5th Mar 2011: BUCS Nationals 2011

It was clear from the North and South qualifying tournaments that every team had upped their game and were out to impress at this years BUCS. Edinburgh successfully achieved a seeded position from their qualifiers placing them in group D with Birmingham, Leeds and Lancaster. The first match of the group saw Edinburgh take on Leeds, a team they had previously faced 6 times in two years, winning 5 and drawing 1. Both teams came flying out of the gates with quick baskets and the momentum continued throughout the match with one team taking the lead and the other quickly drawing level. Two quick long range baskets by Edinburgh Uni captain Kyle Crombie with 2 minutes left to play saw Edinburgh stretch to a 2 goal lead which Leeds couldn’t overturn resulting in a final score of 8-6 to Edinburgh.

With one match played and one win Edinburgh’s confidence was high but the next match would be against an extremely strong Birmingham side who had destroyed every team at the southern qualifying tournament and who had also beaten Lancaster 16-2 in their first match. Edinburgh started the match well with some very close attacks but Birmingham proved too strong and finished the first half with a 6-1 lead. Edinburgh played like a different side in the second half with outstanding performances from Will Lawton, Sam Grindrod, Sarah Higginson and Kathryn Maltby to keep Birmingham frustrated. Edinburgh drew the second half 3-3 but the damage had been done leaving Edinburgh deflated after a 9-4 defeat to a side who eventually finished 3rd.

Edinburgh had to pick themselves back up as they knew a spot in the quarterfinals was still on the cards. A victory against Lancaster would see Edinburgh finish in 2nd place in group D and a quarterfinal match against fellow Scots St Andrews would be waiting. Edinburgh made quick work of Lancaster with almost every player in the squad scoring and 5 baskets each for Graham Morris and Kyle Crombie and a long range effort from Sarah McKeand emphasised Edinburgh’s dominant control. Some outstanding defending and inspirational attacking lead to Edinburgh’s easy 16-3 victory and helped to rebuild the confidence before their big all Scottish quarterfinal.

St Andrews and Edinburgh had met two weeks earlier in the Scottish league with Edinburgh emerging from a very hard fought game as 7-4 winners. Edinburgh knew that St Andrews would be out for revenge and applied a strategy to try to keep St Andrews best players quiet. The strategy proved effective for large parts of the game evident by 2 goals separating the teams at half time. Less than a minute into the second half Edinburgh speed demon Will Lawton seriously injured his ankle and couldn’t continue. Edinburgh maintained the pressure but St Andrews eventually started to increase their scoring and Edinburgh struggled to keep up. An outstanding defensive effort from Shamiso Lewis and 3 baskets from Dominic Gillespie helped Edinburgh to stay in touch but St Andrews proved too strong winning the match 9-4

Edinburgh looked on the positive side as no Edinburgh team had finished in the top half of the competition for the last 4 years and they now had a very strong chance of finishing 5th. Edinburgh was pumped and ready to take their frustrations out on a very good Kent side. The match was full of opportunities for both sides with Catherine Helme and Rosie Whelan constantly coming close for Edinburgh. Sadly it was turning into one of those days for Edinburgh who’s long and short range efforts just wouldn’t drop while Kent couldn’t seem to miss. The match remained extremely tight at 7-6 for most of the second half and Edinburgh couldn’t believe their bad luck when attempts were narrowly missed especially a long range effort from Jamie Miller which bounced off the basket twice before falling to a defender. Kent grabbed another basket with seconds left on the clock leaving the score at 8-6 and undoubtedly Edinburgh’s most painful loss to a team they outplayed but couldn’t capitalise on their chances.

Edinburgh’s final match was now for 7th/8th position against Sheffield Hallam, last years runners up. Edinburgh pulled off yet another impressive performance but some poor refereeing decisions continued to hinder the Edinburgh team from scoring. Sheffield Hallam also had a point to prove against an Edinburgh team which had beaten them in qualifying and temperatures started to boil over with both teams arguing with the referee. The match remained tight until late into the second half when Hallam scored twice in quick succession resulting in a 6-3 victory for the Sheffield team.

Although Edinburgh were disappoint with their overall position they had played extremely hard for two days and put in some very impressive performances against the top teams in England and finished a very respectable 8th of 16 teams. BUCS 2011 was the first nationals for half of the squad and with only two members graduating this summer the team looks in very good condition to mount another challenge for university gold in 2012.