Outlaws improving despite double loss

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National League

Bury Blue Devils 75

Ilkeston Outlaws 31

Ilkeston Outlaws’ senior women had a busy weekend with two games - away on Saturday and at home on Sunday.

Saturday saw them at high-flying Bury Blue Devils in what promised to be a bruising experience following an ill-tempered encounter at Bilborough in October.

But they were in for a pleasant surprise as both teams set about the match with a totally different attitude.

With a number of players unavailable due to work, injuries and prior commitments, Ilkeston only had eight available, but with two stuck in traffic they began with six so the starting five almost selected itself.

Under these circumstances Outlaws made a remarkable beginning, well led by Katie McFarlane who had made the trip from University College, London to play in both weekend matches.

Bury opened with the first two baskets but McFarlane replied with a fne jump shot. A fast break and a three pointer kept Bury ticking over but McFarlane drove hard for a lay-up.

Bury put in ascoring spurt but again McFarlane replied with a corner jumper to have all six Ilkeston points in the first quarter, won by Bury 15-6.

Given the quality of the opposition this was a good quarter for Outlaws who gained in confidence with the arrival of the latecomers to bring their complement up to eight players.

McFarlane opened the scoring in the second period but Bury continued to score steadily with efficient Basketball.

Outlaws, meanwhile, were putting together one of their best performances of the season. Heidi Barlow scored her first ever EBL point with a sound free throw followed by a Donna Bishop shot from the top of the key.

McFarlane completed the scoring for the half as Outlaws turned round down 13-32.

The third period followed a similar pattern, being taken by Bury 20-6 in what was marginally Outlaws’ poorest quarter, but they were still being effective and penetrative and opportunities were more clear cut than in previous matches.

Barlow was rebounding fiercely on the offensive board and with Natalie Lebeter having a splendid game at point guard the attack had more edge.

Instead of fading in the final quarter Outlaws gained momentum and confidence.

Sophie May chipped in with three baskets following a long three in the third, while two free throws from Susan Hawes and one from Lebeter saw Outlaws end the quarter with 12 points to Bury’s 23.

It was the first quarter this season Outlaws have topped 10 and their final points tally of 31 was the highest of the season.

Katie McFarlane was the unanimous pick for Most Valuable Player.

Outlaws scorers: Katie McFarlane 10, Sophie May 9, Donna Bishop 4, Natalie Lebeter 3, Susan Hawes 2, Claire Brudenall 2, Heidi Barlow 1

Ilkeston Outlaws 27

Manchester Mystics 117

Sunday’s visitors were second-placed Manchester Mystics, a young athletic outfit who would clearly press all game, or run all game, or both.

Although overrun at times Outlaws continued where they left off on Saturday with confident and creative attacking plays.

Manchester ended the first 30-10 but again Outlaws had scored double figures.

Helen Oakes had got the first, McFarlane was involved in most things again and sank one of two free throws and a field goal , May got away to convert a fast break, Oakes made a free throw and Barlow scored her first ever field goal.

They again made ten points in the second quarter, another six from McFarlane and two from May with Demi Drew getting an outside shot in.

A half-time score of 56-20 was a score Outlaws would have settled for.

But an early second-half injury to captain Natalie Lebeter unsettled Outlaws and was the worst luck for her as she had been stringing together a series of very good performances.

Manchester romped through the second half 63-7 and a good weekend with fine individual performances fizzled out as it became clear that the injuries would threaten their ability to field teams in away matches.

Heidi Barlow was named MVP for her best ever performance.

Scorers: Katie McFarlane 9, Helen Oakes 7, Demi Drew 5, Sophie May 4, Heidi Barlow 2

Due to injuries Outlaws have had to concede next Saturdays match to table-topping Durham and their next matches are home to Sunderland City Predators, at the new Kirk Hallam College Sports Hall at 4.30pm on Saturday, February 5, and then away to Stockport on Sunday, February 6.