Rebels fall short to Sheffield but rise above Manchester
Essex Rebels had a busy weekend with a road game on Saturday against the in form Sheffield Hatters and then a quick turn around on Sunday hosting the Manchester Mystics in their last home game of the regular season.
Saturday saw the Rebels travel to Sheffield. Essex were looking to secure their spot in the playoffs. Despite a difficult road trip with the bus breaking down on the way to the game the Rebels looked unphased.
Both sides traded baskets in a reasonably even first ten minutes before a three from Ashleigh Munns with a minute left to put the Rebels up 15-11. Sheffield fought back reduced the gap, but Essex led 18-13 heading into the second.
In the second quarter, Essex began to turn the screws as a three from Andrea Kohlhaas gave Essex their first double-digit of the game at 30-20 with 6:05 remaining in the second.
The Hatters started the quarter poorly as they could not execute offensively; despite patient team play, the final product wasn’t there, and Essex took advantage, with their lead peaking at 12 in the period.
Settling for a six-point lead going into the third quarter, Essex then began to struggle, and slowly, Sheffield kept narrowing the gap early on by attacking the basket and getting to the foul line.
Sune Swart kept Essex in the game towards the midway point of the quarter, keeping her side in front. Still, the Hatters’ comeback was completed with 15 seconds left in the third as Murphy connected inside to give the hosts a 57-55 lead going into the fourth.
In a low-scoring start to the final period, Murphy scored under the basket with 5:36 remaining to hand the Hatters a 63-58 cushion as the hosts took advantage of some loose possessions from their counterparts, which resulted in turnovers.
But neither team were able to shake off the other in a closely contested fourth resulting in a thrilling finale.
In a hard-fought battle ultimately decided in the closing stages, Nicolette Fairley had given the Hatters some breathing space as she split her free throws to give the hosts a 70-67 lead with 17 seconds left.
From the timeout, Essex were given a lifeline when Fairley recklessly fouled Claire Paxton at the top, resulting in three foul shots.
Paxton could only hit one of those from the line, leaving Fairley to redeem herself at the line to seal the win.
Essex were led by Paxton with 17 points closely followed by Sune Swart with 13 points and 7 rebounds.
Sunday came around fast and Essex needed to bounce back to give themselves a chance to clinch a playoff spot. The Rebels got out to an early 15-4 lead at the Essex Sport Arena led by Andrea Kolhaas outside shooting. Manchester began to fight back into the game and find some offensive rhythm but The Rebels retained their early advantage and had a 20-12 lead after 10 minutes.
A foul on Essex’s Ashleigh Munns while shooting from distance gave her three easy points at the free throw line. But the Mystics responded with a quick layup from Sam Keltos – and Claire Abbott joined her.
Abbott scored again, this time a layup to bring her team within six, which is when Andrea Kohlhaas said ‘no more’. The Rebels guard put her head down for a looping hook shot layup for her 10th and 11th point.
Each time Manchester tried to close the gap, Kohlhaas broke their stride. With the Essex lead reduced to four, she hit a big three to push it to seven and the Rebels took a 45-30 lead over the Mystics into the half. Daniela Turner helped Essex build the lead further. She ran off eight straight points for the home team and the lead kept growing.
Even in the fourth quarter, Essex outscored the visitors with a solid team performance to finish with an 88-53 win.
Essex was led by Andrea Kohlhaas with 29 points shooting 6 – 8 from 3 point range whilst Sune Swart pitched in with a 14 point & 11 rebound double double.
With the Win Essex have now secured their spot in the post season playoffs and now await till next weekend to confirm who they will be playing in the quarter finals.
The Rebels now take on Caledonia Gladiators away in their final regular season game.