The Winter League returned from a two-month festive break on Tuesday night and Donna Brehaut’s newly green-and-white side celebrated with a 54-34 victory over Blaze B at Grammar School.
Following a Covid-prompted trimming of the season, Lightning still hold a realistic title shot if they can keep pace with champions Rezzers Green.
But they will have to leave the blocks faster than in Tuesday’s match, where their U18 opponents played fantastically to win the first quarter 11-9.
Lightning could be excused for a slow start given a forced overhaul of their centre-court, with Charlotte Hill enjoying an extended holiday and Nat Cavanagh’s injuries taking her out for the season and beyond, while they missed an unwell Carrie Bacon.
Hayley Brehaut and Lydia McClean stepped up from their B team to plug the void and, notably, they welcomed Kerri Brown at GS after two years out. The past Guernsey player shared the shooting circle with GA Steph Batiste as Donna Brehaut donned the WA bib.
Their sloppy and unsettled start could not hold up to Blaze’s all-round team performance, including eventual player-of-the-match Emily Mourant controlling their game at C and defender Lydia Datta impressing with her rebounds.
Blaze have no shortage of talent in their ranks, including Superleague hopeful GS Vicky Yabsley, and made a catalogue of changes from quarter two onwards.
But Lightning profited from keeping a steady squad, who led 24-19 at half-time after finally starting to gel.
Blaze’s excellent start fizzled out further and forcing the ball to Alicia Bailey, who replaced Yabsley at GS, was one of several costly mistakes in the second half.
Lightning led 41-26 after a splendid third quarter and closed strongly too, but not without Blaze coach Nena Copperwaite praising her entire squad and remarking that she ‘certainly would not have known they’d not played a match since November’.
‘To take a quarter off Lightning is no easy feat,’ she said.
‘Even without Charlotte playing, that team is packed with senior players so I was chuffed to bits.’
Lightning captain Brehaut nevertheless avoided the banana skin and their proven GK, Lorna Hall, sealed the ‘POM’ nomination.
‘We knew as a team it was going to be about settling and gelling for us, but we are really pleased with how we played at the end of the game,’ Brehaut said.
‘We were very, very disappointed with our start but the second and third quarters were our strongest.’
Having also beaten Blaze’s A squad twice and quite possibly removed them from title contention, their Rezzers Green reunion on 15 February now appears pivotal.
They will be intent to avenge an earlier loss and Brehaut cannot overstate the importance of gelling as a team.
‘We very much still want to contend for the title,’ she said.
‘We have got some options as part of our wider squad and what’s going to be key for us is to gel. We have to gel as a new centre-court unit with the loss of Charlotte and Nat and we are looking at which combinations work.’
As for their versatile attacking trio, she added: ‘All three of us are capable of playing each position.’
Rezzers Green managed to steal a quarter off the Island Men in a ‘friendly’ match that followed.
However, the men eventually won 44-37 as promising new GA Louis Le Cheminant shared ‘POM’ honours with Rezzers GS Clare Henry.