St Andrews Basketball Women’s 1sts earned promotion to BUCS Scottish Division 1 with a superb 83-43 victory over Edinburgh 2nds.
After a close opening quarter, Saints overwhelmed their opponents in the second period with 16 consecutive points, thus claiming a lead they never looked like losing.
It was a well-synchronised and controlled team performance which sparkled with individual talent, including the towering Hannah Lamb, the rapid Paige Onouye and team captain Hannah Rogers, who managed the game for her side in addition to scoring some stunning field goals.
Saints led Division 2 going into the game, but having played once more than their Edinburgh opponents they knew that they could not afford to slip up. Indeed, they had lost 63-72 to the same opposition in November, although they have been unbeaten since then.
Rogers had earlier revealed that the team’s season had been disrupted by the loss of their coach. Training sessions have been conducted by Rogers and the vice-captain Frankie Altamura, with the focus on the basics of defence and counter attack. Those facets to their game were on show throughout; although Edinburgh did pose a threat going forward, neither their defending nor their finishing came close to Saints’.
In front of a crowd of more than 50 (with more spectators trickling in as the game progressed), Saints had the lead in 30 seconds thanks to Lamb. Although that first quarter was tight – Edinburgh finished it strongly to cut Saints’ lead to 18- 15 – the warning signs were there for the visitors. Rogers had already scored from a rampaging breakaway and then by darting through tame attempts at defending. Edinburgh, by contrast, were creating plenty of chances but were simply not as clinical as the hosts.
In the second period Edinburgh did not, or could not, heed those warnings. 16 consecutive points from Rogers, Lamb and Altamura put the home side 34-17 in front and in complete control. Edinburgh’s coach’s body language told of a game being thrown away, as his team contrived to miss opportunities aplenty and fell victim to Rogers’ characteristic breaks and Lamb’s physical presence in front of the basket.
The rest of the match was about game management by Saints, epitomised by captain Rogers, while adding further points at regular intervals to drain away Edinburgh’s hopes. The away side did continue to plug away, albeit in vain; their desire to win gradually translated into frustration, with Rogers in particular on the receiving end of some blatant fouls.
The hosts continued to seek as many points as possible. Rogers and Lamb were eventually substituted, but the pace and clever runs of Eloise Cotton and Amy Kirkhouse caused Edinburgh further headaches, Kirkhouse completing the scoring at 83-43.
The Saint spoke to Hannah Rogers after the match, who was clearly delighted to have finally achieved promotion after finishing runner-up in the past two seasons. She put the team’s success down to their intensity when not in possession, forcing their opponents into mistakes, and the fast counter-attacks that punished those errors. As for the 16-point spell that effectively won the game, Rogers said it came down to the players relaxing in the knowledge that they had the ability to pull clear, as was demonstrated. She summed up her emotions as being “so happy I want to cry” but also being “honoured to lead this team”, the best she had known in St Andrews.
The squad that Rogers has been proud to captain has achieved the goal they set themselves at the start of this year, and they can now prepare to test themselves in Division 1 next season.