Hatters cap season with Wembley win

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The Independent Online

The Hatters kept Sheffield on basketball's roll of honour at Wembley Arena yesterday after beating Birmingham Quality Cats 73-62 to win the women's First Division play-off title.

The Canadian Cori Blakeborough led Sheffield's scorers with 25 points, as the Hatters completed their season after winning every game they have played in the League, National Cup and now the play-offs.

But for the club's men, the Sharks, their season slid to a quiet close in Saturday night's play-off semi-finals. The Sharks began the season defending the league and the National Cup titles, but the 82-68 defeat against Birmingham Bullets ensured they finished this season with nothing.

Birmingham's overseas pairing of the American Tony Dorsey and the Barbadian Nigel Lloyd totalled 40 points, compared to just 20 from Sheffield's Americans, Todd Cauthorn and Chris Finch. A three-pointer from Lloyd and a basket from Dorsey put Birmingham 41-37 ahead at the interval, as a 20-2 run either side of half-time left Sheffield 56-39 down.

Manchester Giants, who reached Wembley as underdogs, needed three-pointers from Kevin St Kitts and Joel Moore to stay in touch with London Towers in the second semi-final.

But London, seeking to add the play-offs to their League, National Cup and league trophy triumphs, took the ball to the Giants basket as 6ft 11in Neville Austin and 6ft 10in Martin Henlan supported 26-point Steve Bucknall in opening a 76-60 lead.

Manchester, whose American coach, Mike Hanks, has resigned to join a Florida college, cut the deficit to single figures but two three-pointers from Bucknall clinched a 95-86 win.