The Manchester Met Mystics came out firing against the fourth seeded Caledonia Gladiators this weekend and a back and forth game saw them hold the lead late in the third quarter. The Mystics who headed into the game at 1-15 have had a difficult season with injuries, short rosters and departures but they haven’t let that phase them and have kept fighting throughout. Caledonia were able to capitalise on their experience and pulled away in the fourth to head back home to Scotland with a 79-70 win and move to 13-3 for the season.
Patricia Elias hit back to back 3s for the Gladiators to open the scoring but Sam Keltos got things started for Manchester with a short jumper to get their first points of the game, a basket which also meant Keltos tied Evelyn Ovner as the Mystics 10th all time leading points scorer with 307 points in just 16 games played. Keltos, who played in the Big V league in Victoria, Australia last summer has been a revelation for the Mystics (and the league) in her debut season. Tied 2nd in the WBBL in scoring with 19.1 ppg, averaging a double double with 10.1 rpg (6th overall) and 1.4 bpg (3rd overall), as a big who can hit from behind the arc (7th overall in 3pt%) and handle the ball she’s a threat from all over.
Captain Leah McDerment, who missed the last 3 games with injury, showed how integral she is to the squad with an 11 point second quarter as the Mystics took a 4 point lead into halftime after an acrobatic scoop shot from Princess Adeogun in the last minute.
The young Mystics rookie core of Keltos, Abby Niehues and Shea Sanchez showed flashes of what could have been this season had injuries not limited this lineup to just 7 games. Keltos’ passes inside to Niehues led to finishes at the rim or Niehues heading to the free throw line after drawing a foul and the defensive pressure from the two forced turnovers and blocked shots for the Gladiators. Niehues, a 3 x Great American Conference Defensive Player of the Year while at South Nazarene University in Oklahoma, is averaging 2 bpg in her 8 games so far, and against Durham last week her and Keltos became only the 4th and 5th Mystics players to have 4 or more blocks in a single game, and the first since November 2019.
Sanchez continued her sharpshooting season from three as she knocked down four, on her way to a team high 19 points, including two back to back in the third quarter to stretch the Mystics lead 7. Sanchez, has been a tenacious defender all season long, regularly taking charges against much bigger players and forcing the Mystics opponents into difficult shots.
Caledonia were able to pull away in the fourth as they were led by the explosive play of guard Tea Adams who in her first WBBL season out of Oregon State, has made a huge impact for the Gladiators averaging 12.3 ppg, 4.4 rpg, and 4.2 apg. Adams finished with 25 points. The Gladiators stepped up their defensive pressure and key plays from Chantelle Handy and Erin McGarrachan helped Caledonia seal the win.
FocusHoops caught up with Caledonia Gladiators’ Chantelle Handy after the game to discuss the teams win. Handy has done it all when it comes to Basketball at an international and domestic level, having represented GB at the Olympics, and been part of the 3×3 Commonwealth Games Silver medal winning team for England last summer she has recently taken up the role of Head Coach for the GB U20s Women squad.
FocusHoops: Congratulations on today’s win, Manchester played you abit closer than people may have expected.
Chantelle Handy: Yeh they played well, they played really well. We made a few mistakes and they capitalised on them. They stopped the zone in the second half and made some knock down shots so good for them they played a great game.
FH: How does having players like yourself and Robin (Lewis), with veteran experience, help the rest of the team in those situations, just calm things down?
CH: I think its huge, I was just talking to somebody about that actually… having that little bit more experience in those situations is crucial, especially coming into playoff time we’re going to be in situations like that. It’s great to have Robin, it’s great to have Erin (McGarrachan) to take on that leadership role.
FH: Speaking of leadership, you’ve just been named head coach of the GB U20s Women, how are you feeling about it?
CH: I’m excited about it, I’m just waiting for the planning schedule, trying to figure out some names and who we’re going to get. It’s going to be tough but I’m excited about the challenge.
FH: What do you enjoy about the coaching side of things?
CH: The development, seeing the kids improve, I say kids, they’re players… they’re all kids to me (laughs). It’s just the development, the day to day stuff the details, give them the small things that will help them out in a game, to me that’s important. I’m trying to build this culture: do what it takes to be a professional and do anything (I can do) to help that pathway.
Caledonia face Sheffield Hatters on Friday 7th April and host the return leg in Caledonia on Sunday 9th.
Manchester travel to Durham on Monday 10th April