Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters 73 (21,34,53) (Naylor 20, Gandy 17, Gayle 15)
Manchester Mystics 62 (22,39,51) (Browne 18, Makjcikova 12, Welling 12)
Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters – reigning WBBL champions – bounced back from their first defeat in over a year by beating Manchester Mystics 73-62, after a second half comeback to continue a home floor winning run in the league that spanned all of last season.
Mystics, falling to their fourth straight defeat to start the campaign, seemed to have thrown the form book out of the window early on as – despite having the second most porous defence in the league – they restricted their hosts to just one score in the opening five minutes, for a 12-3 lead. The hosts came back, but 10 unanswered points to open the second stanza gave Mystics a double-digit edge at 32-21, with Amy Browne’s 13 first half points leading the way.
But she withdrew with a knock soon after and, once more, Hatters came back before the break with Helen Naylor hitting a three-pointer, to match those 13 personal points, and narrow the gap to 34-39 at half time.
It was Georgia Gayle who came out firing as Hatters showed their championship credentials, starting the third with an 8-2 run as her triple gave them the lead at 42-41. And it was still close heading into the decisive fourth quarter at 53-51 after Naylor’s free-throws kept her team in front.
But Hatters couldn’t be stopped once they got in front, with Gayle and Stephanie Gandy each adding nine second half points, pushing on to build a double-figure lead. Naylor led all scorers with 20 points, supported by a stunning 17 points, 14 rebounds and 7 steals from Gandy