Oaklands College Wolves crowned U18 Women's National Cup champs

Oaklands College Wolves cruised to victory against Charnwood College Riders, utilising a 19-2 final quarter to win 66-41.

Tia Freeman was a unanimous choice for MVP after her 30-point performance, adding 13 rebounds, 2 assists and 7 steals for good measure. The Wolves harassed their opponents throughout, and the Riders shot just 23% from the floor in the contest. That defensive effort was most apparent in the final quarter when Oaklands were able to pad their lead.

The Wolves started how they meant to go on, streaking out to a 7-0 run, but Niamh Kelshaw helped the Riders to get back into the quarter as she scored 5 quick points to narrow the deficit to 1. Freeman then scored 5 points of her own to give the Wolves the best of the opening period and they led 16-10.

The end of the 1st period provided an excellent preview for the start of the 2nd as Freeman scored 7 of her sides next 8 points to push the Oaklands’ lead back up to 7 after some early Charnwood success. An impressive drive from Freeman resulted in a tough lay-up in traffic to put her side up by double digits, but sensing the possibility of falling away in the contest the Riders went on a 10-0 run. India Morrell led the charge as she scored 4 from mid-range before Rebecca Morrison and Holly Winterburn got in on the action to narrow the deficit to a single point once again. A couple of baskets to end proceedings left Oaklands up at the half though, leading 33-27.

As they were to start the 1st half, the Wolves began the 2nd half hot and 5 straight points had Charnwood coach Oli Parr calling an early time out. The Riders did show more fight from there, but each time they managed to close things up on the score board, Oaklands found a way to pull away. As the quarter wore on, the game began to get scrappy with few clear cut chances, missed free throws and turnovers. Trailing 47-39 with 10 minutes to go, Charnwood had it all to do.

Facing an uphill battle, the Riders’ task was made even harder when Freeman once again took over, hitting an early 3-pointer to jump start an 8-0 Oaklands’ run that had Coach Parr calling for a break. There would be no let up this time though as the Oaklands’ advantage hit the 20-point mark in the 4th. Taking that final period 19-2 was an emphatic way to seal the win on a day when Charnwood went 2/32 from long range as they chased the game.

“I’m so pleased for the girls, they’ve been working really hard this season,” said Oaklands’ Head Coach Lee Ryan. “We did a really good job of reducing their 3-point shots, something Charnwood are well known for, and taking that away took their confidence and built ours. Tia is a special player, she’s had some knockbacks in the last few years but she’s come on a lot and she’s always ready to work. For her to have that kind of a performance in a Final was brilliant.”

MVP winner Tia Freeman, “We worked so hard for this! We knew it was going to be a competitive game that we could win if we played our game, and that was the case. I’m so proud of the girls!”

“The energy and effort was there, we just had little bits that didn’t come off for us today,” said Riders Head Coach Oli Parr. “We had a great game midweek, but we need to go back to the drawing board after this one. The score board didn’t really show how close the game was at stages today, but we put up a fight.”