Lady Bulls champs againClapham point guard Sade Clarke (right) blowing by Cavs forward Wanda Agard-Belgrave in last night’s close-out contest. (Kenmore Bynoe)
By JUSTIN MARVILLE | Sat, September 01, 2012 - 12:04 AM
THE HUMP THAT CLAPHAM finally got over a year ago now looks like a mere bump in the road.
Yup, there’s no slowing these lady Bulls anymore.
Whatever question marks surrounded last season’s title run have just been replaced by an exclamation point after Clapham Bulls secured their second Women’s Basketball League championship via Thursday’s 73-53 Game 2 rout of archnemeses Mpact Station Hill Cavaliers at the Wildey Gym.
It was a perfect cap to a historic unbeaten season that saw Clapham lay waste to their Cavaliers counterparts in all four of this year’s matchups – three of which were decided by double digits.
Oh how great it is to finally have the shoe on the other foot.
Doubt started to creep in over Clapham’s championship calibre following three successive and humbling title defeats to their Station Hill tormentors from 2008 to 2010.
And even when they seemingly got over the hump last season there were still reservations in some camps as the series victory came amidst Astrid Alleyne’s broken hand.
The only thing broken now, though, is Station Hill’s spirit – right along with any air of invincibility.
“We don’t have to come for them anymore; they have to beat us now,” said Bulls guard Toni Atherley, who capped the sweep with a game-high 31 points.
“We had to come out and prove we are the defending champions, and it feels so great to do it because we were doormats for Station Hill for so long.”
Now the Cavs are the ones being stepped on.
Station Hill trailed for all but the opening four minutes of this one, falling behind by double digits from as early as the eight-minute mark in spite of Bulls forward Jennifer Joseph-Hackett’s initial foul trouble.
But Clapham survived that, and any subsequent threat from Alleyne and Wanda Agard-Belgrave, via Atherley’s single-minded focus that led to the prolific combo guard scoring 12 first quarter points – and seven straight at one stretch.
However, it was Bulls’ defence that truly decided the contest, as Clapham repeatedly packed three, and sometimes four, players around Agard-Belgrave and Alleyne in the paint while basically daring every Cavs guard to shoot.
And none seemed capable of beating the champs from distance, with each ensuing errant jumper or turnover leading to fast-break baskets for Sade Clarke and Antonia Baptiste.
Without much help from Atherley offensively, Clapham’s lead grew to 14 (36-22) before the break as Laurel Browne’s length in the paint and great defensive rebounding skills created all sorts of problem’s for Station Hill’s sputtering offence.
Even when Bulls managed just three free throws inside the opening three minutes of the second half, the Cavs fared even worse, going scoreless for the opening four minutes until Alleyne finally ended the drought.
Even Cherise Shepherd’s efforts to ignite the offence proved futile as the Cavaliers guard couldn’t get any of her runners to fall, with Clapham all but ignoring Station Hill’s perimeter players.
A 14-point deficit (53-39) for Cavaliers ballooned to a 22-point hole (69-47) when Atherley and Clarke had three uncontested lay-ups between them to blow the contest wide open.
“This was my aim all along, to show these girls that Station Hill can be beaten,” said Bulls head coach Barry Rock of defeating the former ten-time champs.
“Last year I knew they couldn’t beat us and now this feels really good because we’ve beaten Station Hill four times this year. So it’s my time to brag.”
Clarke bounced back from a miserable Game 1 performance with 22 points, while Agard-Belgrave and Alleyne led the Cavs with 22 and 14 points, respectively.
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