Coach Bart Sengers, skipper Robyn Lewis and centre Hannah Peacock are all relishing the biggest occasion in the club’s history when Caledonia Pride face Nottingham Wildcats in tomorrow afternoon’s Women’s British Basketball Cup Final at the Birmingham Arena.
Despite patchy league form, the Edinburgh-based pro side has raised its game several notches in the cup, posting away victories over Cardiff Archers, holders Manchester Mystics and Team Northumbria – winning 66-63 in Newcastle – on their way to tomorrow’s showpiece final.
“Not many teams reach finals but we’ve done it in only our second season, so I hope everybody enjoys it,” said Dutchman Sengers. “As a coach, I’ve been trying to keep us moving forward, and this is part of that. We’re still growing as a team, but we’ve already won seven games this season, so we’re miles ahead of where we were at this stage last year.
“We didn’t have any easy games in our cup run. They were all away from home and I’m proud of the team because they stood up when they needed to.”
Sengers’ main concern this weekend is a puzzling lack of consistency from his team. Following their cup semi-final victory and a three-week Christmas break, Pride have beaten Cardiff again but lost heavily in Sheffield before failing to turn their superiority into points when they went down 63-62 to old rivals Northumbria at Oriam last Saturday.
“We haven’t been playing that well lately and we’re a bit inconsistent, so I don’t know what to expect on Sunday and I can’t guarantee how we’ll be,” admitted Sengers. “We’ve been very good in every game in the Cup whereas our league form has been more shaky.”
Arguably their finest league display came in their opening fixture in October when they defeated tomorrow’s opponents Nottingham 78-64 in Edinburgh in their only meeting so far this season.
“We know we can beat them because we’ve done it already, although they can say the same thing about us,” said Sengers. “Nottingham had a tough start to the season, but they’re one of the best teams now and they got both the Coach of the Month (Dave Greenaway) and Player of the Month (Ashley Harris) awards for December. They’re a great team, but so are we. They have more experience of big finals, but they’ve never managed to win one, which might be in their heads on Sunday. Either team can win it, but I believe we can win it.”
Pride’s proud captain Lewis, pictured right, said: “Reaching this final is a massive achievement for the club. We’ve made so much progress in the last year and a half, and this puts us on the map, which is nice. I haven’t played many games in front of the size of crowd we’re expecting on Sunday, but everyone’s really excited and we’re all just ready to get going.
“One of their key players, Ashley Harris, didn’t play here in October, so limiting her scoring will be very important in the final. But it’s all about us really. That’s our main focus.”
Peacock added: “There’s been a good atmosphere in training all week, but it doesn’t feel too different because, although it’s a final, we’ve been trying to relax and treat it as a regular game.
“The October win over Nottingham was a really good game and it’s one of my favourite matches this season. We all turned up that day and fought for each other and didn’t give up.
“The loss to Northumbria last weekend shook us up a bit, so it might actually be a good thing in hindsight because it lit the fire inside us for Sunday.”