On Sunday night, the Nottingham Wildcats went to battle with Scotland’s Caledonia Pride in front of record crowds at Birmingham Arena. After five attempts to win the final over three seasons, Nottingham finally took the win in their sixth cup final game in a spectacular show for women’s basketball in Britain.
From the very beginning, the game was closely fought by both sides, and this neck and neck skirmish continued until the very end. If there was to ever be a game to entice new fans to the British Basketball League, then it certainly the women’s cup final on Sunday.
The very first quarter finished with a measly one point lead to the Wildcats, with a showdown between Nottingham Wildcat’s Ashley Harris and Caledonia Pride’s Trisha Oakes that made for a fascinating display of basketball prowess.
Caledonia Pride came back from a 10 point deficit with a solid 7 point run to make the score 20-19 by the end of the quarter, but it was not quite the push they needed.
Ashley Harris, who stormed her way to MVP, exploded in the second quarter with 13 points for the Wildcats, sending Nottingham into the lead by the end of the first half.
Remaining ever humble about receiving the main accolade, Harris said: “Winning MVP is always a great accolade but all credit to the team, it was a great team performance.
“Everyone stepped up and played their part in such an important game.”
Going into the third quarter with a score of 39-33 to Nottingham, Caledonia prevented the Wildcats from getting a field goal during the initial 3 minutes and 45 seconds, as the Scots went on a 7-1 run to equalise at 40-40.
Despite an aggressive defence from the Scottish side, Harris pushed harder and the Wildcats finished the third quarter with another lead, the score 50-48.
Lana Doran rose for a huge block from downtown against Caledonia Pride, and Siobhan Prior put the Wildcats back in the lead with just six minutes to play.
Harris finished with a game-high 19 points for Nottingham, paving the way to victory as the final score stood at 70-66 to the Wildcats. In their sixth cup final game, the Wildcats broke the curse and proudly held the cup high.
Harris said: “It feels so great to finally get a win, I’ve been here three years and have made four finals, and it was definitely time to get some silverware!”
With a record audience of almost 6000 deafening fans, Nottingham Wildcat’s Guard Siobhan Prior expressed how she is hopeful for the future of basketball in Britain.
She said: “The game was a competitive one and a good advert for the women’s game in this country.
“It was reported that a total of 6000 were there for our game, and a lot of those were people who had never seen a basketball game before, which is fantastic for the sport.
“Hopefully they were hooked and continue to support the game.”
Prior has also been selected for the provisional team in the 2018 Gold Coast Commonwealth games in Australia.
This year’s Commonwealth games are hugely important for British basketball, as it is the first year since 2006 that England and Scotland’s basketball teams have been awarded the chance to compete.
Prior said: “It’s exciting to be in the squad for the Commonwealth Games.
“If I make the final team, it will be the highest level of competition I will have played in so it will mean the world to me.
“Playing for my country is hugely important to me and brings an immense sense of pride. So being able to do that on the world stage would be incredible.”
Ashley Harris supported her team mate’s comments on her positive outlook for British basketball.
She said: “To see the amount of fans and kids getting involved in the game, and how many were able to watch on TV and online just goes to show how much the sport is growing in the UK.
“I’ve definitely seen a change in the three years that I have played in the WBBL.”
Last year saw a brand new deal with the BBC to broadcast more British Basketball League games, and with the recent news of more funding for grassroots basketball and a slick re-branding from Basketball England, the future is looking ever brighter.
By Joe Locker