The Cardiff Met Archers travelled to Manchester this weekend to take on the Mystics, facing them for the second time this season. A 72- 67 home win for Cardiff in the previous matchup before the Christmas break saw Centre Mara Marchizotti lead the way with 18 points, 14 rebounds and 2 assists. Captain Robyn Lewis, who is the all-time leader in WBBL league games played, added in 13 points, 4 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal.
This time the Archers were without Marchizotti, but put on a tough defensive display and Forward Cristina Bigica stepped up with her best offensive game of the year. She finished with 27 points on 70% shooting along with 3 rebounds and an assist. Marlee Ball, playing in her first WBBL season after graduating from Carleton University in Ottawa, had a double double with 10 points and 11 rebounds.
Cardiff trailed 36-27 going into half time but Bigica led a third quarter surge where she scored 9 of the Archers first 11 points which saw them initially outscore the Mystics 11-2 and allowed them to take a two point lead midway through the period. Manchester fought back and led 50-47 to start the final quarter and eventually pulled away for a 72-54 win.
The Archers are in 8th place in the standings at 3-7, still very much in the playoff hunt, and have a game in hand against Oaklands who sit behind them also on 3 wins. They will head to Durham on Wednesday looking for their next victory.
After the game Focushoops caught up with Head Coach, 2012 Olympian, Commomwealth Games silver medalist and all-around GB legend, Stef Collins. She shared her thoughts on the teams performance, their focus on Durham and how she has found her coaching role this season.
Focushoops: “Stef, a tough game to come up here and not come away with the win, can you take some positives out of it? Cristina had an amazing game, 27 points, and you are obviously without Mara.”
Stef Collins: “Yeh absolutely I can’t fault the effort today. Especially for 30 minutes…we were down at half time and we had a hell of a third quarter comeback. Only down 3 heading into the 4th. I don’t know if it’s a combination of fatigue or I don’t know what it is…obviously with the way the seasons panned out, you’re playing a lot of games and its basically Wednesdays and weekends.”
“We struggled to score in that 4th… and a couple of times we didn’t get back in transition and we gave up some easy transition scores…that was the momentum killer for us. Credit to Manchester they played a hell of a game and it’s good to see Helen Naylor back and thriving after having a kid. It’s fantastic to see some of those GB teammates of mine still getting after it.”
FH: “You had some really strong defensive performances, is that something you have been working on this season?”
SC: “Yeh, absolutely we always kind of said we wanted to have a little bit of an identity and I think for us….we needed to set the tone and set the pace on the defensive end. We have the players that want to buy into that, we have the players that want to get after it. Have that pressure up the floor, have that pressure in the half court…and really buy into that team ethos that we are going to help each other out if we do get beat.”
“We’ve had a nice span of games, obviously the results haven’t gone our way, but we had a great game against Leicester, it was close, Essex at home that was close, (today was close) obviously until the fourth quarter…we’re building momentum, we’re really finding that identity for ourselves and I think …our time will come in the next couple of weeks to hopefully get that next win.”
FH: “You play Durham on Wednesday, how are you feeling going into that game?”
SC: “We’ve got to now look at this game, reflect and then think about Durham and obviously Durham they’re finding their stride now too, they’ve had a succession of games and not come away with a win. But you can see that they’re kind of pulling together as a team and really coming into their own so I’m sure its going to be a highly contested battle, but for us its focusing on the little things and think about what we need to do to improve.”
FH: “For you on a personal level how have you found the transition between playing and coaching, have you enjoyed it, are you thinking: I want to get out on court?”
SC: “Everybody keeps asking me like “can you play?”, I’m like “yeh I can play!”. I had surgery on my knee in July….I did about 8 weeks of preseason, played in a couple of our preseason friendlies and at that point I was like, you know what, I just want to coach. I don’t want to try to do both, I’ve been doing that for such a long time and I thought…lets really put myself into it from a coaching perspective, step away from the playing perspective. I’m at that age where its just a little bit harder to be running up and down, everything seems a little bit harder so its been really nice for me to really just focus on the coaching element and yeh, I definitely miss playing but I see so much potential in my career now that I’m potentially not going to play. Im not saying I’m retiring, I’m not saying that, who knows maybe i’ll make a comeback I don’t know, but for me its been really nice to focus on that side of things.”
FH: “This year you’re the only female coach in the WBBL with the (Sheffield) Hatters being out, is that something you’ve noticed, more growth on that side in the female aspect of coaching, people coming through?“
SC: “Yeh I think people are more aware of it and we’re really fortunate at Cardiff Met that our director of basketball is a female. We’ve got Sarah Wagstaff who is coaching the Division 1 team, there’s that real big female presence within the coaching and a lot of our players…are coaching within our academy set up so we’ve already got that nice niche there and its only going to get bigger.”
“I probably felt like I had to fly the flag this year because Vanessa Eliis from Sheffield had gone to Austria, so its important to have that female representation and its great to see the work that Basketball England have done with that female leadership programme, (part of the #AllGirls campaign, more information below.) Some of the Manchester players…Hannah (Shaw) is on that course and there’s a couple of them that are on that course this year and that’s only going to build momentum for UK basketball, British basketball to have those females within good roles within basketball. Not just coaching, there’s all kinds of different things that you can get involved in. I think the important thing is that we keep the females that have been a part of this sport, given so much from a club perspective or from a national team perspective, that they are still part of basketball long term, you can still be a part of it post playing.”
Cardiff visit Durham Palatinates on Wednesday 24th March at 6pm and play Barking Abbey London Lions on Saturday March 27th at 3:15 PM
Cardiff Met Archers home games are streamed on the Cardiff Met Sport TV YouTube Channel
Follow the Archers on Twitter: @ArchersBasket Instagram: @ArchersBasket
More information on the #AllGirls campaign – where Basketball England are creating a leadership community of women to impact performance and development throughout the country – can be found on the Basketball England website.