Head coach Bart Sengers praised his Caledonia Pride team and their fans after watching the Edinburgh club’s storming fightback fall fractionally short in yesterday’s Women’s British Basketball Cup Final at a packed Birmingham Arena.
Contesting their first-ever final in only their second season, Pride recovered from a shaky start to push Nottingham Wildcats all the way, and they trailed by just two points with less than 25 seconds remaining before eventually going down 70-66.
“That was one of our best performances this season,” said Dutchman Sengers.
“I’m sorry it didn’t go our way at the end, but it all hinged on little things and small details. I thought we played pretty well and we didn’t show too many nerves despite this being our first major final and our first time here.
“The fans came all the way down to Birmingham to support us and we heard them backing us right through the whole game. Hopefully we can build on this and come back here more often.”
Nottingham’s greater big-match experience was evident as they roared into an early 10-2 lead in front of a record WBBL crowd of more than 5,000. Sengers promptly called a timeout and his calming words enabled Pride to finish the first quarter just a single point behind.
Hannah Robb briefly gave them a 22-20 lead early in the second quarter, and even though Pride were 39-33 adrift at half-time, they cut the gap to just two points with ten minutes remaining after American Rosie Reynolds had drawn them level at 48-48.
The deficit grew to eight points with less than four and half minutes to play, and Nottingham’s stifling defence meant Pride were still six points down going into the closing 90 seconds.
Robb then took charge, nailing four free throws to punish Nottingham fouls and make it 68-66 with 24.5 seconds remaining, but Wildcats nervously ran down the clock and clung on after losing a string of previous Cup Finals.
Colorado’s Tricia Oakes was Pride’s top scorer with 16 as Reynolds and Robb also made it into double figures, while solid defence restricted Nottingham’s main threat Ashley Harris to 19 points.
“Full credit to Bart and his players - they’re a tough team to beat and they fought right to the very end,” said Wildcats coach Dave Greenaway.