in the quarter, yet the first half ended with the teams tied on 25.

The Flyers displayed great hustle in this game, particularly in the third quarter, where they showed good ball handling, forced Essex into making mistakes and fought for every possession. Conversely, Essex seemed to fall apart. They were unable to hold on to possession, committing five turnovers in the third alone, as well as managing the shot clock badly and all attempts at basket proving unsuccessful.

With seconds left in the quarter, Imke Sittel and Aneta Golik capped off a 17-point scoring run for the Flyers. Through a combination of well-organized, focused defence and Essex’s inability to get a shot to drop, the Flyers held the Blades to no points in the third.

The Blades finally got back on the scoreboard after thirteen minutes of regulation time. Unfortunately it came after six points from the Flyers in the first minute of the fourth quarter, giving them their biggest lead of the game at 23.

Essex started to fight back, though, and went on an eight-point scoring run mid-way through the fourth. It was broken when Liisa Juul made a down court pass to an unguarded Molly James, the 14-year-old layed up for her first senior team points.

Despite having a comfortable lead, the Flyers didn’t ease up and kept trying to find scoring chances, Liisa Juul finding the best one off a fast break. The Blades continued to foul, Ellie Shaxton put in a good final-quarter performance, but they couldn’t catch up. The Flyers saw home an impressive victory with a final score of 59-42.

Speaking afterwards to bristolflyers.co.uk, head coach Gareth Till, praised the performance of the team and how pleased he was with his two debutants: “It was a well deserved win. To hold a team that’s fourth in the league to no points, it’s a tremendous effort. I’m really happy with our defence (after that).”

“Mai contributed a lot on both ends of the floor, she made some big shots and also played some really good defence… and it was great to give the opportunity to Molly to play. When she came in she wasn’t fazed by the situation, she was really relaxed, and scored her first points in women’s senior basketball.”

“I’m happy with the win, but I think there are things we can do even better. We have more to offer, I’m sure”

Captain Trish Groves saluted her team and spoke of how it felt to have gone a whole quarter holding her opponents to no points: “That feels absolutely fantastic. I’m not sure we’ve ever done that before, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen a game where that’s happened before… Defence is a big strength and if we can do that for a whole quarter, we can definitely build on that going forward

“It was a bit of test today with two new players coming in, how they’re going to fit into the team, but we’ve been gelling really well in training, and I think it showed on the court today. Everyone, when they came on, did their bit and it went really well.”

The Flyers Women’s next opponents will be Barking Abbey on the 11th February at the WISE Arena.

Score by quarter: 12-11, 25-25, 42-25, 59-42