Scotland Junior Women Easter Euro B Preparation
The junior women’s squad met up for training on Thursday 5th April ahead of games organised in Manchester over the Easter weekend. The last time the squad was together was in February, so it was important to spend this time going over key elements of both offence and defence.
Head coach Lorna Norman and team manager, Hazel Wood arranged games against Polonia on Thursday evening and Manchester Mystics seniors and juniors and Bury Blue Devils seniors. These games allowed the squad to play more intense games and for the coaching staff to assess players to select the team to compete in Euro B competition.
In the game versus Polonia all 14 players got the opportunity to play. However although we started well winning the 1st quarter 27-21, illness and fatigue affected some players ability to make any impact in the game. The players also struggled against the huge inside presence of Polonia’s posts. We lost this game 77-102. Our top scorers were Sarah Thomson who shot well behind the 3pt line,19pts, Claire Paxton 12pts, Kaela Greig and Hilary Wood, both 10pts.
Friday was a rest day as we travelled down to Manchester. The girls enjoyed a bit more relaxation to ease the aching muscles from the long training day on Thursday to swim and relax in the jacuzzi.
On Saturday our first game was against Manchester Mystics senior team who are at the top of the English national league division 2 North and lost their first game of the season the previous weekend, in overtime by 2points. So the coaching staff knew it would be a tough game. They are a well balanced side, with many experienced players previously playing in division 1.
Hilary Wood brought the ball up well under pressure, supported by Kaela Greig and Sarah Thomson, but our inability to set and use screens plus poor passing meant we were only able to score 8pts in offence. Manchester moved the ball well in transition and although we recovered to the basket, too often in the half court our defence was lacking. This pattern carried on for the rest of the game, although we did improve at the beginning of the 3rd quarter to win it 13-12. We kept at them, moving the ball at times very well in the fast break, but not always able to convert the shot.
With some players still not 100% due to illness we then had a few injuries to contend with. Sarah playing well, went over her ankle on the fast break and that was the end of her contribution to the weekend. Ailie Gardener came off a screen which jarred her recovering knee injury and our other point guard Robyn Lewis was jumped on at a lose ball by 3 Manchester players! Fortunately she only had a scraped leg. Final score Manchester 74- Scotland 35, top scorers; Sarah 12pts, Yhana van Wees 5pts and Hilary 4pts.
With the referees trying to reduce our gap between games we then played Manchester’s junior women’s team. They had a player missing on England duty but we felt this would be an easier contest than the previous 2 games against senior women. We started the 1st quarter very well with good patience in offence and some good passing in transition. We won this 15-9, but 2nd quarter was poor as we lost 20-10 and were down at the half 29-25. By now all 13 players (Beth Mackie was injured) had had the opportunity to play. The second half was very closely contested, played at a good pace with end to end action and the score was very tight. We had many opportunities to score but again missed easy shots, only scoring 30% and had 24 turnovers. Another loss but closer this time 57-53. Hilary Wood had a good game top scoring with 17pts, captain Hannah Peacock supported her with 15pts and Claire Paxton 8pts.
At the hotel after dinner we had a look at our game stats recorded by injured player Beth Mackie,under the supervision of assistant coach Laura McIntyre. We were also able to view our games thanks to Kaela’s dad. This helped us focus for our final game on Sunday against Bury Blue Devils.
On Sunday morning we arrived at the National Cycle Centre, part of Manchester’s Sportcity to play Bury. They are another senior team playing in the English national league division 2 North. The team were in awe of the facilities as the basketball court was in the middle of the velodrome. What an amazing place to play, although there were no GB cyclists around training. With Hilary Wood nursing a sore knee, Beth and Sarah also injured and Gemma McCrea also ill, coach Norman only had 10 fit players. Most of these players stepped up and some performed the best they had all weekend, notably Jennifer Crawford, Hannah Peacock and Yhana van Wees. Claire Paxton hit some good jump shots and Robyn Lewis and Ailie Gardener showed improvement and energy at the point. Kirsten Simpson contributed with some good passing into clubmate Hannah. This was a better team performance and we lead for all of the game, winning 55-45. Top scorers, Yhana, Jen C and Hannah 11pts, Claire 9pts.
With video footage and game stats from the weekend’s games, the coaching team can assess the players and team’s performance to identify strengths and highlight areas to work on at future sessions. This also supports the selection of the 12players who will represent Scotland at the European B tournament in July.
A big thanks to all the clubs that provided competition for us, Polonia Phoenix, Manchester Mystics and Bury Blue Devils.