City of Birmingham Rockets women lost out to early pace-setters Ipswich (6-1) in WNBL Division One at Nechells on Saturday evening.
It was always going to be a tough assignment against the league leaders but Rockets stuck at it, encouraged by the home crowd, and there were some positive moments and notable individual performances.
After defeat to CoLA on the road last weekend, our women were glad to be back home and have an opportunity to build on the two wins earned so far in their league campaign.
Birmingham started with Michelle Turner, Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon, Catarina Seixas, Enkeleda Pashaj and Milly Harrison.
It was Seyedagha-Calderon who opened the scoring for Rockets, nailing an open two. A long-range Turner three-pointer meant the scores were then level, as Birmingham matched their opponents at both ends of the court early on.
Rockets were forcing Ipswich to make mistakes through tough, team defence. Seyedagha-Calderon grabbed an offensive rebound and put the ball straight back in for two, giving Coach Emery’s team the lead for the first time in the game.
Grace Brownell was then introduced off the bench, returning after missing last week’s game, to instantly register a score on the drive. However, some good play from the away side forced a Birmingham timeout with the score 11-16 to the visitors.
Precilla Ocrah was brought into the game for the first time and immediately picked up the first of her nine rebounds in total, before cleverly making her way from coast to coast for two.
The momentum was very much with Ipswich at this point, though, and they began to build a lead, making the most of Birmingham’s foul trouble. This was forcing a number of interchanges by Coach Emery, which prevented any fluency on offence. By the end of the quarter, Ipswich led 34-17.
Rockets started the second quarter with Sarah Mullgrave sinking an open three-pointer, but this was the only highlight in an 11-3 run by the visitors, taking them out to a 25-point advantage.
Ocrah managed to stem the flow with a layup, before Ipswich foul trouble enabled Birmingham to keep the scoreboard ticking over from the foul line. Unfortunately, Ipswich were in full flow at the other end, and the lead was continuing to grow.
One of the home team’s best moves saw Brownell assist Maru Bibiloni for a jump shot after some impressive ball movement. Bibiloni then turned provider, as her pass set up Pashaj for two, ending Birmingham’s scoring for the half to go in at the break down 62-27.
Turner started the third quarter with a two-pointer on the fast break after quick hands allowed her to steal the ball. This set the tone for the next few minutes, as Rockets were starting to force Ipswich mistakes. Seyedagha-Calderon was sent to the line and made both. Then, a Seixas steal led to another Turner three, with Rockets on a 10-1 run.
Birmingham were certainly restoring some pride, cutting into the Ipswich lead. Turner netted her third triple of the quarter, before Harrison was fouled attacking the basket, making both from the line.
Danie Wallis continued the fight with an impressive offensive rebound and layin. Seyedagha-Calderon then got the crowd into the contest by making a fantastic three-point play. This closed out the third quarter 44-76.
Sadly, the resurgence of the previous quarter was quickly halted by a 7-0 Ipswich burst to start the final period. Rockets kept battling though and Ellie Pierpoint showed good vision for two assists in consecutive plays, setting up Turner and Pashaj respectively for jump shots.
With time running down, Harrison returned to the game to sink three of Birmingham’s final four baskets, all assisted by quick ball movement to find her open in the post. Bibiloni registered the other score.
However, a free-scoring quarter by the visitors at the other end meant that Rockets were sadly on the wrong end of a 107-58 defeat on the day.
On the plus side, Turner registered 16 points and six rebounds and Harrison also made double figures with 10 points and five rebounds. Birmingham also had an opportunity to go again on Sunday, welcoming Sheffield Hatters in the National Cup Quarter-Final.
Match report by Jess Ellicott
Photogrpahy by Charlie Fitzpatrick