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Report: Bristol Flyers Women 58-52 Team Birmingham Elite

Bristol Flyers Women survived a bad tempered encounter with Team Birmingham Elite at the weekend.

As the game got underway, Birmingham played tough defence and Humphries put the first points on the board for the visitors. Meanwhile, the Flyers were off-target early on, but got themselves into the game through a combination of good rebounding from Trish Borde and close-range offence from Mai Zilbeti. Birmingham’s shots stopped falling for them, and two three-pointers from Liisa Juul gave the Flyers a four-point lead.

A lack of good defensive organisation from the Flyers allowed Birmingham to re-take the lead with a corner jump shot from Buxton with less than two minutes in the quarter. The teams exchanged shots for the period’s remainder, and at the end the scores were tied at 18.

Juul began the second quarter for the Flyers with a fast-break layup, then instigated another break she handed off to Zilbeti moments later. Fiona Fox added two more to cap off a six-point run to the opening of the second quarter. This was followed by a heated standoff – the game becoming very physical as both teams fought hard for every possession.

Birmingham cut their deficit down to two, to which Hannah Wallace responded with a three from long distance. Continuing their tough defence and taking advantage of incomplete passes, Birmingham made it a one point game, but another three from Wallace edged the Flyers back into a more comfortable lead.

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The quarter’s final minute became tense as Birmingham looked to take the lead going into half time, but Sandra Yebdri took possession from the Elite and on the ensuing possession Zilbeti made a layup. This meant they led by four as they went to the locker room, but Birmingham meant business and the Flyers’ advantage was not secure.

When the game re-started, both teams upped their defensive intensity, the results being even less shots falling on both ends. It took three minutes for the Flyers to get back on the board, and they managed to find some of the best attempts in the quarter. Forcing through Birmingham’s defence they were able to take their biggest lead of the game at seven points, but good looks in the paint from the Elite reduced the Flyers’ lead down to four at the end of the period.

Birmingham opened the scoring in the fourth, to which Becks Cantin responded by driving through the lane and making the layup in traffic. The Flyers maintained their lead throughout this final stage through good passing, alert defence and a big rebounding effort - particularly from Zilbeti, who finished with six total rebounds to go with a game-high 18 points.

Birmingham’s swarming defence caused plenty of problems for the Flyers right down to the wire. In the final minute Buxton stole the ball from Fox and ran down court for the layup, followed by a layup from Humphries with 20 seconds left to make it a three-point game.

Smart play from Juul, drawing fouls and converting from the free-throw line, would keep the Flyers’ lead alive, and a final steal from Zilbeti in the dying seconds would seal the deal – the Flyers took their first home win of the season, 58 points to 52.

“They (Birmingham) are a very experienced team,” said head coach Gareth Till.

“We actually know them very well, and it was just a matter of putting our experience in and having a few little pushes.

“We had some good looks at the basket, I think we missed way too many easy shots, but we found a way to dig it out, which is really encouraging - that we can find a way to overcome these sort of adversities and win a game.”

Gareth Till - Head Coach

Hannah Wallace, who had ten points off the bench and scoring at decisive moments in the game, told how she held her nerve during this intense matchup to emerge as one of the game’s standouts: “I tried to remain calm, I didn’t find myself getting too heated, but obviously I want to win. I tried not to let any aggression build up inside, put a positive spin on it and turn it into points.”

The next home game for the Flyers Women will be on Saturday November 4th at 1:30pm, when they will be taking on Anglia Ruskin University.

Bristol Flyers Women are always on the lookout for new players, coaches and volunteers.  Anybody who's interested and committed is always welcome to join the Flyers Family. Contact Flyers Women at 

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.