City of Birmingham Rockets women fell to defeat at Manchester Mystics, despite an excellent second half performance.
Unfortunately, the damage was done early on, as Birmingham were 15 points down at the end of the first quarter, then trailed 42-20 at half time.
Rockets looked a different side after the interval and matched their opponents, but the gap was simply too big to threaten any kind of comeback.
Birmingham started with Michelle Turner, Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon, Catarina Seixas, Enkeleda Pashaj and Milly Harrison.
Turner gave Coach Emery’s side the lead with a three-pointer in a frantic start, before Harrison put Birmingham ahead again 5-4 with a close-range score, well assisted by Seixas.
However, the Mystics soon got into their running game and opened up a 19-5 lead.
Rockets were guilty of trying to force the issue, resulting in a number of rushed shots and turnovers. Also, despite attempting to hurry their opponents with the full-court press, Manchester picked the right passes and made a number of easy lay-ins.
Birmingham did manage to force some foul trouble and get into the penalty early on. However, they didn’t fully capitalise from the foul line, shooting just 40% of their free-throws throughout the game.
Towards the end of the quarter, Birmingham managed to regain some momentum. Seixas drove and made a running jump shot just inside the key, then stole the ball, setting up Ocrah for a well-made two.
The first quarter ended with the home side ahead 27-12.
Coach Emery’s team improved defensively in the second quarter, reverting more to a zone defence and crowding the area under the basket. Preccila Ocrah managed to get a shot away for two to get Rockets going.
Youngster Danie Wallis defended well when she was introduced and made a layup on the offensive end too.
Seixas then sank both shots from the line after being fouled hard on her way to the basket.
Although Birmingham restricted Manchester’s scoring in the second quarter, they continued to struggle on offence and the home side’s lead was extended. The first half ended 42-20, leaving Birmingham with it all to do in the second half.
Rockets looked an altogether different team in the second half.
They were organised and aggressive in defence and more coordinated on offence. Pashaj drew a foul whilst driving to the basket and made both shots from the line, and some good play from the visitors forced Mystics into a timeout.
Seixas assisted both Pashaj and then Harrison for two, as well as making a three-pointer herself. Soon after, Turner hit a jump shot from outside the arc, found open by Seyedagha-Calderon.
Sarah Mullgrave had a big impact off the bench throughout the game, providing impetus at both ends of the court. She made an impressive layup, before assisting Seixas for two.
After a steal from Turner, Seixas ended the quarter with another three-pointer. However, the home team were still comfortably ahead with the third ending 60-39.
Mullgrave posed an attacking threat once again at the start of the fourth, laying in for two on the fast break.
Ocrah was another key figure for Rockets off the bench, making a layup assisted by Ellie Pierpoint. Ocrah, Mullgrave and Pierpoint all made positive contributions defensively, restricting Manchester to more jump shots from further out in the second half.
Seixas continued her fine form on the night, adding two set up by Grace Brownell and after grabbing the defensive rebound, Mullgrave added a further score. Finally, Harrison ended Rockets’ scoring for the evening with a layup after being found by Seyedagha-Calderon.
The second half was evidence of what Rockets are capable of, but they left themselves with too much to do after a disappointing start to the game. 26% floor shooting and 29 turnovers meant that they never really got going on offence and didn’t cut the deficit enough to create any nerves amongst the home crowd.
Rockets’ top individual performers on the evening were Seixas with 16 points, 4 assists and 2 steals; Mullgrave, who made 8 points and 6 rebounds and Ocrah, who scored 7 points along with 6 rebounds and 3 steals.
Next up we welcome Brent Bulls for our first home game of 2024 sponsored by Newstead Clark Financial Services.
Match Report by Jess Ellicott