The Saints Women’s Basketball 1s have done it again, protecting their unbeaten streak that has seen them soar to the top of the league. Despite Stirling’s status as their top-table rival, this was a decisive game that cemented the Saints’ dominance. This victory makes it five for five for the Saints, who look to continue their winning ways in the two games left this semester.
The team came into this week’s game off the back of a 9 point victory over a strong Strathclyde side, and heading into it they weren’t sure what to expect. Speaking to Captain Fiona Waddell, she recalled their run-in with Stirling last year: “We weren’t sure what to expect, last year they beat us”. It’s true that the basketball programme at Stirling is no joke, their Women’s 1st team won the league and the cup back in 2019. A testament to the quality of this year’s squad.
Saint Andrews got off to a hot start, putting their comparative size advantage to use when faced with an undersized opposing squad. We were treated to a clinic from guard Aquinnah Todd, who formed a deadly combination with Heather Ritchie’s length and footwork, using the pick and roll to split the Stirling defence. The defensive tempo for the Saints stayed up through the quarter as they felt out their opponents, and they got out to a 10 point lead at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter saw the team shift to a zone offence, and Captain Waddell made use of pump fakes from beyond the arc to exploit overeager Stirling defenders and blow by for easy buckets on the inside.
As the second half started, the Saints began to implement a much higher pressing defence, smothering the Stirling ball carriers in double and triple teams and forcing countless errors. This tactic saw them build up a 26-2 scoring run, with Stirling’s lone points coming from free throws in the last 10 seconds. I asked Coach Callum Knox about this, and he said “over the course of the game you obviously learn how the other team is playing and make adjustments. This team has probably made adjustments better than any other team we’ve had before, as far as just taking in that information during the first half and just implementing it”.
Knox is a familiar face to fans of Saint Andrews basketball, and since joining the programme in 2014 has led us to three BUCS league titles and an SBC cup finals appearance. I asked him about how the ethos and quality of basketball in St Andrews keeps us winning, he said “we’ve just been really lucky to have girls that want to play team basketball, we don’t have a lot of egos, and like you can see tonight, everybody played, and everybody had fun playing with one another”. This sentiment is certainly clear when watching the fluid, ball movement focussed offence of the Saints, a system which earned every player on the team points. Waddell, who was side-lined last year due to injury, also highlighted this aspect of the team chemistry, saying “It’s a great feeling to be undefeated, it’s nice to get out there and just have fun with friends”.
In the end, the Saint Andrews side won comfortably, their towering defensive effort earning them 26 steals as a team. Looking ahead, they’ll face Glasgow university twice, first in the trophy and then in the league. I asked Coach Knox what he felt they should work on ahead of these back-to-back fixtures, and he pointed out that Glasgow are a much larger squad than the diminutive Stirling. We should expect to see the Saints push the intensity and continue to improve on their performance from the last week.
If this game against Stirling was anything to go by, we shouldn’t expect to see an end to this win streak any time soon.
Image: Julia Bierkaemper