Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club Head Coach Anna Jackson, and players Caroline Ballard-East and Jenny Wilson joined up with other female players from the North to represent the ‘Bells Angels of the North’ 1st and 2nd teams for the 2014/2015 British Wheelchair Basketball Women’s League.
This season the tournament featured teams from around the UK and was held over three weekends in Nottingham where 12 teams fought it out in two divisions.
Anna and Caroline in the undefeated Angels’ 1st team, coached by Tina Gordon, reached the 2nd Division final against Leeds Spiders Black Widows.
An excellent, but tough, final saw the Angels take an early lead but Spiders crept back leaving the Angels a slight 17-16 advantage into half time. A stunning third quarter saw the Angels fly up the scoreboard, overcoming the Leeds defence and racing to a 28-21 lead with just 10 minutes remaining in the game. The final quarter had neither team giving up but the Angels got into their rhythm and held their nerve to take the Division 2 Trophy with a 36-26 triumph.
Caroline said: “Women’s league was an amazing experience. Bringing players from North Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern England, who don’t usually train together and seeing them gelling as a team that goes on to win the 2nd Division was brilliant.”
Phoenix WBC and Manchester Mavericks player Jenny Wilson was one of the starring players in the Angels 2nd Team, coached by Jackson and Ballard-East.
Made up of a number of new and less experienced players, playing together for the first time at the Tournament; they exceeded everyone’s expectations.
To make life tougher for the new team, they were in the same division as the firsts, but although faced with a number of challenging fixtures, improved with each game, finishing the tournament on a real high by beating Stoke Spitfires by a single point to claim 7th place.
Caroline said: “Helping to coach the second team and watching them to grow and develop with every game was so positive and the icing on the cake in them winning their first game – I’m a proud coach seeing Angels gain their wings!”
Jenny said: “It’s a great opportunity for people of all abilities to get involved and to meet new people who have the same interests as you”
Players were selected by fellow players and coaches to take part in this prestigious event organised by British Wheelchair Basketball.
Teams were made up from players across both divisions and included a number of current GB Senior and Junior players, retired GB players together with some of the top club players in the country.
In an unmissable clash that saw Team East and West tip off in front of a packed crowd, spectators were not only treated to a fantastic All-Star Game, but also to entertainment from Funky Town, the Nottingham Trent University Cheerleaders, and a special half time wheelchair basketball match between the Nottingham Wildcats WBBL Team and members of the crowd.
The All-Star Game saw GB Women’s Head Coach Miles Thompson head up Team West, assisted by both Ally Hope (CWBA) and Andy Flower (Stoke Spitfires); whilst Team East was led by GB Women’s Assistant Coach Mat Foden, assisted by Ann Wild OBE (GLL & Aspire London Titans) and Josh Gardner (Leeds Spiders Black Widows).
It proved to be an exciting game with both teams scoring some great baskets and pulling off some brilliant moves. Despite a valiant fightback from Team East, the West kept their lead and became the UK’s first ever All-Star Champions with a hard-fought 57-42 victory.
It was also chance for the crowd and players to remember a former team mate and coach who sadly passed away this year.
The Josie Cichockyj MVP Award decided by a panel consisting of former GB Women’s Assistant Coach Tina Gordon and Paralympians Paula Johnson and Sarah Baillie – was presented to Team West’s Joy Haizelden (CWBA) by Sandra Johnson.
All-Star and Phoenix WBC Head Coach Jackson said: “To be part of the All Star game was an incredible honour and is something I will never forget – I am so grateful to the coaches and players who voted for me and to GB Head Coach Miles Thompson who made me Captain of the team.
“The whole Women’s league set up this season has been amazing. I have coached and played this season and the future of the Women’s game in this country looks really bright, there are some amazing young players coming through and also some of the older more experienced players seem to have found a new love for the sport by playing in the Women’s tournament,” Coach Jackson concluded.
All the Phoenix players are looking forward to next season and if you would like to have a go at the sport or want more information on getting involved just contact the club on 07711 356541 or visit www.cheshirephoenixwbc.co.uk