Tue 23 Jan 18
After intense media build up including TV coverage from both the BBC and ITV, the two best National League Women’s teams in the East met at the UEL Sports Dock for the Basketball England National Cup Final.
University of Essex Blades and Ipswich (Basketball Academy) lived up the hype and played out a thrilling final, with Ipswich coming from behind to win 67-58.
A disappointed Essex Blades Head Coach Mark Lloyd praised Ipswich in defeat: “The bottom line is, we didn’t play well down the stretch. I have got to give them credit where it’s due. They capitalised on us not being on our best form and it was a great job done by them. They played exceptionally well and they deserve the win.”
Winning coach Nick Drane was full of praise for the Essex Blades: “Credit to the Essex Blades who we had to be our best against today. One of the very best University programmes in the country and one that I would recommend to anyone!"
A dominant start for the Blades saw red hot shooting hitting six out of eight from 3 point range with Ellie Shaxon hitting the opening points of the final. Charleene Tom playing against her former Club was full of intensity and purpose at both ends of the court with some early stops and steals, as well as draining back to back 3 pointers as a 17-8 lead was established. Further sharp shooting from Shaxon and Captain Cat Lutz saw a deserved 26-12 lead heading into the second quarter.
A corner 3 from Jasmine Oginjimi saw a game high 17 point lead established, a strong drive and finish from Esther Little led the Ipswich fight back. A pair of threes from Danielle Cazey fired up the Ipswich support as the Blades lead was reduced to single digits, before a pair of clutch jump shots from the experienced Lutz and Shaxon stemmed the momentum and a 33-20 lead re-established. A game filled with key moments, saw a loose ball scramble was won by Ipswich and converted by Harriet Welham with a punishing 3 pointer. A little three and a pair of Ipswich free throws ensured a strong finish to the half, but still 9 points in arrears of the Blades who were up 37-28.
An 8-0 run led by strong play from the Ipswich forwards turned the Cup final as the Blades lead was wiped out early in the 3rd stanza. A pair of Monica Kucerkova free throws and a smart spin and finish at the basket from Jess Hunt halted the Ipswich run. However every time the Blades found momentum and threatened to extend their lead, Ipswich’s 3 point shooters stepped up and a late Welham 3 set up a tense final quarter with the Blades holding a slim 44-42 lead.
A strong start to the final quarter from the Blades led by Shaxon and a Tom steal taking her to the free throw line saw a 6 point lead quickly re-established. Kucerkova enjoyed 2 fine finishes inside as the game threatened to get away from Ipswich, however once again Cazey and then Welham couldn’t miss from deep as the lead was cut to just a single point. A smart Oginjimi spin and finish was again countered by yet another Ipswich 3, and a Blades turnover and finish with 5:04 remaining saw the lead changing hands for the first time in the match. 55-54 down the Blades didn’t panic, and found themselves with several good looks at the basket however a combination of great defence and bad luck-the ball rimming out when it was dropping in the first half gave Ipswich there opportunity. An excellent block and conversion from Maya Price followed by a clutch 2 pointer broke the Blades resistance as Ipswich held on to convert that lead into a famous 67-58 victory and the perfect ending to their fairy tale in this year’s competition. Down by as many as 17 points early, it was a wild end to a brilliant advert for the game.
MVP honours went to Ipswich’s Harriet Welham as she recorded a team high 19 points to go with 7 rebounds, 5 assists, and 2 steals. She was a constant spark for her side throughout, providing momentum when Ipswich trailed early, and instrumental in getting the champions over the line in the 4th quarter. Essex were led by Jasmine Ogunjimi who finished with 15 points, 3 assists and 5 rebounds.
The Essex Blades Basketball programme would like to thank our sponsors SportsafeUK and D Salmon Cars for their continued support.