Cambridge Cats Ladies defeated Erkenwald by a 53-45 scoreline at St Bede’s Sports Centre on Sunday afternoon in the Essex Local League.
The visitors were unbeaten in the league heading into the game but Keith Pringle’s team was missing some key players with Georgia Powell, Sarah King and Emily Pert, not with the squad. The players at his disposal, however, battled the full forty minutes with Crystal Sterling particularly impressive in the post, a constant source of danger for the Cats.
The Cats were able to field a strong side with Charles Hicks on the sidelines and captain Nicola Yorke leading her team on the floor. Yorke took responsibility for bringing the ball up the floor during the first half and was able to get her players quality looks. It was Oli Maury of the Cats who was the standout player across all four quarters. Maury rode the hot hand throughout the game, battling well with Sterling and Jacquelyn Rendall to rip down boards and put up a game-high twenty points.
The Cats took a lead into the first intermission but a pattern had been set that would be repeated throughout the game. The Cats started the better of the two sides, Helen Winter sinking two threes in the opening possessions but the visitors were able to keep the gap down to just 5 points at the break 13-8. Half of Erkenwald’s points coming through trips to the charity stripe.
In a very clean game played in a great spirit, the Cats were sloppy in giving up fouls in the first half and this gave their guests a lifeline when the home side was looking to build big leads. In the second quarter the Cats were up by 10 points but were over the foul limit before the middle point in the period, this allowed the Erkenwald back into a game, the hosts were trying to keep them out of.
There was a scary moment in the second quarter when the Erkenwald ball handler Lauren Kidd dove to the ground to gather a loose ball and in the scrum injured her thigh. Initially, it looked like it could have been a serious injury but after limping off and getting some ice on the affected area Kidd was able to come back and compete in the second half. Kidd shared point guard responsibilities with Charlotte Redhead, who impressed with her determination to get to the paint and effortless ball handling.
The Cats played a good zone defence throughout the game which limited opportunities in the paint, collapsing and swarming whenever Kidd or Key tried to move the ball inside to Sterling or Rendall. Up the floor, Zori Rico was a very active on-ball defender for the Cats as was Erika Sims, who both orchestrated opportunities that on another day will see them with a lot more points.
The second half was much the same as the first with the Cats pushing to gain a lead and Erkenwald pegging them back. Maury drained two shots from inside the arc early and Emilia Santos, who played well off the bench, in the early going in the third quarter before the sides started trading points.
However strong the Cats started in the third quarter the visitors pegged them back and the quarter was tied 13 points to 13 with the hosts holding a 3 point lead at the final intermission. Erkenwald were on a 6-0 run thanks to multiple defensive stops and good scoring from Kendall Grigg and Redhead, but the run was ended thanks to Sims just before the buzzer.
The final ten minutes needed more focus from the hosts on the defensive end. They achieved just that. Maury and Sims put up points early in the quarter and from then the Cats looked to shut the game down with Yorke playing her crunchtime five of, Maury, Rico, Delgado, Sims and Larking. Maury scored her twentieth points to put her side up 53-44 with two minutes to go. Erkenwald pushed hard to the final buzzer to get the points to win, but the hosts played a very calm game in the final minutes, running time off the clock as often as they could in the face of high pressure and coming out with the win.
The player of the game was Oli Maury who, in addition to 20 points, pulled down multiple rebounds and was a calming influence on her team. Cats Captain, Nicola Yorke was “chuffed” to take the win, “I think we played really well as a team, it was our first game after a Christmas break, so we were a little bit unfit.”
Yorke outlined the keys to the win, “We had some really good shooting from Oli [Maury]. Our team offence, we were passing really nicely together, looking out for each other, some rebounds under the hoop and some steals in the second half and we came away at the end with the win so we’re really chuffed. ”
The Cats were impressive in controlling the final quarter, just as Yorke had hoped they would,”Our aim this game was just to keep our calm, keep control and not panic. I think we kept our calm…and came away with the win.”.
Keith Pringle was upbeat despite the loss, and is looking forward to getting the Cats back next month, “I’m not too disappointed considering we had a Christmas break and the girls only had one session before this game. we’ve got them again in two weeks time and I’m sure we’ll be looking for some revenge.”
Listen to full commentary on SoundCloud.