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EBL Weekend Round-up

14 February 2005
Sheffield, England

With leaders City of Sheffield Arrows enjoying a rare free weekend,
London United and Reading Rockets faced each other for the second
consecutive week.

United completed back-to-back victories over the Rockets, to keep their
own title hopes alive and effectively put the Berkshire side out of
title contention.

In a nerve-jangling match, the Londoners controlled the first half, to
establish a 52-38 interval lead, but Steve Parillon (with a game-high 33
points) led the Rockets' revival in the third quarter, and at the start
of the fourth they were up by two, 68-70.

Things began to look bleak for the home side, as, with Pete Deppisch and Sebastian Saloman fouled out, and Damian Reid on four fouls, they found themselves trailing by eight. United's greatest strength is their depth, and Reid and Steve Vear nailed hauled them back into contention, but they still trailed by three with thirty seconds to play.

When Reading missed the 3-point attempt that would have put them out of reach, Vear had twelve seconds to drive up court to save the game, but an intelligent foul by the visitors left him with two free shots, and a three point deficit, with just four seconds on the game clock.
Draining the first, Vear deliberately rimmed the second, and Mantia
Callender (17) was first to the rebound to take the game into overtime!

In the extra period United's wealth of options was once again apparent,
as Jacek Jagodka hit three "3"s from the corner to double his points
tally for the game and help his team to a 110-98 victory that puts them
level with Arrows at the top of the table, although the Sheffield team
have a game in hand.

Another game with big implications for top-four placings was at the
Amaechi Basketball Centre, where Manchester Magic hosted Worcester
Wolves. A close first half saw the home side take a fractional
advantage, 43-42, but a 13-2 spurt to the start the third quarter put
Manchester put Manchester in a commanding position, made stronger as
Colin Chiverton fouled out for the visitors.

The Magic failed to press home their advantage, however, and having held the deficit to just ten points at the end of the third period, Wolves
opened the fourth in fine style, with two "3"s from Matt Collins (13)
helping them back to within two points. By the mid point of the quarter,
with their zone defence slowing Manchester down, the visitors were level at 76-all, and they pulled away in the closing minutes for an 87-95
victory that takes them above Manchester into fourth place.

Josh Cooprider took the game's scoring honours with 25, while Manchester were led by Terrell Ivory's 20. Worcester's 35-17 final period was reminiscent of their previous week's demolition of Worthing, and they are establishing a reputation as a tough fourth-quarter team.
Teesside Mohawks, who are getting stronger as the weeks go by, following their team-rebuilding at the start of the season, took advantage of Manchester's slip-up to also overtake the, into fifth place, two points behind Worcester with two games in hand.

The Mohawks faced their longest return journey of the year, all the way
from the North-East to the South Coast, to face a Worthing Thunder team desperate to restart their campaign following two successive defeats.

Neither side could establish more than a single figure advantage
throughout, and the outcome hinged on the final half-minute. Tied at
92-all, Jan Michael Nation hit one of two from the stripe for the
visitors, leaving the home side with time to snatch the game. Worthing,
however, squandered no less than three scoring chances in that time, and Teesside took the points with them on the long journey North.

In the struggle for play-off qualification there were vital wins for
PAWS London Capitals, at home to Coventry Crusaders, and Solent Stars on the road at Kingston Wildcats, which enabled both victorious teams to close the gap on eighth-placed Essex & Herts Leopards who were without a game.

Leading 34-44 at the half, Solent found Kingston's resilience difficult
to overcome, and the Wildcats took a brief lead in the third quarter
before a "trey", followed by a steal and 3-point play, from young Ollie
Marsh helped the Stars to a five point cushion at the final break.
Kingston came again in the fourth, but the visitors held out for an
83-92 victory that had coach Alan Cunningham declaring, "We should have blown them away with our first half performance. We practise for close end-of-game situations, but the players need to be better disciplined if we are to gain many more wins."

London Capitals led their game against Coventry virtually from start to
finish, but found it difficult to shake off the Crusaders, who were
level at 37 in the second quarter and still only three adrift as the
game entered its final minute. A long-range 2 from Changa Adams (18)
gave PAWS the necessary breathing space, and, led by player-coach
Solomon Ayinla (22) they broke their three-game losing streak with an
84-77 victory.

Solent and PAWS are now just two points behind Leopards, with the Stars having a game in hand over both their immediate rivals.

It's still too early in the season to talk about any single game being a
"title decider", but Sheffield Hatters' defeat at Rhondda Rebels does
mean that the title race in Women's Division 1 appears to be entering
its last lap.

The league leaders bossed the first half, establishing a clear
advantage, 47-31, by the interval, but Kristy Lavin (25) led the
Hatters' fightback after the break, but though they shaded each of the
last two quarters by four the margin was too great, and the defending
champions took their 12th straight league victory.

Rhondda owed much of the credit for their victory to their dominance on
the boards, out-rebounding the Hatters 47-36, with Missy Lender playing a captain's role with twelve and Geraldine Robert taking ten.

The Valleys' team, who were led by Italian Sylvia Gottardi with a
game-high 31 points, ahead of Robert on 27, now need just four victories in their last six games to clinch their first back-to-back titles.

In the battle for the play-off places, Solent Stars and Manchester
Mystics easily held on to third and and fourth places, with respective
victories over Stockport Lapwings (81-33) and Brixton Topcats (90-47).

Both are still looking over their shoulders at Nottingham Wildcats,
however. The East Midlands team may be two defeats adrift of their
rivals, but they have already played both Rhondda and Sheffield twice,
and appear to have a clearer run to the finish line.

Down at the foot of the table Doncaster Panthers picked up their first
victory of the campaign, with a hard-fought home win over PAWS London Capitals. The Panthers led from the mid point of the first quarter, and late in the third they had established a fourteen point margin, at
44-30. The failed to press home their advantage, however, and Bridgette Dang (17) led the visitors as they reduced the final margin to eight, 60-52.

At the end of the season the Panthers may come to regret this slip, as
they are now tied with the Londoners, on one win apiece, but the
Capitals won the reverse fixture by thirteen, which would give them the
advantage on count-back if they remain tied.

Patricia Chukwuma had another impressive game for Doncaster, with a
double-double of 27 points and 12 rebounds, while Helen Naylor struck
three 3-pointers in her 20.

Source: EB/Pete Jacques (Pawprint)

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