Manchester Met Mystics picked up a big win at home against the Essex Rebels and gave themselves a boost in the playoff race in this afternoons WBBL Championship action at the National Basketball Performance Centre. Huge performances from Sophia Song and Georgia Jones saw the duo combine for 44 points, 21 rebounds and 11 of the Mystics 15 made three pointers. Song finished with a Championship career high for herself with 19 points, (her previous high of 17 coming against Essex in their first matchup) 11 rebounds and 3 assists.
The Mystics came into the game at 7-7 in sixth place in the standings off the back of a disappointing 72-61 loss to Nottingham Wildcats earlier in the week, while Essex were looking to shake off a four game losing streak and cement their position in fourth place. Playoffs are around the corner and whilst the gap between fourth and third is too big to close, finishing fourth means that team will avoid a matchup against any of the top three seeds: the currently unbeaten Sevenoaks Suns, WBBL Trophy winners the London Lions and WBBL Cup winners Leicester Riders.
The first quarter set the pace of the game with both teams coming out firing and a barrage of made 3 point shots. Song finished the quarter with 9 points, hitting 3/3 from beyond the arc while Andrea Kohlhaas answered for Essex with 4 all within the last four minutes of the period. Song continued to have the hot hand for Manchester finishing the half on 15 points making all of her first 5 attempts from downtown. She kept up her impact, crashing the boards throughout the game pulling down 11, second only to her 12 rebound haul against Caledonia earlier this month. Song has spoken about adapting her game and taking on a new role in regards to rebounding for the team and has been critical for the Mystics in this aspect. Through the first seven games of the season she was averaging 3.5, over the last four she has upped this to 8.2 with 2.5 on the offensive end.
Essex would take a slim lead going into halftime ahead 49-45 but as Mystics fans will attest to, when Georgia Jones gets going the opposition need to watch out. Jones, who had a career high of 35 points with 6 threes the last time these two teams met earlier in the season, took over with 18 second half points finishing with 25 in total ( and another 6 made threes) 10 rebounds, 8 assists, and 4 steals.
Manchester trailed by two heading into the final quarter but a 24-9 run saw them prove too strong for Essex and take the win. Helen Naylor, who seamlessly switches between on court sharpshooter and new mum duties during halftime, finished with 15 points 2 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. Nicolette Fong Lyew Quee fresh off hitting the 1000 point mark against Nottingham on Wednesday dropped in 14 points, 2 rebounds and 4 assists.
Some tough defending from Vanessa Akra (8 points, 5 rebounds, 1 assist), Hannah Shaw (1 rebound, 1 assist) and Dominique Allen (4 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists) in the paint meant Rebels Centre Lucrezia Costa was limited to 3 made shots from the field and had to work at the line for her 15 points. Costa was the top scorer for Essex and finished with 11 rebounds (including 4 offensive) and an assist. Rosie Hynes (1 steal) and Rheanne Bailey (5 points, 2 rebounds, 1 assist) came off the bench both putting in that JLC work (The Jo Leedham Column: the effort and hard work on court not recorded by a stat) to top off a hard fought victory for the Mystics.
Speaking with Adam Masters of Brand 161 after the game, Song and Jones- the first joint Brand 161 & Bondi Bowls Mystics MVP this season- reflected on the teams win:
“I just felt like we were clicking today and we were all (in the mindset of) grab rebounds, play defence, get stops…everyone was just finding each other today. When we found our dips, we were able to catch it before we got too deep…and were just able to pick it back up. We were able to adjust better this game.”- Sophia Song.
Jones adds: “Like Soph said we just clicked today, and we’ve seen glimpses of it throughout the season but this felt like the first solid full game. I know we had dips but at the same time we didn’t lose our heads, we still played how we are supposed to play…it felt a lot more comfortable on the floor and it showed.”
Watch the full interview with Georgia and Sophia on the brand 161 YouTube Channel.
The Mystics are back in action on Wednesday at 5pm against league leaders Sevenoaks Suns.
Manchester Met Mystics home games are streamed live on the Manchester Mystics YouTube channel and the Mystics MVP award presented by Brand 161 & Bondi Bowls will follow post game.
Brand161 are a Basketball apparel and team wear clothing brand from Manchester: Instagram: @brand161mcr / Twitter: @brand161mcr