More local-derby despair for plucky Mansfield Giants

Despite starting and finishing the game with some of their strongest basketball to date, Mansfield Giants suffered the blow of local-derby defeat at the hands of Derbyshire Gems for the second time this season.

Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 12:18 pm
Updated Tuesday, 17th January 2017, 12:21 pm
Assistant coach Alison Bridge, who felt Giants could be proud of their performance.

Giants were hoping to avenge a 59-50 loss they suffered against Gems on the opening day of the campaign. But they were beaten 49-43 and now trail their rivals by four points in the Women’s Second Division of the National Basketball League. Giants sit fifth in the nine-team table, while the Chesterfield outfit are as high as third, just two points behind leaders Team Birmingham Elite.

Assistant coach Alison Bridge said: “We were very disciplined as a team and showed some really good teamwork, which definitely had an impact on court. We also displayed some solid offence at times. But we just couldn’t keep it up for the whole four quarters.

“Despite the defeat, I think we can be proud of our performance and can build on it as we go into a three-week break from fixtures.”

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Giants came out firing on all cylinders and raced into a 9-2 lead early on before Gems forced a time out and roared back thanks to Helena Palmer, a former junior with the Mansfield club, who poured in eight points.

Back came the visitors and after a long-range shot from Jo Blakeway, they finished the first quarter strongly, trailing by only four.

The second quarter was basket for basket as both teams found their stride. Ashlea Smith caused the damage for Giants, supported by Beth Wheldon, who added five quick points, and the four-point margin remained the same.

It was in the third quarter when the tables were turned significantly as Gems showed solid defence, allowing them to break out and score some rapid points. Maria Gonzalez-Villar tried to curb the hosts with a three, whiole Chedell Cruickshank kept her cool on the line to sink two free throws, but Gems built a commanding lead of 43-29.

After some words of advice from Bridge, Giants battled back in the final quarter, but despite fantastic team-spirit, it wasn’t enough and Gems held on. The leading points’ scorers for the Mansfield side were player/coach Jo Richards with nine, Smith with eight, Wheldon with seven, Charlotte Levitt with six, Gonzalez-Villar with six and Cruickshank with five.