With basketball the focus of national media attention after the New York Knicks defeated the Detroit Pistons in this year’s instalment of NBA London, first week was an ideal time to see the Women’s Blues basketball team’s term debut. Taking on bottom of the league London South Bank University, it was apparent that the Blues were full of enthusiasm to resume their season.The ten-woman squad, currently fourth in the BUCS Premier South League, were running energetic drills and earnestly discussing tactics ahead of tip-off.
The hosts got off to a shaky start, conceding two points almost immediately, with a few unlucky shots bobbling around the rim but refusing to go in. Before long however, a stunning set-shot from player-coach Sue Altman levelled the score at 2-2. The teams appeared to be fairly evenly matched until another long range shot from Altman put the Blues ahead.
South Bank were a constant threat throughout the first half, staying only a handful of points behind the home side, whose early performance was slightly sluggish. Speaking to Altman after the game she said this was understandable after such a lengthy vacation. “It’s hard to come back after Christmas and assume everyone will be sharp,” she suggested. “So I think it took us the first half to get back into our stride.”
Ultimately, however, the Blues had the edge over their opponents in terms of energy and drive, and so they were still smiling mid-way through the second quarter at which point it looked as though South Bankswere beginning to flag, proving the importance of stamina in such a relentlessly energetic game. Illustrating just how fast-paced a game it is, the referee at one point told a Blues player: “You’ve got 4 seconds to get [the ball] down the court.” At the end of the third quarter the Blues were 39-24 up thanks to brilliant performances from Remi Graves, Laura Wright and Alison Inglis, to name a few.
Altman told her team to “rebound hard” in the final quarter and they do just that, with Jennifer Bandi scoring after a well-timed pass from Linda Katona.
In the dying minutes of the game South Bank were beginning to look dangerous again, scoring with just one minute to go. But in the end their efforts were too little too late, making the final score 49-37 to the Blues.
Altman admits that in playing a lower-profile sport, female basketball players are continually confronted by the idea that their sport is less important than others, but she does not let this encroach on her enjoyment of a game she clearly loves.
“We play the game because we love it and because we want to get better for personal reasons as well as for the team, so the sport’s profile is secondary. I don’t think it affects our ethos too much at all. Basketball has been a gift in my life, in a physical way as well as a confidence way and a personality way…and here I get to share that with some really special people.”