It was heartbreak rather than heroics for the University of St Andrews Women’s firsts in the basketball after they were defeated 51-56 by Nottingham Trent ones in a promotion playoff for Premier North. It was a closely fought game that was in the balance right up until the final seconds. While the Saints battled hard in every quarter, Trent were good value for their victory even if they were made to work for it.
While Trent got off to the better start, scoring five points without reply, the Saints were quick to respond. They scored their first points of the match with a brilliant three-pointer from Morag Petrie, before pulling level after scoring on the break. St Andrews moved ahead after a fantastic three-pointer from Maddie Tarr to make it 8-5. While the Saints weren’t able to penetrate the solid Trent defence often, they made up for this with accurate shooting from outside of the three-point line.
After the Saints moved 10-5 up, scoring 10 points without reply, it appeared that they had the momentum with them, while the shots were not falling for Trent. However, the game changed when Nottingham brought their number 13 on who appeared to be a class above the rest of her teammates and the deficit was quickly reduced to 12-10. While Laoise Carey scored superbly for St Andrews after a clever feint to make it 14-12, they soon began to struggle. Within minutes their lead had gone and Trent were eight points up. Despite their struggles the Saints were still battling. Petrie’s attempt to win the ball back despite being knocked to the floor was demonstrative of the desire of a side that were determined to win and give everything for their team. This was added to by a great post move by AU President-elect Fiona Murray to make it 17-22. While Trent scored a three-pointer to restore their lead, Carey responded for the home side with a brilliant finish to close out the half with the Saints trailing by only 19-25.
Saints began the third quarter well after a three-pointer from Tarr reduced the gap to just three points. This good start did not last for the Saints with Trent soon moving 32-25 up after a free throw. This inability to capitalise after closing the gap between the sides was perhaps what lost the game for the Saints as they were constantly playing catch-up and had not managed to retake the lead after going 14-15 down.
Saints closed the deficit once again after a two brilliant three-pointers, meaning they just trailed 31-33. Petrie then produced a moment of quality with an eye-of-the-needle pass to Lilly Wallace who finished well. At this point the momentum seemed to be with the home side but they were unable to draw level. At the end of the third quarter the Saints were 35-39 down and were running out of time to make the comeback.
The challenge facing St Andrews was not helped by a poor start to the final quarter which left them 35-43 down and with a mountain to climb. After a good score, Saints then reduced the deficit after Maddie Tarr made a brilliant interception with the home side breaking to make it just 39-43. At this stage it was just a four-point game and there was hope for the Saints but this soon changed. After five unanswered points the home side trailed by nine and things were looking desperate with less than 10 minutes remaining.
After another three-pointer followed by a regular score the Saints were back in the game, losing by just four points. A key part of the performance was Tarr who was not only a defensive rock but was also deadly from range, scoring a number of three-pointers. Unfortunately, it was not enough.
With five minutes remaining St Andrews trailed 46-50. Yet again it was just a four-point game. The score was then reduced to just two points and victory seemed a real possibility for the home side. When a timeout was called with just four minutes remaining, St Andrews again trailed by four, before a three pointer-meant that there was just one point in it. Unfortunately for the Saints, Trent were able to respond and moved three points clear at 51-54.
With just three points in the game and less than a minute left there was still everything to play for. But to the home side’s despair, the ball was not falling for them and after a good Trent score and a couple of free throws they moved 56-51 ahead with seconds left confirming the Saints’ defeat. When the final buzzer sounded it was triumph for Trent and sorrow for St Andrews. While they gave everything they had, the inability of the Saints to make progress beyond the three-point line meant they were reduced to shooting from distance. While their accuracy from range was good, Trent’s ability to break through the home side’s defence meant that they were able to shoot more from close range, even if they were more wasteful. Sadly for the Saints, quantity won out over quality when it came to finishing. St Andrews did well and were not out of the game until the closing seconds, but sadly, promotion will have to wait another year.