New-look Mansfield Giants Women opened the 2015/15 National Basketball League season with a 68-55 defeat against debutants Worcester Wolves at the Oak Tree Leisure Centre.
But player/coach Jo Richards was far from downhearted, especially as her side contained a number of fresh faces and were without returning guard Steph Jones.
“This was a strong first game for our team, who haven’t really had chance to play together as a full unit until now,” she said. “We have put in some good work during pre-season and are gelling well.
“This match definitely gave us some positives to take away and build on as we prepare for our first cup game in a couple of weeks’ time.”
Wolves’ side included the familiar face of former Giants youngster Kirsty Russell, who left the Mansfield club to start her studies at Worcester University after coming through the Junior Giants programme.
But they soon found themselves on the back foot as Giants dropped the first points on the board through captain Alison Bridge, and then coach Richards herself stepped into the scoring spree. By the time newcomer Beth Weldon had added nine points to the tally, Giants were 25-13 ahead at the end of the first quarter.
The momentum continued, with Rachel Campbell and Chedello Cruickshank adding baskets to increase the lead to 16 points. But then, for the first time, Wolves began to turn the screw, punishing Giants from outside the arc. Jade Clemenson did respond, but by half-time, the visitors had cut the deficit to 38-33.
In the second half, it was as if the young Worcester side found another gear, continuing to break down the Giants’ defence and scoring some big long-range shots.
Despite a run of eight consecutive points by stalwart Charlotte Levitt, who top-scored with 17 in all, Wolves led 54-48 going into the final quarter, in which they restricted Giants to just seven more points.