Report by Robbie Macdonald

After clinching the playoffs last weekend Caledonia Gladiators (WBBL) backed up their a tightly fought victory in Cardiff with a hard-earned 79-70 win in this afternoon’s visit to Manchester Met Mystics.

Bottom of the table Mystics started the game fantastically at Platt Lane Sports Complex to take a half-time lead in what looked like could result in one of the shocks of the season. But it was not to be after a third quarter comeback ensured the two league points would be heading up to Scotland.

Gladiators were the quickest out the blocks, Patricia Elias earning her side a six-point lead with back-to-back three pointers in the first 90 seconds. This would not last long as the Marg Jones’s team stunned the visitors with an impressive comeback that saw them sneak a narrow 17-15 lead at the end of the quarter. Sam Keltos was instrumental in the home sides impressive start scoring eight points in the opening period.

Caledonia did not take long to level the scoreline through captain Erin McGarrachan who sunk two free-throws after a brilliant interception forced the defender into a foul. A short back-and-forth followed in the next two minutes to make it 21-21 before Chantelle Handy shot from deep to send her side into a three-point lead. Miguel Ortega urged his team on from the sidelines, but the hosts nipped away to prevent any significant scoring run and keep themselves within a couple of points.

However, Manchester eventually pulled themselves back in front through Shaelynne Sanchez’s delightful three-pointer, three minutes before the break. Gladiators responded quickly but a seven-point scoring run gave Mystics a 39-33 lead with less than 30 seconds to play in the quarter. Téa Adams concluded the period with two successful free-throws to cut the deficit to four going into half-time.

Captain Leah McDerment was the star of the half, scoring 15 points for Manchester while Adams was the top scorer for the away team with nine points of her own.

Gladiators again started well in the next quarter, but another Sanchez three-pointer regained the home sides six-point lead. Abbie Wolf used her strength to turn her defender and respond with a lay-up, but Sanchez scored yet another triple to increase the difference to seven.

Ortega called a timeout with six minutes left in the quarter and whatever he said worked wonders as Gladiators flipped the game on its head. A couple of nice lay-ups were followed by Adams’ lovely three-point basket to cut the deficit to three. She then put Caledonia ahead, cutting through the defence with ease to give herself an easy shot at the basket and make the score 54-53. Gladiators remained on top and shipped just three more points in the period and finished the third quarter with a 63-54 lead.

It was a valiant effort from a young Mystics side who only were able to pull together a squad of eight players for this afternoon’s match. The players kept fighting until the final whistle, but tiredness showed as they could not mount any sign of a comeback in the fourth quarter and Caledonia saw out the win.