Manchester Thunder slumped to a 49-52 loss to BenecosMavericks at the Thunderdome.
It was the first defeat of the season for the Black and Yellows, but a deserved win for the visitors, who punished Thunder’s inability to take advantage of any momentum they managed to force.
Some would say it was a night that bore more significance than the result, with hundreds of pounds raised for Cancer Research UK, as Thunder wore specially-designed pink dressed for the traditional ‘Pink Week’.
Manchester Thunder coach Karen Greig was disappointed with her team’s performance, especially in the third quarter, and says they ‘beat themselves.’
“It was one of those games we knew would be tight but we beat ourselves tonight,” she said.
“We had so many opportunities in the first half where we could have turned and pushed on but for whatever reason, we looked hesitant on the ball.
“We didn’t adapt to their changes and it took us too long to get into the game in quarter-three.
“Joyce got called for a couple of contacts and it just felt the game had gone.”
It was an odd first quarter, with Thunder threatening to dominate but never really pushing on.
Joyce Mvula and Kathryn Turner were combining well, while there was a real battle forming in the centre circle between former Thunder star Gabby Marshall and her replacement Caroline O’Hanlon.
There were pockets of excellent, fluid play but then concentration lapses allowed Mavericks back in and the visitors were still in touch 16-13 at the end of the opening period.
The second quarter played out similarly to the first, with Thunder doing just enough to stay in front, but Mavericks were confident and tenacious, playing with real belief.
Thunder’s second phase was starting to fall apart and Mavericks, gradually chipped away at the home side’s own confidence, and made them begin to question themselves.
The third quarter was ultimately where the game was lost, with Thunder sloppy in possession and Mavericks were ruthless in punishing any mistakes, sensing Thunder’s off-colour display.
Thunder’s attack fell apart, with Mvula starting to struggle and a usually super-reliable Kathryn Turner missing shots.
Their service was not much better, as the passing became too predictable and hesitant and the general play much less creative than in the first half.
Karyn Bailey was reliable at shooter and Marshall showed why she was such an asset for starting for Thunder last season, as she had a standout game at centre in the purple dress.
Thunder’s hesitancy in feeding the shooters filtered back through the whole court and heads started to dip.
There was still plenty of fight in the final quarter, notably from defence and – screamed on by the crowd – Thunder came within one turnover with five minutes to play of closing the gap. Captain Emma Dovey was in a right old tasty battle with Kalifa McCollin.
But the Black and Yellows were let down by losing possession on their centre pass and despite a heroic intercept with less than two minutes to play from a flying Kerry Almond, there was no time for a signature Thunder comeback.
As a result, Thunder suffered their first defeat of the season and head into the mid-season break with plenty of work to do to get back to a winning mentality that had worked so well for them up to this point.