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Historic cup win for Bradford Dragons women
Bradford Dragons' women, runners-up in the Founders Cup last season, have won their first piece of silverware.
They defeated Northamptonshire Titans 51-42 at Braunstone Leisure Centre in Leicester to lift the England Basketball Women’s National Trophy - the knockout competition for vcars.co.uk Division Two women teams.
Both the Dragons and Titans had won three games to reach the decider, Dragons (in their first National League season) defeating Sunderland City Predators, Cardiff Archers Seconds and London Westside, and Titans Solent Suns, Mansfield Giants and Birmingham Mets.
Northamptonshire’s win over Mansfield suggested that the final could be close. Titans won 70-50 in Mansfield on December 15, and the week before the Giants lost a league game in Bradford 63-41.
Angelina Browne, who is 6ft 2in, won the tip-off for Titans, who led 4-0 via Sascha Thompson after two minutes.
But Vilma Jurgaityte, Steph Jones and Isalie Bloemen quickly scored to give Dragons a 7-4 advantage.
Titans took back the lead 10-9 until Titans’ Izzy Johns fouled Dragons’ Aleksandra Mazjakina with five seconds left in the first quarter. In calling a time-out, Dragons' Rosie Pearcy made the assist to Mazjakina, who hit the baseline shot to give them an 11-10 lead going into the break.
Thompson once again kept her team in the game as the Dragons focused on shutting down Browne and Manal Cali until Mazjakina hit both free throws six minutes into the saecond quarter to change the lead for the eighth, and ultimately, final time in the game.
Jurgaityte blocked Cali's shot, and Dragons called a time-out with 23 seconds left in the half. This time it was Bloemen making the shot to give Bradford a 25-19 lead at half-time.
Dragons built on that advantage to make it 29-21 in the third quarter but the Titans pulled the match back to 29-27, only for Dragons’ captain Laura Moloney and Jones to make their baskets to maintain the six-point lead going into the final quarter.
Both teams continued to fight for every rebound while creating open shots but once again it wasn’t until the second minute in the quarter until Dragons capitalised on Titans’ frustrations with Mazjakina quickly making a basket, followed by a Moloney three-pointer.
Trailing 38-27, Titans called a time-out but to no avail as Dragons maintained their lead, finishing 51-42 ahead, with Mazjakina being named most valuable player (17 rebounds and 12 points).
Dragons' coach Mark Gunn said: "This is a fantastic achievement in our first season in the England Basketball Women’s National League, not only earned by the players but made possible by all the support staff, volunteers and our strong links with the University of Bradford basketball programme.“
Dragons scorers: Aleksandra Mazjakina 12, Vilma Jurgaityte 12, Isalie Bloemen 10, Steph Jones 10, Laura Moloney 5, Natalia Laing 2, Lizzie Malek, Rosie Pearcy, Lilita Smelina, Laima Smelina.
Just 24 hours later, Bradford Dragons stumbled in vcars.co.uk Women's Division Two North, losing 59-46 at Sefton Starlights.
Sefton, with a strong team,were restricted to only six points in the second and third quarters, but poor finishing kept them in the game at 29-29.
Then consistent shooting by Leanne Haseldene and Jessica Ross gave Sefton the lead in the final, the Dragons practising cl.ock-stopping in the final two minutes when Ross hit five free throws to finish the game.
Gunn said: "This was a tough loss just 24 hours after winning the National Trophy final, especially as all the players stepped up to the challenge in the first three quarters regardless of missing key players and fatigue kicking in from Saturday’s game.
"But as Sefton stepped up a gear in the final quarter, hitting shot after shot, we couldn’t respond.
"The 2012-13 league title is the next aim for us, and with the top four teams all in contention and potentially only the top spot making the national play-offs, we will work hard to re-focus and step up once again, starting next Sunday versus the same team!“
Elsewhere in the league, Sunderland City Predators picked up their first win of the season at home, 67-46 to Doncaster Danum Eagles, while Mansfield Giants won 70-62 in overtime against Bury Blue Devils.
Dragons scorers: Aleksandra Mazjakina 18, Isalie Bloemen 16, Lizzie Malek 4, Lilita Smelina 4, Laura Moloney 2, Laima Smelina 2, Rosie Pearcy.