City of Birmingham Rockets’ Women’s First Team progressed to the WNBL Playoff Finals after a hard fought 61-57 win against Nottingham Uni Wildcats at Nechells Wellbeing Centre on Saturday evening.
On a monumental evening for Birmingham basketball, Coach Emery’s side rose to the occasion once again to book their place in the National Finals – another fantastic achievement for the team who have garnered national acclaim following their 11-1 pool topping regular season and run to the National Cup semi-finals.
A capacity crowd cheered on the Rockets from the outset, hopeful of a trip to Manchester for the final next week.
It was a frantic start to the game with the Wildcats taking an early lead before Turner hit an extremely long-range 3 to get the ball rolling for Rockets and settle any early nerves.
Some aggressive defence combined with good shot selection helped the Rockets into a 17-9 lead as Coach Emery’s side began to impose themselves on proceedings.
Fabienne Zere was rebounding and scoring well, with her inside presence a continual thorn in the Wildcats’ side.
Sarah Mullgrave provided a great assist to Milly Harrison to open up what proved to be our biggest lead of the night before a late Wildcats fightback closed the gap to 17-13 at the end of the first quarter.
Our visitors came out of the traps quickly in the second, tying the game at 18 before the lead traded hands numerous times as both sides struggled to pull away in a well contested period of play.
Enkeleda Pashaj stole the ball before finishing well while Turner continued to impress as she picked out Heather Maxwell with a masterful piece of play to set up a three-point play.
Despite this, Wildcats turned the game on its head in the second, opening up their biggest lead of the game as they took a five-point lead – going ahead 24-29.
Nottingham would go into the halftime break with a four-point lead after successfully navigating a late Rockets offensive.
Rockets began the second half with a fantastic 9-4 run to take back the lead.
Pashaj was controlling things well and Mullgrave hit a big three pointer before Zere converted a three-point play to turn the tide back in Rockets’ favour.
Turner hit another three and Pierpoint drained one from outside the ark too after great ball movement to open up an eight-point lead for the second time – with the scores set at 45-37.
Back came the Wildcats again though, making the most of the Rockets foul trouble to re-take the lead before Mullgrave hit a buzzer-beating three pointer to steal the lead back for the Rockets, as the quarter ended 48-46.
A tense final quarter saw the lead change hands several times again as both sides left everything on the court in the quest to make the final.
Rockets’ physical start to the fourth saw the Wildcats in foul trouble early on with our visitors in the penalty with seven minutes left to play.
Catarina Seixas converted two free-throws after securing her own rebound, then hit a crucial three pointer to give Rockets momentum heading into the final minutes.
Rockets called timeout with 1.48 left and the scores tied 57-57.
From there, Rockets exploited the inside presence of Zere to great effect as she scored what proved to be the final four points.
Fantastic energy and intense defence helped Rockets close out the game for an impressive and memorable win.
Zere finished with 18 points and Turner scored 16 in what was a brilliant all-round team effort with 9 different scorers contributing.
Written by Jess Ellicott