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Report: Bristol Flyers Women 81-65 Charnwood College Riders

Bristol Flyers Women overcame an early setback to emerge dominant against Charnwood College Riders in their final home game of the regular season.

Having already secured a play-off spot, the Flyers would be seeking to improve their league standings as much as possible ahead of the title race.

A high-scoring first quarter began with a three from Charnwood’s Harriet Swindells. Liisa Juul responded with a two-point jump shot, but three Charnwood players combined to give them an early ten point lead.

Mid-way through Hannah Watkins scored four and a three-pointer from Liisa Juul narrowed the gap to three, and the fight was on. Maialen Zilbeti had five unanswered points, then forced a turnover and made a diving pass to Juul for the bucket, but Ruchae Walton made sure the Riders kept their noses in front.

Having been down by double digits, the Flyers ended the first quarter trailing by only three, 20-23.

Early in the second, Charnwood’s Nicole Hofman and Kati Luotonen exchanged baskets, before Harriet Swindells and Ruchae Walton took the visitors to a more comfortable lead.

The Flyers demonstrated excellent ball passing and good defence that, at this stage in the game, prevented the lead getting away from them. Baskets from Amani Clark and Liisa Juul reduced the deficit to two, before Anna Popovic responded with a three on the other end.

Hannah Watkins put up a late under-the-rim basket and then, on the subsequent play, blocked the final shot of the half on the other end, sending the Riders to the locker room with only a one-point lead.

Amani Clark gave the Flyers the lead seconds into the third quarter. Anna Popovic was then fouled making a floating jumper, she made the free throw and restored the lead back to Charnwood, who capitalized on it with a five-point scoring run four minutes in.

The Flyers would not let up, though: Hannah Watkins was guarded by three defenders, but made the shot and drew the foul. Maialen Zilbeti, who displayed great hustle and ball control throughout, made a late three to give the Flyers a two-point lead at the end of the third.

Liisa Juul made the first shot of the fourth quarter, which, along with five from Amani Clark, gave the Flyers their biggest lead of the game. Clark would finish as the game’s top scorer with 25.

Charnwood lost the form they had at the start of the game, and their shots kept falling short. They tried to get back into it by drawing fouls, but having taken the lead the Flyers were determined to assert it.

The Riders looked to make a late comeback, but before they could get any momentum going Sandra Yebdri intercepted a pass and found Maialen Zilbeti wide open for the layup. The result was no longer in any doubt.

Having fallen behind early on, the Flyers played gutsy and determined basketball to get back into it and showed good teamwork and communication for the win.

“Charnwood are a really good team, they’re well organized and well drilled," head coach Gareth Till told bristolflyers.co.uk.

"It’s probably our best game we’ve played offensively all season. We shared and shot the ball well, and thoroughly deserved the win.

“It’s good to have momentum going into the play-offs, so a victory like that will give the team confidence, which is fantastic, but we have to concentrate on our remaining (league) games, they’re all important games for us.”

Report by Jack Ford

Image by Billy East