Basketball: The best is yet to come from my Sheffield Hatters, says coach Vanessa Ellis

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Westfield Health Sheffield Hatters maintained their title challenge with victory against Manchester Mystics on Saturday, but coach Vanessa Ellis is still yet to field her strongest roster.

Hatters have had to deal with injuries to several key players in the early weeks of the season, but this has not prevented them from keeping pace with the WBBL’s best.

Saturday’s 87-61 victory against Manchester Mystics, was the Sheffield club’s third success in a row, following two defeats, and saw them improve to a 5-1 WBBL Championship record. And Ellis said: “We were disappointed with our losses to Nottingham and Northumbria and we had to look at ourselves in both games. We did some off-court work as a team, as well as on-court, and we have been working hard as a team to improve.

“The recent wins have been more pleasing due to the fact we have had players out injured. We have still not played a game with all our players fully fit - hopefully that will happen soon.”

Skye Reese and Helen Naylor were two players that drew the plaudits as they combined for 49 of Hatters’ points on Saturday.But efforts on the other end of the floor caught the eye of Ellis.

Ellis added: “Helen and Skye did score well this week but I felt the game changed when we stepped up as a team on defence. I never look at our scorers but look at the game as a whole. One aspect we have been working on is team defence, getting physical and all players getting their knees dirty.

“This season we all have to battle and be warriors. Steph (Gandy) has helped the team raise intensity - she is a great leader. It was Skye’s best game so far and the work she did on ‘D’ and as part of the team led to opportunities for her to score.

“It’s great to have a player like Helen -she can score from all positions. We played some good team basketball and all the team contributed to the win. Georgia (Gayle), Sarah (Cooney) and Maria (Monserat) kept the energy and intensity in our play.”

Hatters remain behind Team Northumbria and Nottingham Wildcats in the table, however, after Northumbria recorded two away wins over the weekend, climbing to second on 6-1 while Wildcats sit in top spot following a perfect 7-0 start.