Match Report: Rockets Women 43-60 CoLA

City of Birmingham Rockets women lost out to high-flying City of London Academy (CoLA) Pride in a low-scoring encounter in front of a sizable crowd at the Nechells Wellbeing Centre on Saturday 24th February.

Rockets were in the game at the end of the third after cutting a 17-point deficit to single digits, finishing the quarter with an 8-0 run and bringing the home crowd to life. Sadly, it wasn’t to be as CoLA pulled away once more to end any hopes of a home victory.

Coach Allen and his team can take heart from restricting Pride’s scoring and staying in the game until the closing minutes. Progress is certainly being made and the team can take confidence into their remaining league fixtures.

Birmingham started with Michelle Turner, Milly Harrison, Maru Bibiloni, Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon and Grace Brownell. Harrison opened the scoring for Rockets after a brilliant steal from Brownell, in a hard-fought and low-scoring opening. The latter was then sent to the line and made both free-throws.

Bibiloni added one from the line before Ellie Pierpoint came off the bench to good effect, draining a three from deep with her first touch of the ball. Both sides struggled to gain any rhythm on offence, as defences were clearly on top at both ends of the court. The first ended 8-11 to the visitors.

The second quarter followed a similar pattern.

Pride were particularly aggressive on defence, and scoring for Rockets was dominated by visits to the foul line. Seyedagha-Calderon made five from six, Enkeleda Pashaj added one more and then Turner was successful with both of her shots. Unfortunately, CoLA were able to slowly increase their advantage and the half ended with CoB down nine, 16-25.

Seyedagha-Calderon scored yet another free-throw to start the second half, then Pierpoint was back on the score sheet with her second 3-pointer to close the gap and bring the score to 20-25.

However, a 10-0 burst by Pride at this point saw them open up a commanding lead.

Rockets needed a response and following a timeout called by Coach Allen, his team delivered what he asked for. Harrison made a great block to get the crowd going, then Turner drove all the way to lay-in under the basket.

Some excellent defence by Harrison, Pierpoint and Seyedagha-Calderon in and around the basket forced CoLA into several turnovers and helped swing the momentum back towards the home team.

Birmingham became more fluid in attack at the end of the quarter as Turner cleverly found Brownell to make two under the basket, before both Danie Wallis and Pierpoint again hit huge three-pointers to bring the bench and the crowd to their feet.

The quarter ended with Rockets in touching distance, down 31-40.

Credit to CoLA at the start of the fourth as they impressively silenced the expectant home supporters by slowing the game down and gradually increasing their lead, decisively this time.

Rockets were largely restricted to making single points from the foul line once again, before Pashaj stemmed the flow somewhat with a great dribble all the way to the basket for two.

With time ticking down and the result no longer in the balance, Birmingham kept fighting to the end. Brownell added to the score with a driving layup, followed by a three from beyond the centre of the arc.

Harrison had a good game on defence and made another block before scoring Birmingham’s last points of the contest from under the basket. The match ended with Rockets losing out 43-60 to their London-based opponents.

Birmingham’s top performers for the evening were Ellie Pierpoint with 9 points, 8 rebounds and 3 assists; Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon with 8 points, 9 rebounds, one assist and one block; Milly Harrison with 4 points, 5 rebounds and 2 blocks; and top scorer Grace Brownell with 11 points.

Our next home game at Nechells is on 16th March, which is our final home game of the season where we will take on Solent Kestrels, after visits to Ipswich and Bristol for our next two fixtures. Come along and show your support back at the Wellbeing Centre!

Match Report by Jess Ellicott