National Cup recap: 3/4 December 2022

Away from the hubbub of the men’s football world cup, the NBL National Cup competition – Basketball England’s oldest running competition – is into the final rounds of knock-out games.

The women’s semi-finalists are decided, and they are without former winners Sheffield Hatters II and Anglia Ruskin University, and in the men’s competition D3’s Milton Keynes Breakers continue to break the hearts of their D1 counterparts.

All the remaining teams will be battling it out for a place in January's Finals at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester, set to take place across the weekend of 21/22 January 2023.

Team photograph of the Milton Keynes Breakers
Breakers celebrate their road win the Men's National Cup. Credit - Milton Keynes Breakers

‘Could they make it all the way’

Team Newcastle University 77-79 Milton Keynes Breakers

The story of the men’s cup so far has been written by the Milton Keynes Breakers and their incredible cup run – and they are not done, yet. The boys in red and white stripes beat last year’s runners up Team Newcastle University by two points on Sunday and will now face Manchester Magic in the quarterfinals.

In a close game, the Breakers trailed Newcastle 59-56 heading into the final quarter but were able to edge the Toon with a Blayne Freckleton dagger, coming with 6.3 seconds to go. An expert inbound pass from the Breakers’ baseline loosened Newcastle’s high press and, on the attack, Freckleton was found at the top of the three-point arc, a smart dribble inside gave him the momentum to take the shot and secure the win, ending the night on 22 points. Supporting cast Michael New Jr and Jordan Spencer had 22 and 19 points respectively.

Newcastle’s top scorers were Tola Okiki (19), Emmanuel Kanwei (12) and Jordan May (12).

The achievements of the second D3 team into the quarterfinals – the London Sharks – shouldn’t be overlooked either, as they dispatched University of East Anglia Panthers 81-66 away from home. They will head to Hemel before Christmas to face the Storm and see if they can’t join in on the giant killing.

In the early fixture, Manchester Magic beat Myerscough Academy in a low-scoring 60-64 OT victory, with 6’4” guard Andre Gayle scoring 26 points.

Worthing Thunder, who are having a time of it in the NBL 1 – undefeated and at the top of the league – were pushed all the way by last year’s winners Team Solent Kestrels, but won 83-80. Thunder’s number five Andre Arissol, who is having a standout season, had 19 points.

In the other fixtures Hemel Storm beat Reading Rockets 106-77 and Thames Valley Cavaliers knocked out Essex Rebels by 30 (89-57).

There are two more games to wrap up the round of 16, with Derby Trailblazers hosting Loughborough Riders on the 6 December and Nottingham Hoods vs Westminster Warriors on the 10 December.

Team photogram of the City of Birmingham Rockets (women)
Rockets' women are semi-finalists. Credit - City of Birmingham Rockets

Dabbs and Shabrawy see off Hatters

Loughborough Riders 67-66 Sheffield Hatters II

The winningest team in the women’s national cup competition Sheffield Hatters II are out of contention, after losing by a point to the Loughborough Riders, whose Alia Shabrawy and Lauren Dabbs combined for 45 points.

At the three minute mark in the fourth quarter, the Hatters were up by 63-58 but saw that cut short to two by a crucial Dabbs three-pointer, giving the Riders certain momentum to take the victory by the smallest of margins.

Former winners Anglia Ruskin University also took an L on the weekend, losing to City of Birmingham Rockets 65-70. Rockets’ Sarah Mullgrave hit a massive three and Fabienne Zere knocked down two from the stripe with a minute to go to put the Brummies in control.

WNBL D1 strugglers Cardiff Met Archers II cup run has come to an end, with Thames Valley Cavaliers putting them out 106-57.

The Cavs offence was firing at the game with Katherine Goldsby (19), Vanessa Johnson (19), Chinwe Iwunze (15), Helene Trailin (15) and Faith Okwuosa (10) all hitting double digits. The Cavs will take on the City of Birmingham Rockets in the semi-final on Sunday, 8 January.

Reading Rockets beat Bristol Academy Flyers 98-60, meaning they will take on the Riders in the other semi-final.

Sure Shot Finalists

Finalists for the U16 girls and U18 women’s Sure Shot Cup competitions are now confirmed, with Ipswich Basketball Club representing in both age categories.

Ipswich will face CoLA Southwark Pride in the U18 Final and Manchester Mystics in the U16.

The winner of City of Birmingham Rockets I vs London Elite quarterfinal (due to be played on the 11 December) will face Manchester Magic in one of the semi-final fixtures of the U16 boys’ comp, whilst the other sees Sussex Bears square up to the London Lions.

In the U18 men’s cup, the quarterfinals are nearly wrapped, with only St Peter’s Slam vs Milton Keynes Breakers an outstanding fixture. Sheffield Sabres Elite Basketball Academy, London Legends and London Elite have made it through to the semi-finals.

Main image credit - Loughborough Riders


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