LSBU Brixton Lady Topcats finish the 2013/14 season crowned as Division 2 National Champions defeating Leeds Carnegie 65-61.
The game started with high tempo as expected with the Topcats going to the basket on their first plays giving them an early 6-2 lead with all guards Fatumah Lwazi, Charlene St Marthe and Sevian Witter getting on the scoreboard. Leeds countered with American Forward O’Dwyer notching up a quick 6 personal points but it was Lwazi who did the same scoring 6 unanswered points of her own to give the Topcats a 16-9 lead after 6 minutes. Baskets were traded until back to back three’s from Ishara Bilson-Graham and St Marthe extended the lead for the Topcats to 24-13 with 1-minute left in the quarter. The Topcats then let up defensively allowing Leeds’ Luksyte to score a wide open three and a lay up to narrow the lead to 24-18 at the end of the first quarter.
The second quarter saw Taylor Hilton prove her offensive capability scoring the Topcats first 6 points which was matched by Leeds’ Luksyte who was causing some problems for the Topcats. Leed’s had now switched to a zone to try and slow the tempo down which did work in spells with the Topcats finding it hard to score. This quarter the defensive intensity had really picked up by both teams where Lwazi was frustrating high scoring American Guard Bergeron keeping her scoreless which proved to be crucial. The guards trio of St Marthe, Lwazi and Rochelle Davids scored well on the break to close the half out with the Topcats still in the lead 36-32.
The third quarter Coach Steve Vear started with 18 year old Ishara Bilson-Graham to help open up Leeds’ zone from outside which she proved to do by hitting the first shot for the Topcats which then allowed both Hilton and Davids the gaps in the zone to score inside pushing the Topcats lead to 42-34. Bilson-Graham again hit from outside followed by free throws from St Marthe and a well worked fast break lay up from Vanessa Da Silva extended the lead to 52-44. However, some poor decisions and turnovers from the Topcats gave Leeds two easy baskets to close the gap to 52-48 going into the final 10 minutes.
The final stanza saw Leeds start with a score again through Luksyte but it was Lwazi who countered with a three point shot to give the Topcats a 55-50 lead. Leeds carried on coming with the pair of O’Dwyer and Luksyte again doing the damage going on a 5-0 run to tie the game up with 5 minutes to play. The game atmosphere had now been at it’s loudest with both teams in need of something special. It was Bilson-Graham who delivered for the Topcats taking matters into her own hands hitting two massive back to back three pointers to give the Topcats a 61-55 lead. Davids had now been given the task of stopping Luksyte with Da Silva marking the smaller guard to give a rebound advantage. This paid off for the Topcats as the Topcats showed how good defensively they can be shutting down Leeds with Davids all over Luksyte keeping her scoreless for over 5 minutes. It was then Da Silva who secured defensive rebound after rebound who tallied 12 rebounds in total for the game not allowing Leeds any second chance opportunities. Da Silva then hit a well worked shot from the baseline to extend the lead to 63-55 with 3 mins to play. It now looked like the Topcats were sure to run away with the title but Leeds refused to give up forcing the Topcats into turnovers resulting in a 6-0 run to bring them within 2 points with 28 seconds remaining forcing Coach Vear into a timeout.
The Topcats came out getting the ball to Bilson-Graham who was fouled going to the line to make both free throws to make it a two possession game at 65-61 [live stats]. The Topcats went into a full court press to rush Leeds which proved to work as they weren’t able to get a shot off with the final buzzer sounding and the Lady Topcats erupting on the court with celebrations. The finals MVP was awarded to point guard Charlene St Marthe (pictured on the right with Coach Vear and captain Rachel James) who finished with 11 points, 6 rebounds and 4 assists. She was delighted with winning the playoff finals.
“It feels great to be National Champions. We started off strong from the beginning which carried through to the final quarter. We really played together as a team which Coach has been stressing all season about sticking together and trusting each other. Today we did just that.”
It was a once again a great game and a lot of credit must go to Leeds Carnegie for putting on a great advert for women’s basketball. Head Coach Vear gave praise to his team for their success this season.
“We had high expectations this season and with this comes hard work and dedication. I haven’t been easy on the ladies this season as I’m someone who truly believes you can’t cheat the game if you want to be successful. I’m so happy for the team as they really deserve this. It was a real team effort all season which again showed in the finals with every single player contributing. We stuck to our game plan and feel we really deserved this win”
The Lady Topcats finish the season as League and Playoff Champions which votes well for their promotion bid to Division One next season. We want to congratulate Coach Vear and his Lady Topcats for a great season and we hope to see them back in the top flight next year.