City of Birmingham Rockets fell to a home defeat at the hands of Bristol Flyers on Saturday evening despite a strong start at Nechells Wellbeing Centre.
Bristol are an established team at this level but with a 3-5 record going into the game, the team will undoudtedly see this one as a missed opportunity.
Birmingham started with Michelle Turner, Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon, Catarina Seixas, Milly Harrison and Grace Brownell. After losing possession from the tip, Rockets forced a shot-clock violation to turn the ball over with some great defence.
Seixas then opened the scoring for Rockets with a long-range three, quickly followed by a driving layup for two.
Soon after, Seyedagha-Calderon was fouled on her way to the basket and made both shots from the line. In a bright start for the home team, Seixas was soon back on the scoresheet again with another three, assisted by Turner, to make it 10-4 Rockets.
Bristol then changed tactics, going more to the inside. They tied the game at ten, before Seixas put Birmingham back in front, netting another long-range jump shot.
However, following a timeout, Flyers went on an 8-0 run giving them the lead for the first time, although Harrison closed out the quarter with an inside layup, assisted by Seyedagha-Calderon to make it 15-18, with Flyers three ahead.
Seyedagha-Calderon started the second quarter well as she grabbed a defensive rebound before sinking a jumpshot for three, set up by strong work in the post by Harrison. Rockets were playing their best basketball at this stage, shifting defenders one way and the other, driving to the hoop where possible, then kicking it out to find the open jumper.
Seixas levelled things up again with a layup for two after fantastic team ball movement. Enkeleda Pashaj then grabbed a defensive rebound and quickly set Seyedagha-Calderon on the fast break. She drove towards the basket, before spotting Turner open outside the perimeter to drain a three and put Rockets ahead 23-20.
Unfortunately, after this point, a combination of some ill-discipline in defence resulting in fouls and turnovers on offence allowed Bristol back into the contest.
Our visitors quickly gained parity, then slowly started to build a lead.
Turner stemmed the flow a little with a jump shot, then Danie Wallis restored some attacking impetus with a driving layup to close the deficit to eight, ending the half with Flyers ahead 36-28.
Wallis had a big impact off the bench throughout, contributing eight points on the back of 80% shot success.
Harrison started the third with a layup following some good work around the basket, closing the gap to six. Turner then made a driving layup, as Coach Emery’s side went back to what was effective earlier in the game.
Wallis returned from the bench to hit another jump shot, set up by Ocrah in the low post.
With the momentum of the game well and truly back with the home team, Brownell stole the ball and set Seyedagha-Calderon on her way on the fast break for a driving layup. The same player was then sent to the line after being cleverly put through by Ocrah, closing the gap to just five points.
However, the tide turned again and Bristol began to open another lead. Wallis was able to hit another open jumpshot, assisted by Turner, but then Flyers closed out the quarter with an 8-0 run, making the score 54-40 to the visitors.
With it all to do in the final quarter, Rockets simply couldn’t get going again. Turnovers plagued the team and most of shots they did get away were tough three-point efforts.
At the other end, Bristol were making the most of their height advantage under the basket. They continually drove at Birmingham’s defence, getting a number of players into foul trouble, forcing Coach Emery into regular substitutions.
By the time Birmingham got into any kind of offensive rhythm again it was too late, as Bristol had taken their lead beyond 25 points. Pashaj tried to get the team going with some aggressive dribbling, leading to her making three from four at the foul line.
The home team did manage to net the final six points with Turner, Brownell and Wallis registering scores, the latter cleverly found open by Pierpoint. However, the damage had been done and the game ended Rockts 49-70 Flyers.
Top scorer for Birmingham was Seixas with 13, followed by Turner with 10 points and seven rebounds, then Seyedagha-Calderon with nine points, three assists and two steals.
Birmingham will hope to bounce back next weekend as they travel to winless Solent Kestrels, before returning to Nechells on the 16th December for the last game of 2023, where they face Anglia Ruskin at the Nechells Wellbeing Centre, with tip-off at 5pm.
Match report by Jess Ellicott
Photos by Charlie Fitzpatrick