University of Sheffield 45-112 Sheffield Hallam
Uni succumbed to a comprehensive defeat at the English Institute of Sport as Hallam made light work of their challenge, reminding the mostly black and gold-clad crowd exactly why they compete three divisions above Uni during the BUCS season.
It was this immediately conspicuous fact that meant Uni could not have harboured high hopes of taking the point on offer, try as they might to resist the onslaught. As the game wore on Uni showed signs of progression, denying Hallam on the rebounds they had earlier taken such great advantage of. When on the offence they found Ellyn Carnall in lethal form, but this was a game in which her side was very much on the back foot from tip to buzzer.
Hallam were quick off the mark, with Jasmyn Owen displaying a fine range of passing to consistently find a teammate in space where there appeared to be none.
Great link-up play between Carnall and Themesa Neckles ensured it was not all one-way traffic; the former jinked her way past two players with a drop of the shoulder to allow herself a simple layup, keeping the difference in scores down to 15 points at the end of the first quarter.
Uni struggled to cope with the tempo imposed by their opponents, with Hallam’s furious pace allowing them to turn defence into offence in the blink of an eye and surge to a 64-22 lead by half time.
Uni looked grateful for the let up in pressure, but also took the opportunity to regroup and rethink their game plan. They emerged a stronger side, and Hallam struggled to find the rhythm that had seemed to come so naturally before.
Indeed, Hallam seemed to revert to a previously unseen physicality, with Zoe Smart brought crashing down to the ground when almost certain to score by a robust Hallam challenge.
Neckles won more and more rebounds at both ends of the court, while Danielle Berry, too, was increasingly involved in the game. The confidence that their lead brought was often to Hallam’s detriment, with Berry stealing the ball on one occasion after a Hallam trick didn’t quite come off and racing the length of the court to net.
Hallam were confident with good reason, though, and always had been. For all their improvements, Uni’s resurgence was but a drop in the ocean that was Hallam’s dominance. The scoreboard showed Uni winning 45-12 at the buzzer, cause normally for rejoice but this time for humbled resignation as Hallam’s score went, quite literally, off the chart.
Coach Shannon Schneider acknowledged the gulf in class but praised the admirable spirit shown by her side in their most difficult challenge of the season, saying: “Hallam played fantastically well, and they had a long spell where it was really hard for us. But I’m very proud of my team, even with the score difference.
“They played as hard as they could and never stopped – they never gave up, never put their heads down. Hopefully we can build on that and really improve next year.”