Maria Stewart (Wildcats) shoots free throw

Despite a late rally and a game-high, 23, from their point guard, Kayla Shaw.

The Nottingham Wildcats resumed their 2022-2023 season with a disappointing 80-70 loss against the Sevenoaks Suns.

The Suns sported great strategy on both sides of the ball, which proved to be their key to success as their team-play led to eight players getting in the scoring column.

Including four in double figures and they forced the Wildcats into 22 turnovers.

The Suns had a comfortable lead throughout the majority of the game, with a lead as large as 12, and looked like they were on their way to trouble-free victory until, the Wildcats went on a 13-0 run to begin the fourth quarter, earning themselves a one point lead with just four minutes to play.

However, The Suns regained their composure and went on an 11-0 run of their own to close out the game to earn their sixth win of the season.

The match stayed relatively close in the first quarter, with both teams exchanging baskets including a fast-break layup from Araion Bradshaw (who had a team-high 21 points) after an impressive in-and-out dribble to get past the defender.

The Suns worked well to break down the Wildcats 3-2 zone with quick ball movement and a crosscourt pass from Shambria Washington which gave Renee Busch room to knock down a three-pointer.

Kayla Shaw had an impressive sequence where she blocked a layup attempt and then knocked down a three pointer in transition.

The second quarter was where the game opened up for Sevenoaks’ as they took control of the game through more good ball movement and great defence, which forced turnovers.

Star players, Bradshaw and Shaw continued to battle against each other as they exchanged step-back three-pointers which captivated the crowd.

Sevenoaks continued to exploit the Wildcats’ 3-2 zone with the cross-court pass which led to a missed defensive coverage and another three-pointer from Busch just before halftime.

The Wildcats found themselves down nine at the half as the score stood at 39-30.

Shaw opened the second strongly for Nottingham with the play of the game, as she crossed over from right to left and then countered with a behind-the-back crossover, leaving her defender struggling not to fall over, Shaw then calmly drained another three pointer as the home crowd erupted.

Busch scored a floater off clever play, where Sevenoaks ran where Busch pretended to be the screener and then came off one set for herself to give her an open shot.

While the Wildcats struggled against Sevenoaks’ stellar defence, they did screen very well including a beautifully executed pick-and-pop between Mari Stewart and Shaw, leading to Stewart knocking down the open mid-range shot.

The Wildcats’ excellent  pass, cut, replace movement led to Brahe Ashton getting free for a pass, good jab step to create space from defender,to knock down a three-pointer to cut the lead to one.

However, the Suns just wouldn’t stay down as they continued to hold off the Wildcats with back-to-back layups from Brittany Hodges. 

Kennedy Nicholas had an impressive second half including one attack where she sealed her defender to get an easy layup off a great bounce pass from Shaw in the right corner.

Sevenoaks finished the third quarter in impressive fashion as they ran a decoy off-ball screen action on the weak side, which distracted the Wildcats’ defence, and gave Bradshaw an open lane for a layup, to give themselves a 62-54 lead heading into the final quarter.

The fourth quarter was where it got interesting though, as the Wildcats clawed their way back in the game with a 13-0 run to take a one point lead with four minutes left, including five points from Wittington and six from Shaw 70-69 as the crowd celebrated.

However, the cheers were short lived as these would prove to be the final points for the Wildcats, as Sevenoaks went on an 11-0 run of their own, their largest of the game, to close out the game and silence the crowd.

Defensive breakdowns in the Wildcats’ 3-2 zone and little support from their role players proved to be their fatal flaws as Shaw and Nicholas combined for 46 of their 60 points, and they only got five points from their bench, as opposed to the Suns’ 21.

Final score: 80-70.