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University's basketball stars defend national title
5:42pm Monday 19th March 2012 in Sport By Steve Carley - Midlands Sports Journalist of the Year 2013, @stevecarleyWN
BASKETBALL success is continuing at the University of Worcester after they defended their national title in Sheffield.
Paul James’ side, featuring many of the Worcester Wolves squad from the British Basketball League, defeated Durham 88-81 in the final to claim the British Universities and Colleges Sport (BUCS) title for the sixth time in nine years.
It completed a fine double for the Henwick Road-based team, following on from their capture of the Premier North Division.
Coach James said: “It was a great weekend with all of our team contributing to the success at different times. Durham played some excellent basketball and we were delighted to win such an exciting final between two evenly matched teams.”
Mick Donovan, head of institute of sport and exercise science at the university, hailed the triumph as further proof of the successful links with the Worcester Wolves’ British Basketball League team.
Under the guidance of James, all university sides follow the Wolves model, ensuring identical training methods and playing patterns.
“We are very proud of the team and to come out on top of such an elite university league once again is testimony to the great work of Paul and the team,” Donovan said.
“It is significant that we now have a programme that can compete successfully at both university and BBL level. The integrated approach that Paul takes with his coaching and leadership is clearly paying dividends.”
Last Friday saw Worcester comfortably see off Brunel 85-40 in the quarter-finals before recording an 87-78 victory over Leeds Carnegie in the last four on Saturday.That advanced Worcester to their eighth final in nine years and they led 27-24 after the first quarter.
A great five-minute spell at the start of the second saw Tommy Freeman, Sherrad Prezzie-Blue and Arnas Kazlauskas all scoring to establish a 12-point lead.
However, Durham, who reached the final with wins over Middlesex and Northumbria, came back well with several three-pointers and at half-time the teams were level at 45-45.
Worcester pulled away again in the third quarter with Dorian Benjamin making an impact off the bench.
As the game developed, both teams continued to trade baskets and Freeman made some crucial plays, including an extraordinary pass while on his knees that led to Courtney Van Beest converting. In the closing stages, some excellent shooting and composure from Prezzie-Blue stabilised Worcester as they held their nerve to triumph.
Freeman finished the game with 23 points and his display at both ends of the court was rewarded with the most valuable player accolade.
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