It was a tough weekend for Mansfield Giants Basketball Club women, who played back to back away games against Lancashire Spinners, losing in the league before winning in the quarter-final of the Basketball England National Cup.
After a difficult week, including venue issues and injuries ruling out player-coach Jo Richards with a recurring back injury, as well as having influential guard Chedell Cruickshank missing from the first fixture, Giants knew it it was going to be a tall order.
Saturday’s league game was dominated by the Spinners who took a convincing win, leaving Giants to play smart and conserve their energy in the all important cup tie the following day.
With the addition of Cruickshank on Sunday, the Giants squad were upbeat and feeling good about their re-match, taking note of the Spinners strengths and weaknesses from the previous game.
Once again it was Steph Jones who opened the scoring with a big ‘and 1’ to mark the first of her 15 point haul with Levitt sinking free throws to take the Giants into a 10-5 lead early on.
Rachel Campbell also began to come into her own, as the former Sheffield Hatter dominated inside. However, Spinners fought back to tie the game going into the second quarter which set the tone of the game throughout with just a few points in it from thereon out.
The second quarter was much of the same, with both teams playing physical, resulting in both team showing frustration at various points.
The Giants received a technical foul close to the end of the quarter, sending Spinners to the line and allowing them the opportunity to close the three-point gap the Giants had pulled away.
But with the Lancashire side failing to capitalise, Giants went into the second quarter with a 27-24 lead.
The third quarter seemed to be on the Spinners’ side as they took the pace up a notch and came out fighting.
However, as the tension rose, so did tempers as the Lancashire coach received a technical foul, setting the tone for a very competitive final quarter as there was still all to play for.
Despite some strong defence from Franky Harper and the rest of the team, Spinners took the quarter 15-12 as the teams level pegged at 39-39 at the end of the third quarter.
It was time for Beth Weldon to make her mark on the game as she quickly scored a three and two baskets in succession, forcing Lancashire to take a time out with Giants edging a four-point lead. This seemed to do the trick with Spinners coming out to score six unanswered points.
However, with their early foul trouble coming back to haunt them, Giants looked to steady shooter Alison Bridge to seal the victory, scoring six straight free throws, completing a 56-52 victory.
Coach Jo Richards said: This was a tough week for the girls, but they dug deep to support each other and I have no doubt that the team’s mentality and spirit led us to victory.
“We now face a difficult Southern match-up in the semi-final and there is no team there by accident at this stage.
“However, morale is high within the camp and we hope that we can go all the way this time’.”