Tuesday, April 10th 2018
After a tense and fiery 40 minutes, Bristol Flyers Women’s title hopes came to an end against Oxford Brookes.
Matchups between the teams were some of the most heated games in the entire league - the outcome on both occasions had been decided by no more than six points, with drama and excitement being common and a wealth of highlight moments on show.
Fiona Fox opened the scoring with a layup, and threes from Liisa Juul and Hannah Till gave the Flyers an early 8-0 lead. However, a lapse on offence and breakdown in communication opened the doors for Oxford. After first getting on the score sheet, it didn’t take long for them to tie the scores, and a three from Julie Fricke put them up by five just after four minutes played.
Queen of the court for the Flyers was Hannah Wallace, who made her biggest impression early in the game. After being fouled on a missed layup attempt, she missed her second shot at the line, but caught the rebound and handed it to Becky Cantin for the basket. Courtney Gray then interrupted the Flyers’ momentum with two layups in a row.
Later, after inbounding the ball to Cantin, Wallace regained possession, knifed through the lane and laid it up and in. She then brought the first quarter to an end with a long-range two at the buzzer - Flyers were behind by a single point, 19-20, at the end of ten minutes.
While Oxford looked alert and were quick to mobilise, the Flyers looked to be feeling the pressure and had trouble getting shots to fall for them, though they were playing well on defence. After a layup from Fiona Fox early in the second quarter, Julie Fricke responded with a three, beginning a long scoring run for Oxford.
Fox drew the foul on a layup attempt and made one of two free throws, ending a scoring shutout for the Flyers. Sara Zueco Montanes added two more to bring Oxford’s total to 42, and after a number of missed attempts Hannah Till finally made a three with what would be the last shot of the half. Trailing by 15, the Flyers still had a mountain to climb when the game re-started.
Oxford’s height advantage over the Flyers was evident throughout the game, as they made it hard for the Flyers to get shots off from close range. This was particularly evident in the mid-section of the game, where they limited a lot of the Flyers’ chances in the paint.
The Flyers showed renewed vigour when they came back to the court in the third, and with high-pressure defence on both ends the scoring dried up. Becky Cantin ended the drought with a wide-open jumper in the paint, which Sara Zueco Montanes followed with a layup that went under the rim and in.
Following which, Liisa Juul was fouled as she knifed through the lane to make a layup, then added one more from the line. Maialen Ansoain Zilbeti then made a gold three that hit nothing but net, and Fiona Fox stole the ball and went from coast to coast, where she handed it off to Hannah Watkins for another bucket, bringing the team’s deficit down to ten.
It seemed the Flyers’ early problems had befallen Oxford, as they started to falter on offence, until Julie Fricke made a three with seconds left in the quarter. Responding with a three of her own, Molly James closed the gap to 51-42 ahead of the deciding final period.
Early fourth quarter points for the Flyers came from the foul line, as well as a basket from Hannah Till in traffic. Slack defence from them allowed an easy layup from Julie Fricke, and Molly James blocked a layup attempt only for the ball to find its way into Fricke’s hands. She added two more, bringing Oxford’s lead up to 14.
Out of a timeout, Hannah Watkins put up a close-range two. Courtney Gray then made a layup on the other end, only for Hannah Wallace to respond with a layup of her own. Moments later Wallace hit two from the line, the last of her total eight points in the game, which brought the arrears down to ten.
The Flyers kept missing fast-break attempts but held off Oxford on defence for as long as they could, until Paula Romero Lozano dropped a dagger three with just under two minutes remaining. The Flyers put up three consecutive attempts from long range, all of which fell short, which would be the moment the game was decided.
On their last play of the game Fiona Fox made a steal and a fast break layup, small compensation for the Flyers as the final buzzer brought their 2017/18 season to a close.
“It’s a disappointing end to our season for sure, but we can learn a lot from what we got wrong and hopefully go that one step further next year,” Fox told bristolflyers.co.uk.
Head coach Gareth Till continued: “Full credit to Oxford, they played some really good basketball and deserved the win.
“We identified what we needed to do, but our execution was poor for large spells of the game. We didn’t value the ball enough, turning it over 31 times is really disappointing and you’ll struggle to win games gifting possession away.
“I’d like to thank all our friends and volunteers who have supported the team over the season. It’s great to see interest is building for female basketball in Bristol. We’ll be back next season determined to improve once again.”
The team are already beginning their recruiting process for next season. Players of any age, as well as coaches, officials and volunteers, wanting to get involved need only get in touch at firstname.lastname@example.org
Photo credit - Jane Kemp
Written by Jack Ford. A recent member of the Flyers Family, Jack has been volunteering with Bristol Flyers writing game reports on Flyers Women for the website and game day programme.
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