Crusaders reach historic first play-off final

Picture of Medway Park Crusaders OJ Reed in actionMedway Park Crusaders have reached the first play-off finals in the basketball club's history.

A convincing 25 point victory in the England Basketball Division 2 play-off semi final away at the regular season winners Bradford Dragons sends Crusaders to Manchester for the final on Sunday, April 17, where they will face Westminster Warriors.

The semi-final started at an incredibly quick pace with both teams looking to push the ball and by the end of the first quarter the Dragons led by 25-23.

Crusaders started the second quarter much better in offence, and also made it more difficult for Bradford at the other end. US star forward OJ Reed started to find his range knocking down two quick three pointers and a couple of tough shots in the low post.

Going to his bench Crusaders Coach James Vear then found Tom Raymen, who promptly knocked down a three and made two great passes for easy scores, taking the guests up 46–40 going into half time.

In the past few games Crusaders have come out slow in the third quarter, giving opponents the opportunity to win the games, but this time they matched Bradford’s intensity. They controlled the battle of the boards, allowing them to keep fast breaking and get easy scores. 

OJ Reed continued where he left off in the first half scoring from inside and out, and Steve Vear started to find his range as well as the Medway side continued to pile on more pressure. They won the quarter 27-16 and went into the final quarter up 73-56.

Bradford came out applying full court pressure, but after a few plays Crusaders settled down, keeping the lead in double digits all the way to the end.

Action photo of Medway Park Crusaders Steve VearCoach Vear said after the game: "The guys played some great basketball today. In a game that has so much at stake they played with freedom and never seemed rattled.

"I am so happy for the club making its first major final. Credit really needs to go to everyone who puts in so much hard work off the court. Most of the credit needs to go to the players as they are the ones who have put in the most work."

Crusaders will play Westminster Warriors in the playoff final. Unfortunately for Crusaders the basketball playoffs do not decide promotion, as England Basketball have decided that regular season stability is more important than finishing the season on a high, so Crusaders are playing for the trophy and nothing else.

Crusaders ended up tied with Westminster Warriors at 13 wins and seven losses in the regular season. The tie breaker is the two matches between the teams during the regular season. Westminster won the first game 90-74, while Crusaders won the second game 88-80, and thus Westminster takes third place due to the eight points better points-score in the two matches.

Looking ahead to the match, Coach Vear added: "We both play an exciting style of basketball and expect it to be a great final.

"Over the next two weeks we will work hard in practice and focus on the things we need to do to win the final.  I know the guys are not happy in just making the final they want to now win it and really show everyone how good our team really is."

For more information visit the club website www.medwayparkcrusaders.co.uk

Back to April 2011 news.

Pictures courtesy of Cesar Velasco.