Match Report: Rockets Women 65-67 Anglia Ruskin

City of Birmingham Rockets women fell to an agonising and somewhat controversial defeat in their final game of the season as Grace Brownell lay sprawled on the court after a collision seconds before the game-winning three-pointer was hit from the corner.

This gave Anglia Ruskin a two point lead with just 24 seconds left to play. Sarah Mullgrave’s close-range attempt to send the game to overtime was just too strong and unfortunately bounced away off the backboard and the ring.

The game took place on the afternoon of Saturday 23rd March at the Stephen Perse Foundation Arena in Cambridge.

Although Rockets’ fate had already been sealed prior to the match and the team will look to bounce back from Division 2 again next season, Coach Allen’s team were confident of ending the season on a high against another bottom-half outfit in Anglia Ruskin Uni.

Despite leading for much of the game, Birmingham just couldn’t pull away into a double-figure lead and Ruskin fought back to go ahead with just two minutes left in the fourth quarter.

Rockets were not finished though and edged ahead yet again before the drama at the death as Brownell collided with an opponent and Anglia found the open player after several more passes in a 5v4 situation.

It was a cruel ending for Rockets, who put in one of their best displays of the season.

However, this performance coupled with the home win last time out gives the team something positive to take into the off-season.

Birmingham fielded a starting five of Nuri Seyedagha-Calderon, Catarina Seixas, Maru Bibiloni, Mullgrave and Brownell.

Biblioni opened the scoring with a mid-range jumper after some excellent defence in the opening possession – Mullgrave made a great block, then Brownell’s quick hands took a steal.

Seyedagha-Calderon extended the lead from the foul line after a strong drive, before Mullgrave built on an excellent start at the defensive end with a three-pointer.

Following a Ruskin timeout, the hosts went on a 7-0 run to shift the momentum. However, Mullgrave was always a threat and scored Rocket’s final five points of the quarter to bring the visitors back within two at 14-12.

Seyedagha-Calderon immediately set the tone in the second, driving to the line and making both of the resulting free throws.

Ellie Pierpoint was introduced at the start of the quarter and made an immediate impact at both ends, earning a rebound and a steal as well as draining a three-pointer from the corner to keep the scores close.

Brownell put Birmingham ahead for the first time since the opening minutes with a three-pointer, then Pierpoint and Mullgrave in particular began to dominate at both ends, making steals, rebounds and tough shots.

Mullgrave made an impressive 16 points in the first half and put Rockets ahead at halftime 29-32.

Coach Allen’s team maintained a single-digit lead throughout the third quarter. It became as many as eight at one stage after two Biblioni free-throws made it 33-41, but Ruskin always remained in touching distance and brought the advantage back down to three by the end of the quarter, 47-50.

There were great contributions from the bulk of the squad during the third, including Seyedagha-Calderon with six points and Biblioni with five.

Rockets’ free-throw percentage was excellent throughout the game and the offence varied between looking to go to the basket and taking the open outside shot.

Seixas made her mark with a long range three-pointer before Milly Harrison was brilliantly found in the paint for an open jumper by Seyedagha-Calderon.

The fourth quarter began with Brownell making a great steal and racing all the way to lay-in for two. This was followed by a scoring drought for several minutes for both teams as defences dominated and nerves kicked in with the game on the line.

Pierpoint once again then stepped up for Birmingham, making the team’s next eight points including two three-pointers. However, the hosts raised their game just at the same stage and edged ahead for the first time in the second half with just over two minutes left to play, resulting in a Rockets’ timeout.

Anglia got the next score to lead 64-60, but Birmingham came right back with a fantastic three-pointer under pressure by Danie Wallis.

After some super defence by a combination of Mullgrave and Brownell, Pierpoint then drew a foul and made both from the line to take the lead again, 64-65.

This led to the final timeout being taken by Ruskin with just 42 seconds remaining. The crucial three-point blow was then dealt by the hosts, leaving CoB to wonder what might have been.

Birmingham’s top performers were Mullgrave with 16 points and 5 rebounds; Pierpoint with 16 points shooting 56% from the field; Seyedagha-Calderon with 10 points including 100% from the foul line; Brownell with 7 points, 8 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals; and Biblioni with 7 points, 6 rebounds and 3 steals.

Thank you to everyone who has supported the team this year and we hope to see you all back at Nechells next season!

Match report by Jess Ellicott

A huge thank you to Jess Ellicott for providing match reports from our women’s games this season!