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Report: Bristol Flyers Women 55-61 Reading Rockets

Bristol Flyers Women put in a strong showing in the opening home game of their 2017/18 season against Reading Rockets.

Reading got the first points on the board, but the Flyers’ rebounding effort, particularly that of Maialen Zilbeti, prevented the Rockets making their subsequent attempts. Fiona Fox made the first home points for the Flyers this season, but Reading’s three-point shooters and strong frontcourt saw them dominate the opening quarter.

Losing possession on too many occasions limited the Flyers’ scoring chances, a long scoring drought for them was brought to an end by newcomer Emily Short, who made a corner two with one minute to go. Reading missed their final shot of the quarter, small consolation for the Flyers as they finished the opening stage of the game 12 points behind.

In the second quarter, Liisa Juul and Hannah Till led the Flyers in holding on to possession, yet the team were unsuccessful in their three-point attempts. Both teams prevented all their opponents scoring attempts for some time, a stalemate that was finally broken by Zilbeti four minutes in. 

The Flyers followed this with a couple of highlight moves: Juul making a through the legs pass to Fox for an open two-pointer, and Sandra Yebdri intercepted a pass in mid-air and handed it off to Zilbeti for the layup. The Flyers had edged to two points of Reading, which led to an outburst by the Rockets’ head coach to his team during a timeout.

Reading finally ended their cold streak with a three two minutes from the end of the half. The Flyers looked determined not to give up any more shots, though, with a big effort from Juul on defence blocking the Rockets’ route to the basket. The Flyers missed a last-second chance to tie the game up, yet their impressive second quarter saw them close the gap to just two points.

After a number of missed and denied attempts at the start of the second half, Fox gave the Flyers their first lead of the game three minutes in. However, Reading equalised almost immediately, then took back the lead. Molly James levelled it once again, and the game then fell into a pattern of Reading taking a two-point lead, which the Flyers then tied. Reading made the final two of the quarter, giving them a slender 37-34 lead going into the final period, but with the Flyers resurgent there was no telling how the game was going to end.

As the fourth quarter got going, Reading made a three straight away, and better defence from the visitors saw them bolster their lead. Till and Zilbeti combined to tie the game up, to which Reading’s Diana Olosho responded with five points, and another three point shot took Reading’s lead to eight.

With just over two minutes left, Juul capped off a six-point run from the Flyers to make it a two-point game. Till – who would finish as the game’s top scorer with 15 points – then levelled the scores, but immediately after Reading took a three-point lead. Another three-pointer with one minute to go took the Rockets’ lead to six. The Flyers began intentionally fouling to try and salvage the game, but to no avail. Zilbeti made a three with ten seconds to go, but that only reduced the arrears to 55-61 in favour of the Rockets.

“I don’t think we were the inferior team, we just didn’t perform tonight” head coach Gareth Till said after the game.

“There was not an awful lot between the teams, (Reading) made their shots at the right time and we just couldn’t really finish around the basket.

“We’ve got a lot of firepower in the team, and we played well in spells, we just need to be consistent and we’ll be in good shape.”

On the occasion of her first home game for the Flyers, Emily Short also spoke to bristolflyers.co.uk about how she felt the game went: “When we got more comfortable, we ended up coming down and making the score a bit closer. We just gave away too many turnovers and (needed) to drop more shots.

“It’s only our first game of the season - I think the team have really good chemistry, and I definitely think the more we play together the stronger we’ll get”

Bristol Flyers Women can next be seen at the WISE Arena on Saturday, October 21st, when they will be taking on Birmingham Elite.

About the contributor

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.