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Capital display puts Bradford Dragons women into national final
Bradford Dragons are through to the England Basketball Women’s National Trophy final after winning 52-43 at London Westside.
The hosts came into the game with a 7–1 record at the top of the Women’s Division Two Midlands South East, including two wins in 2013, while the Dragons were coming off a five-week competitive break, with their league game the day before versus Mansfield Giants being postponed due to the snow.
Following an early morning start and a four-hour drive to the capital, Dragons slowly warmed-up for a 12.20pm tip-off at Brentford Fountain Leisure Centre against taller opposition.
The carrot was a national final next month, and Dragons took control from the off, Isalie Bloemen hitting the game's first five points in four minutes, tough team defence taking care of things at the other end.
Westside gradually came back into the game, with coach Manuel Peña Garcés (recently selected as an assistant coach for the Spanish under-18 men's programme) making adjustments which resulted in Natalie Iddles, Irene Sánchez and Silvia Garcia sharing seven points as they took the lead.
Dragons quickly answered with a three-pointer but Westside regained the lead, finishing the first quarter 11–8 ahead.
Aleksandra Mazjakina started the second quarter for Dragons with a three-pointer to tie the scores, and both teams then traded baskets, stops, turnovers and fouls (Steph Jones taking an early rest on threes) until the seventh when Dragons'team defence stepped up a gear,securing possession after possession, helping Bloeman initiate a 9-2 surge to leave the Dragons 25-21 ahead at half-time.
The third quarter was a tough 8–11 split, with Dragons taking a while to adjust to the far side leaning basket and backboard, while both teams had an answer for each other’s baskets and stops.
But Dragons’ Rosie Pearcy continued her defensive heroics, while captain Laura Moloney and Vilma Jurgaityte made three of four free throws as Dragons built a 36-29 lead.
In the fourth quarter, Garcia immediately hit a three-pointer, bringing the game back to within four points but Bloeman's close-in basket for Dragons provided some breathing space, followed by coach Gunn calling a time-out to re-focus the team.
He said afterwards: "It’s such moments in a game that a team can mentally self implode but I was impressed with all the players being able to mentally regain composure and physically step up play by play.”
Westside's Bree Dang hit two out of two free-throws to bring the game back to four points but Aleksandra Mazjakina and Vilma Jurgaityte quickly replied, creating a nine-point lead.
With five minutes remaining, the end result was still open, with Westside going on a 6–3 run to cut the deficit to six points.
But once again the Dragons’ hustle on team defence was rewarded at the other end of the court, and although Westside tried to utilise team fouls to turn the game around, time was in favour of Dragons, who not only won put kept the hosts to their lowest score of the season.
The final on Saturday, February 23 at Nottingham Wildcats Arena is against either Birmingham Mets or Northamptonshire Titans, whose semi-final on Sunday was postponed.
Bradford Dragons team and scorers: Isalie Bloemen 15, Aleksandra Mazjakina 15, Vilma Jurgaityte 14, Laura Moloney 8, Steph Jones, Rosie Pearcy, Laima Smelina, Lilita Smelina.