LSBU Lady Topcats 63-51 Reading Rockets
Top Scorers: Hilton 22, Davids 11, St Marthe & Bilson-Graham 9 [Game Stats]
The Lady Topcats hold strong in the second half to beat Reading Rockets booking a place in the National Playoff Finals.
The Lady Topcats were looking to reach yet another national final this year where they faced a team who had only one loss in their league record crowned as Division 2 South West League Champions so it was set for a great encounter. The game didn’t disappoint with a back and forth affair right from the tip off. St Marthe got the home side on the scoreboard from the free throw line which was counteracted by a well worked play inside from the visitors. It was then Rochelle Davids and Taylor Hilton scoring well inside followed by a St Marthe three pointer to give the Topcats an early 8-4 lead. The visitors started to find their range where it was Davids and Hilton scoring again to be all tied at 13-13 after the first quarter.
The second quarter started with the Rockets going on a 6-0 run to take the lead from some poor decisions from the Lady Topcats. It was again the duo of Davids and Hilton who took the load of scoring which allowed Ishara Bilson-Graham to be left wide open to hit from beyond the arc to trim the visitors lead to 18-21. Coach Vear needed his team to pick up their defence which they did shutting down their opponents making it hard for them to score. It was Hilton again who was the scoring threat getting to the line to stay perfect seeing the Topcats into the half down by one (23-24).
The third quarter is where the Topcats started to play their brand of basketball of hard nose defence with high tempo. Working the ball inside to Vanessa Da Silva and Hilton had given them back to lead 27-24. Fatumah Lwazi proved a nice spark off the bench getting to the basket as well as her high energy on the defensive end. Another huge three from Bilson-Graham and fast break lay-up from Da Silva had now pushed the Topcats lead out to 34-28 forcing the Rockets to call for a timeout. Hilton again was relentless on the offensive end scoring the Topcats next 6 points supported well from St Marthe keeping the Topcats in front 43-38 at the end of the third.
The final stanza was where the home team, like they have all season, showed their stamina and relentless effort on defence turning up the tempo which unsettled the Rockets. It was Bilson-Graham again who connected for her third three pointer of the game followed by St Marthe and Hilton with scores to take the lead up to the largest of the game at 49-38. It looked like the Topcats were ready to run away with this game with 5 mins to play but the visitors weren’t done yet going on 8-0 run to get right back into the game. The Topcats needed to dig deep and they did playing team defence where it was Hilton who carried the load scoring crucial basket after crucial basket restoring the lead for the Topcats at 57-46 with 2 mins to play. The visitors were forced to foul where the Lady Topcats finished strong at the free throw line giving them a well deserved 63-51 victory to book a place in the Playoff National Finals. Head Coach Steve Vear was thrilled with the win and paid tribute to the opponents and his own teams efforts, in particular Taylor Hilton.
“I felt it was a game played at a very high level showing a great advert for female basketball today. Reading are a well coached team and really made us work for the full 40 minutes. I have to give so much credit to the ladies for this win. We stuck to the game plan of relying on our fitness to up the tempo in the second half where we had full trust in each other. I have to highlight Taylor as she was outstanding today, getting a triple double of 22 points, 12 rebounds and 10 steals showing just how much she contributed on both ends of the floor. It’s been a successful season for us but we all really want to win the playoff finals to end the season on the ultimate high”.
Taylor Hilton echoed Coach Vear’s words and gave credit to the whole team for advancing to the finals and was it’s been like playing for the Lady Topcats this season.
“I’m proud of the team’s efforts in todays semi-final game. As we continue to play tougher competition we have really been learning and growing together. We had to remain mentally tough and composed to win this game. The outcome makes me excited about our potential going forward into the Playoff Finals in 2 weeks. Our teams success so far feels amazing and I feel so lucky that I found Brixton when coming over here leaving US college. On this team everyone contributes and it’s comforting knowing that we can all depend on each other where my teammates pick up the slack if I’m struggling, where they can expect the same from me.“
The Lady Topcats will play against undefeated Leeds Carnegie in the Playoff National Finals on Saturday 12th April at Leeds Met University, tip off 3.30pm. It was the same match up for the National Trophy Finals earlier this year where it was a close encounter with the Topcats losing 65-60 so they will be looking for revenge in the final game of the season.