The National Championship Finals kicked off with the Premier League semi-finals first, the defending champions, Sheffield Steelers comfortably beat CWBA (87-56) on home turf to advance to the final. The early morning start didn’t stop Ben Fox from dropping 32 points. Sheffield’s Tom Smith and Coventry’s Peter Cusack both had 13 rebounds and Steelers’ Harry Brown racked up 12 assists. In the second semi-final The OWLS defeated London Titans (64-41) to ensure a rematch with the Steelers later that evening. Billy Bridge top scored with 15 points whilst Jack Perry had 10 rebounds and 11 assists.
In the Division 3, North’s Glasgow Rocks II secured their place in the final with a (42-37) win over South East’s High Rollers. Rollers’ Hadj Lahmar was top scorer of the game as he had 20 points to his name whilst Glasgow’s ‘Mr. Wimbledon’ Gordon Reid picked up 16 rebounds and six assists. In the other fixture Central’s Birmingham Phoenix saw off South West’s Cardiff Met Archers (48-35) to also be placed in the final. Birmingham’s big man Rob Smith secured 18 points and 22 rebounds whilst Archers’ Liam Holt had six assists.
The action in Division 2 first saw North winners Lancaster Bulldogs take on South second placed The Bears II. The game was a back-and-forth affair with Bears just edging ahead in the final quarter to win (69-65.) Dazz Peasley was top scorer for the Warwickshire side with 24 points closed followed by Bulldogs Tyler Baines on 22. Peasley and Neil Howson were tied for rebound at 11 apiece whilst Bears’ Mohammad Ayub had nine assists. Next, North Wales Knights I who came second in the North picked up a big (76-48) victory over South champions Thames Valley Kings I. Despite the heavy loss, Kings’ Liam Barker dropped 27 points followed by Knights’ Alex Wilson on 25. Thames Valley’s Reece Barker put in a shift by grabbing 20 rebounds whilst North Wales’ player/coach Mike Hayes had 12 assists.
The home turf also proved beneficial for Sheffield Steelers III who finished second in Division 1 South as they easily beat North winners NI Knights (75-37) who were missing the likes of Conn Nagle and Jason Kennedy. The Steelers offense was just too much for the Northern Irish side to handle as Will Bonner had 28 points, Peter Lucas had 16 rebounds and Sophie Carrigill had nine assists. In the other Division 1 game Glasgow Rocks I who came second in the North faced off against South winners Exeter Otters in a battle of quite literally opposite ends of the country. After a brilliant start by Rocks, the Otters slowly chipped away at the deficit to outscore them for the other three quarters and go onto win (66-60.) Exeter’s Macauley Tomlinson was top scorer with 29 points closely followed by Glasgow’s Ben Leitch on 27. Rocks’ James Beattie had 14 rebounds whilst Otters’ Jordan Bright had seven assists.
CWBA beat London Titans (68-55) for the Premier League bronze medal. Titans’ Tyler Saunders was top scorer with 22 points and seven assists followed by CWBA’s Peter Cusack on 21. London’s Christy Gregan had 13 rebounds.
The penultimate game of day one was the much-anticipated Junior League Final between North Wales Knights and Lancaster Spinners which was in my opinion the best game of the entire weekend. It was hotly contested from start to finish but it was the Knights who secured the title in the last few minutes with a (60-57) win. Spinners’ James Beattie was top scorer with 28 points closely followed by Knights’ Alex Wilson on 24. North Wales’ Luke Ravenscroft had 15 rebounds whilst Anastasia Blease had 11 assists. I must admit it was good to see the Knights finally win the trophy after falling short with silver in several junior finals, the elation from the Welsh crowd provided the EIS with a special atmosphere.
To cap off day one it was the Premier League Final between the top two teams in the country, Sheffield Steelers and The OWLS. It was the Steelers who reigned supreme for the second year running with a (64-53) victory after OWLS tried their best to pull back from an 11-point deficit. Jack Perry (22pts) and Martin Edwards (20pts, 16reb and 5ast) done their best to keep their team in the fight but it wasn’t enough to stop the lightning offense of James MacSorley (18pts), Harry Brown (18pts), Tom Smith (17pts) and company. The Sheffield Steelers remain on top of the British league.
The High Rollers saw off Cardiff Met Archers (43-33) to claim the Division 3 bronze medal. Stuart Newton was top scorer for the Essex-based side with 16 points and 19 rebounds. Cardiff’s Liam Holt had seven assists. Glasgow Rocks II defeated Birmingham Phoenix (56-44) in the final. Rocks’ heart and soul Gary Davidson was top scorer with 18 points closely followed by Ronnie Cassels with 14 points and 13 rebounds whilst Gordon Reid had ten assists.
Lancaster Bulldogs comfortably beat Thames Valley Kings I (63-45) to secure the Division 2 bronze. Bulldogs’ Alex Johnson was top scorer with 20 points, Kings’ Reece Barker had 14 rebounds and Lancaster’s Tyler Baines racked up 12 assists. North Wales Knights I went onto win the Division 2 title by beating The Bears II (65-52) after pulling away in the third quarter. Clutch shooter Dazz Peasley was again top scorer for the Bears with 25 points and 17 rebounds closely followed by Knights’ Alex Wilson on 22 who was on form the entire weekend.
In a Celtic clash, NI Knights picked apart a tired and worn out Glasgow Rocks I side (55-38) to win bronze in Division 1. However, there was no quit in Rocks’ James Beattie who was top scorer with 20 points followed by NI’s Neil Carlisle on 18 whilst Glasgow’s Ben Leitch secured 15 rebounds. Sheffield Steelers III overcame the Exeter Otters (59-49) in the final game of the weekend with Steelers’ Peter Lucas grabbing 22 rebounds and Will Bonner being the deciding factor in the game, dropping 31 points and eight assists.
I need to get better at predictions.
Gold: North Wales Knights
Silver: Lancaster Spinners
Gold: Glasgow Rocks II
Silver: Birmingham Phoenix
Bronze: High Rollers
4th: Cardiff Met Archers
Gold: North Wales Knights I
Silver: The Bears II
Bronze: Lancaster Bulldogs
4th: Thames Valley Kings I
Gold: Sheffield Steelers III
Silver: Exeter Otters
Bronze: NI Knights
4th: Glasgow Rocks I
Gold: Sheffield Steelers
Silver: The OWLS
4th: London Titans
Thank you for reading this series of British league reviews it means a lot to me that people enjoy the content I produce. Stay tuned to Rollt over the summer for brand new and exclusive English-speaking content.
Text: Dylan Cummings | Photo: Simon Bonner / Sheffield Steelers Wheelchair Basketball Club