After a slight delay in the starting of the game as a late arriving Sheffield Hallam player donned her shoes and took to the pitch just minutes after entering Sir David Wallace on the stroke of 4 o’clock as the game was due to begin, the match got underway to a slow start for both teams.
Frustratingly Loughborough’s defensive game left too many gaps for Hallam players to sneak through and as the first time out of the game was called with just under four minutes of the first quarter to go Loughborough Ladies trailed 11-15 to the visitors. Loughborough’s attack was reignited after their short break and they pushed Hallam’s defence to gain some more points for themselves. However, this attack left the gaps in their defence as wide as ever which allowed Sheffield Hallam to rack up some points too. By the end of the first quarter the point deficit was increased to 11 points, Loughborough now trailing 16-27.
Loughborough began the second quarter much stronger, steadily increasing their points total with some attacking play and some fierce three-pointers. But their defence, though better, was still not holding Hallam at bay. As a time out was called with roughly four and a half minutes remaining until half time, Hallam were still 10 ahead, the score now 27-37. As the teams returned to the pitch the resolve of Loughborough to get themselves back in the game was obvious. In the remaining minutes of the second quarter they held strong, kept their score ticking over and managed to freeze that of their opponents, reducing the deficit to just 2 points, the score then 35-37 at the half time break.
As the second half begun, both teams knew that with the scores so close they would have to hold their opposition at bay in order to gain victory. Hallam were the first to act, holding their defence strong but also scoring some of their own meaning that when the first time out was called the home side’s points remained the same with the visitors score rising slowly, the score moved to 35-41. Loughborough reacted after the small break in play to raise their own score and keep the Hallam Ladies to a solitary three-pointer, the score set at 40-44 at the second time out. In the final phase of play in the third quarter, the home side pushed forwards with a strong resolve to get in front. Though this meant they conceded some points to Sheffield Hallam, their exceedingly impressive attacking play meant they ended the third quarter with a slim, one-point lead, the score 53-52.
With the confidence of being in front in the match for the first time, the hosts came back to the court with a strong attacking mentality and forced more errors from their opponents allowing themselves to rack up the points. As the first time out was called just 3 minutes into the fourth and final quarter, Loughborough Ladies had racked up a much more comfortable lead and had allowed their visitors to score just twice, the score settling at 61-56. The hosts’ play was much stronger and their defence much sharper, the visiting Sheffield Ladies could neither hold them at bay nor make much headway through their defence. As the second time out was called, Loughborough’s lead had stretched to 12 points, the score then 71-59. The home side kept up the attack but Hallam’s defence was once again strong and the visitors managed to hold their hosts at bay. Hallam also snuck through Loughborough’s defence to score a few points of their own reducing Loughborough’s lead to just 6 points, the score 71-65 as a third time out was called. With just over a minute left on the clock Loughborough knew they must keep their guests from scoring again and they did just that. An impressive defensive display as well as a well-aimed three-pointer saw Loughborough maintain their lead and gain victory, with a 74-65 win over Sheffield Hallam.
Though Loughborough had a scrappy start, their resolve held out and their impressive team play helped them to victory. There is a lot to be learned for the home side but this win will certainly give them a boost as they head into next week’s match away at Edinburgh.
Full Time Score: 74-65.