Match Report: Birmingham Rockets Women 70-62 Team Solent Kestrels

City of Birmingham Rockets women deservedly came away with a win in their final home game of the season against a feisty Solent outfit at the Nechells Wellbeing Centre on Saturday evening.

It was a fitting reward for the players, staff and supporters, as Rockets battled hard to give Coach Clive Allen his first victory with the team.

Rockets went on a brilliant 23-3 run to start the fourth quarter, taking them from a four-point deficit to a decisive 16-point advantage.

With just one game remaining this season, this performance should give the team some belief and confidence to take into the off-season ready to come back stronger later in the year.

Birmingham’s starters were Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon, Sarah Mullgrave, Catarina Seixas, Maru Bibiloni and Grace Brownell.

The contest took a while to get going until Seyedagha-Calderon gave Rockets the lead with back to back lay-ins under the basket.

Brownell then got into scoring form with an impressive interception to go all the way herself for two, before Mullgrave took the ball to the hoop to score and complete a three-point play from the foul line. This opened an early lead for Coach Allen’s side, 9-4.

Both teams got themselves into foul trouble as the quarter went on, with the bulk of the scores coming from the free-throw line.

Both Seyedagha-Calderon and Precilla Ocrah added scores from the stripe for the hosts, although Solent edged ahead by the end of the first, 13-15.

Ocrah started the second quarter with great intent, making a driving layup after an excellent steal by Danielle Wallis.

Soon after, Milly Harrison sank a mid-range jump shot, assisted by Enkelda Pashaj, to put Rockets back ahead in a topsy-turvy quarter with neither side able to really pull away.

Seixas was re-introduced following a brief rest and hit a big three-pointer from deep before making a steal and driving all the way down the open court to score two more. This forced a Kestrels timeout with the Birmingham lead up to six. 

Foul trouble again halted CoB’s progress though, as Solent slowly clawed themselves back from the foul line and then took the lead. It didn’t last long though, with Seyedagha-Calderon back on the scoresheet, cleverly set up by Bibiloni.

This created a bit of momentum once more and further scores from Brownell, Bibiloni and Mullgrave meant that Birmingham had the slight edge at half time, 34-32.

Seyedagha-Calderon was a physical presence around the basket at both ends and opened the scoring in the third with two quick-fire shots from close range, coupled with a defensive rebound too.

She went on to make 17 points and a team-high eight rebounds, as well as two steals and a block, demonstrating the high impact she had on the game in all areas.

Brownell also really came to play after the break, scoring 15 points in the second half to finish with a game-high 19.

She also added six huge steals and her shooting accuracy was one of the key factors in Rockets’ win, making five from seven three-pointers.

She first tied things up at 41 and from then on she was a constant thorn in the Kestrels’ side.

After falling five points behind late in the third quarter, Biblioni found Brownell open for another three-pointer before Ocrah grabbed a crucial offensive rebound and put back for two, although the visitors remained ahead 46-50 moving into the final period.

With the home crowd increasingly vocal, Rockets burst into life at the start of the fourth.

Coach Allen’s team talk seemed to have injected further energy, and Brownell and Bibiloni combined to make the first 14 points of the quarter as part of what proved to be a match-winning 23-3 burst.

Both of them made three-pointers and Biblioni was a real menace on defence too, not letting the opposition settle and earning six steals of her own.

Harrison, Ocrah and Seyedagha-Calderon continued the streak with close-range baskets, as the defence seemed worried about the outside threat.

This left the score 69-53 with just two minutes remaining. Although Solent staged a mini fightback, it was never going to be enough and Seixas sealed the Rockets’ win from the foul line to bring the home supporters to their feet. 

The victory was well deserved and meant a lot to the team and all associated with them after a tough season. Progress is certainly being made and there are positive signs moving forward.

As well as the stand-out performances of Brownell, Seyedagha-Calderon and Biblioni, there were strong contributions from the whole roster at both ends of the court and Coach Allen will be proud of his squad.

Birmingham’s final game of the season is away at Anglia-Ruskin on Saturday as the team hope to end their campaign with back-to-back wins.

Match report by Jess Ellicott

Photography by Mansoor Ahmed/Martin Lansley