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Britball.com Front

Rhondda stroll in the zone


Women's National Cup Final 2005
Rhondda Rebels 78 (19, 37, 55) Gottardi 22; Lender 19; Robert 14
Sheffield Hatters 63 (12, 35, 53) Crowley 26; Lavin 11; Kagie 10

The most enduring, and overwhelming, rivalry in British basketball rarely fails to disappoint. For three quarters of the women's National Cup Final, Rhondda Rebels and Sheffield Hatters matched each other like two prize fighters at the peaks of their game.

The Rebels ended in a zone, mentally and tactically, and it threw their perennial challengers into a tail spin from which they would not recover as Steve Williams' side breezed their way to an ultimately comfortable 78-63 victory at the NIA to lift their fifth National Cup in six seasons.

Kept at bay by Rhondda's towering zone, the Hatters stuttered in the opening period. With Missy Lender anchoring their defence and Silvia Gottardi at the tiller, the Rebels erased their rivals' early 12-8 advantage by reeling off the final 11 points of the quarter to grab a 19-12 cushion.

It would extend two more, the biggest lead of the afternoon, but slowly and surely England cap Katie Crowley dragged Betty Codona's side out of its slumber.

She capped a 9-0 flurry with a three pointer as Sheffield re-took the lead midway through the second period but until the interval, each side took its turn to edge ahead, Crowley firing the last 17 of her game-high 26 points before the break to push the Hatters 37-35 in front.

The momentum reversed, momentarily, the Yorkshire outfit extended the gap to five but with Lender and New Zealand's Olympian Megan Compain forming a formidable tandem, the Valley queens sparked forth.

Late free throws from Hungarian junior Szilvia Horinka to close a 6-0 burst re-captured the lead at the end of the third stanza at 55-53 and the Hatters would not score for a full five minutes into the fourth.

By then, Rhondda were ten ahead and cruising, the Hatters exerting to the last but unable to come any closer than nine.

Compain's trety with 2:40 left, which made it 72-60, felt like a dagger. And it was, Rhondda sealing their their straight Cup at a canter, Gottardi firing a team-best 22.

"It's our first win. Now we want the league and the play-off final," added Lender. Sheffield will surely be lieing in wait again.

Men's National Cup Final
Reading Rockets 76  (18,34,53)  (Harrison 20, Wellings 18, Seaman 15)
City of Sheffield Arrows 75  (10,37,55)  (Gayle 23, Richards 20, Patton/Cauthorn 11)

City of Sheffield Arrows’ hopes of taking the first step towards a clean sweep of EBL trophies were dashed right at the end of a pulsating Men’s Final when, with time expired, and the teams level, EJ Harrison kept his composure at the free-throw line to hit one of two free-throws to clinch Reading’s first major national title.

Reading settled more quickly than their rivals, and an 11-0 run around the mid point of the first period, including 3-pointers from Harrison and Lloyd Gardner, gave them a 15-4 advantage, and they led 18-10 at the first break.

Player-coach Garnet Gayle led by example in the second quarter, with 10 of his game-high 23 points, as the Arrows surged back to lead by three, 37-34, at the end of the half.

Sheffield retained their lead throughout the third period, but both sides were playing tenacious defence, and at the final break the margin was still just two points, 55-53.

Rockets set the scene for a thrilling finale as Harrison hit ten of Reading’s first thirteen points of the final quarter as they raced into a 66-58 lead. Daniel Richards sparked the Arrows’ response, with a 3-pointer that began an 11-0 surge to take the Sheffield team back ahead, 69-66, and approaching the final minute they led by two.

A bank-shot from Harrison levelled the game, but when Arrows lost the ball, the same player missed his 3-point attempt. However, Erroll Seaman, who had an impressive inside game for Reading, with 15 points and 11 rebounds, was on hand to grab the ball and put the Rockets ahead.

With just nine seconds remaining, Gayle was fouled and sank both free throws to seemingly set up overtime. Although Reading had other ideas, it was Gayle again who was on hand to block a shot from behind to prevent the Rockets from snatching victory with 3 seconds remaining.

The came the final twist, as Harrison received the ball from the inbounds, and as Sheffield desperately marshalled their defence to prevent him getting a shot away, he was fouled by veteran Todd Cauthorn as he drove across the top of the key, just as the buzzer sounded.
With no time on the clock, Harrison stepped to the line, but his first free throw struck the rim and bounced out. Amid the incredible tension, his must have been the only cool head in the building as he lined up his second shot, and disappeared under his ecstatic team-mates as it swished cleanly through the net.

Amid the celebrations, coach Mark Dunning praised the way his team had stayed in touch throughout, to give them the chance of victory. He could, however, still spare the time to express sympathy for Sheffield: “That” he said “was a cruel way for any team to lose any game, let alone a Cup Final.”


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