PHOENIX RISE TO THE OCCASION

Cheshire Phoenix defeat Worcester Wolves 99-88 to lift the BBL Cup in Birmingham.

The Wolves, pre-game favourites, held away early before their rivals closed back for a 41-40 half-time lead.

But after moving ahead for good early in the third period, the Nix were dominant as they surged towards the first trophy since the club was rescued from the brink of folding.

A 9-0 run wrestled any impetus from Worcester and with Malcolm Riley notching 26 points and nine rebounds, they fended off a late rally.

“I am absolutely made up for the Cheshire Phoenix organisation first and foremost,” said Cheshire coach Ben Thomas. “Our fans are some of the best in the country.

“They have stuck with us after a couple of up and down years, but from the start of this season, they have always had our backs. They are always loud and proud. Every single player gave 100% when they were on the court and when you do that, this is the kind of result that you get.”

 

Updates  – Game Stats

WBBL Cup: Wildcats claw their way to maiden Cup

Nottingham lifted the WBBL Cup for the first time with a 70-66 victory over Caledonia Pride at Arena Birmingham.

Led by 19 points and nine rebounds from Most Valuable Player Ashley Harris, they resisted run after run from their unsung opponents to hold on in a dramatic finish of a superb showpiece.

After losing five major finals, at last one came their way.

“It’s a monkey off our back,” admitted Wildcats coach Dave Greenaway. “We’ve been to these finals and come out on the other side. At points down the stretch, I thought it might happen again.”

Nottingham took advantage of their rivals passiveness in rushing into a 14-4 lead but eventually the Scots began to stand their ground.

Ten unanswered points put Caledonia 22-20 ahead early in the second period as their defence held sway and although a 7-0 burst pushed the Wildcats ahead once more, it was only shots from the line and the relentlessness of Harris that maintained their advantage as they eased 39-33 at half-time.

Yet the Pride responded admirably, Tricia Oakes a colossus in the centre as they held Nottingham without a field goal for over five minutes at the outset of the third before a three-pointer from Robyn Lewis levelled the contest at 40-40.

Although the deadlock returned late in the period, Harris ignited an 8-0 spurt which carried 2017’s beaten finalists 56-48 clear.

They would never be caught again but they were made to sweat profusely.

Another march from the Tartan Army took them within two arrived but the English outfit quickly attempted deliver their hammer blow.

Lana Doran was inspired and energised, coming up with a huge block on Sarah Thomson and soon after a critical steal that helped take her side 62-56 ahead with five minutes left.

Grittily, the Pride clung on for dear life, slashing the deficit to three once more, with the foul count mounting up on their opponents.

Siobhan Prior, who scored nine, picked up her fifth with 25 seconds left, allowing 19-year-old Hannah Robb to convert two free throws that closed Caledonia to 68-66 to set up the most tense of finishes.

But Wildcats last offense went unchallenged for too long and Ashley Lovett, who scored 18, sealed the win from the foul line.

“I’m proud of them,” said Greenway. “Credit to Caledonia – they fought to the end. They’re a tough team to beat. We made mistakes down the stretch. But I’m happy for the players. Our performance could have been so much better but that’s how these games go.”

Oakes had a team-high 16 points for Caledonia who were far from disgraced on their first taste of such an occasion.

“It’s one of our better games in the last two months,” Pride coach Bart Sengers said. “I’m sorry for them it didn’t go our way but it’s the little things that make the difference.”

Game stats

Pics: Mansoor Ahmed

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