14 Apr 2008

The Coca Cola Rhondda Rebels beat the City of Sheffield Hatters by 72 points to 70 to take the British Championship crown this weekend.


Kirby Copeland sunk two free-throws with four seconds remaining to give Coca-Cola Rhondda Rebels the Women's Division One Championship crown after a stunning final on Sunday.

Former Virginia Tech guard Copeland collected the Most Valuable Player award as she led all scorers with 27 points. Lanedra Brown finished with 16 points and 20 rebounds for the Welsh side as they completed their second final victory of the season against Sheffield.

Sisters Sarah and Helen Naylor led the Hatters with 19 and 18 points respectively, while Stephanie Gandy added 17.

Lisa Hutchinson opened the scoring after 18 seconds when she collected a defensive rebound and went coast-to-coast, before Brown levelled for Rebels.

A Harriet Yea trey followed by another bomb from Copeland saw Rebels move into a 10-4 lead with 3:30 gone, forcing a time-out from Hatters coach Betty Codona.

Rhondda's Copeland was only able to connect on one of two free-throws, but Brown took the offensive rebound and scored from close range. Helen Naylor cut the Rebels' margin back to six forcing a time-out from Rhondda coach Andrew Tynan with 2:55 of the first period remaining.

Sarah Naylor cut Rhondda's lead to four with a trey, but a pair of Martina Gandzalova free-throws kept Rebels ahead, 20-14.

Gandzalova drained a long two but Stephanie Gandy pulled Sheffield back within six as she drove to the basket and laid the ball up to leave Rhondda
22-16 up at the first break.

Rebels win British Championship 2008A Copeland bomb after a minute extended the Rhondda lead to 11, and Millie Watkins fouled Brown as she scored to allow the American centre the chance of an and-one, though she missed the bonus.

Having failed to trouble the scorers in the first 3:34 of the second period, coach Codona called a Sheffield time-out, with Rhondda 30-16 ahead.

The move didn't pay off as Keris Timol scored off a Copeland miss, but Gandy finally broke the 10-0 Rhondda run with a score from close range.

A Copeland trey off Yea's assist kept the Rebels comfortably ahead at 36-18 before Gandy scored with a put-back, followed a Sarah Naylor basket.

A pair of Karolina Zagorna free throws kept Hatters in touch, and they were helped by Brown missing two from the line, and coach Tynan was called for a technical foul with five seconds to play.

However, Sarah Naylor missed both free-throws and Gandy's three rimmed out as Rebels went into the locker room 39-26 ahead.

The teams shared the first eight points of the second half, though Zagorna didn't help Sheffield's cause with a pair of misses from the charity stripe before making amends off a Hutchinson assist.

Helen Naylor cut the deficit to nine off another Hutchinson assist, but Yea immediately answered with a trey to keep the Welsh side in control before Sarah Naylor drained another long ranger to send Hatters into the final break trailing 54-45.

McCoy cut the lead by with a mid-range jumper to open the final stanza before Brown fouled Sarah Naylor sending her to the line where she hit one from two to cut Rebels' lead to 54-48.

Helen Naylor scored another trey with 7:49 remaining, forcing a time-out from Rhondda as the lead was cut to 57-53. Sheffield's press led to another basket for Gandy as they sliced the lead in half.

Timol replied with a basket, and with McCoy fouling out at the six minute mark, coach Codona called a Sheffield time-out with Rhondda leading 59-55.

A Gandy and-one from a Zagorna assist saw that lead cut to one with 5:15 remaining. Copeland then made it 63-60 before Helen Naylor took it back down to a one point game.

Copeland again drove to the basket with 2:33 remaining, scoring and being fouled by Sarah Naylor before draining the bonus.

Helen Naylor cut the four point lead in half but Yea converted one from two free-throws to make it a three point ball game. Sarah Naylor made it a one point game again with a pair of charity shots, but Brown failed to convert an and-one with 52 seconds remaining as it once against became a three-point game.

Yea fouled Sarah Naylor as she converted from close range, but she also missed the bonus and Yea was fouled as she scrambled for a loose ball.

Yea sunk one of two foul shots, and Gandy levelled with 18 seconds left, and as Copeland drove to the basket she was fouled by Gandy to set up the thrilling finale.

General Manager Andrew Tynan said:
"This was a stunning victory that speaks volumes of the courage and desire the players had. To go up to beat Sheffield on their doorstep under the circumstance we found ourselves in probably made it one of the greatest victories I have ever been involved in"

Match report written by Andrew Tynan.