Saints stroll into BUCS Conference Cup final

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St Andrews 1sts 42

Queen Margaret 1sts 28

A fine team display, crowned with the individual talents of captain Hannah Rogers, saw the Basketball Women’s 1sts ease their way into the final of the BUCS Scottish Conference Cup, to be played on 21 March against Aberdeen 1sts.

Their opponents, Queen Margaret 1sts, pushed Saints all the way in their previous meeting just a week ago, but there was to be no repeat of that nail-biting 49-47 encounter as Saints were comfortable winners despite no lack of effort from the away side.

The match followed the Basketball Men’s 1sts’ 72-54 win over Strathclyde, as a strong finish by the home team secured the win and all but guaranteed second spot in BUCS Scottish 1A.

Once on court the Women’s team did not mess about, scoring straight from the tip off, but the visitors hit straight back and the match stayed evenly-poised at 2-2 for around four minutes of play.

That was before captain Rogers took matters into her own hands with a free throw and two breakaway scores to push her team 9-2 ahead.

The lead established, Saints were looking far more settled; they were passing the ball much quicker and finding the target more regularly than their opponents, moving 15-2 clear by the end of the first quarter.

They then started the second period exactly as they’d left off, swiftly going 20-2 up, having been able to ring the changes – a luxury not available to the visitors, who just had enough players to make up a full team.

The away side did eventually refind their shooting boots, but Saints were comfortable enough in maintaining their lead and were definitely playing the most fluid basketball with rapid passing and intelligent movement, going off at the half-way mark with a good 26-10 advantage.

That pattern of play remained much the same after the restart. The Queen Margaret team put on plenty of pressure, showing admirable endurance, but the home side were scoring at a regular rate thanks to their slick teamwork and Rogers’ deadly counter-attacks, as she picked off opposition passes to score twice in quick succession and give Saints a very healthy-looking 32-12 lead.

Saints continued to answer every point conceded with more of their own as they not only preserved but also extended their advantage, with Rogers the conductor of an orchestra that was playing very much in tune.

Saints’ lead with three quarters played was 38-15, but they may well have been mindful of the late collapse that nearly cost them dear in the previous week’s match.

The away team started the final 10 minutes with great intent and began eating into the hosts’ lead to bring the score to 38-24.

With Saints’ play becoming sloppier as one or two players seemed to take their foot off the pedal, their coach Evan Kalkus made a couple of changes to sure things up.

That decision was rewarded, as Saints finally reached the 40-point mark and another, by now almost trademark, Rogers break and lay-up effectively sealed the victory.

Saints effectively wound down the clock and the final buzzer brought jubilant reactions from the players, who knew they had achieved a place in the Conference Cup final with something to spare.

Asked how it felt to be in that final, Saints’ captain Rogers was somewhat understated in describing it as “good, really good”, and she looked forward to facing Aberdeen, with revenge on her mind after three losses to them this season.

She was very happy with the team’s performance, as they were now playing very well together having taken the season to fully adjust to the new players who had come in.

Ahead of the game with Aberdeen, she pointed to a “tighter defence and more aggressive offence” as their keys to success.

We have only to wait until 21 March to find out if Rogers can lead the team to a notable cup triumph against their nemesis this season

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