Veteran coach Pete Kelly heaped praise on his Derbyshire Gems side, despite defeat against old rivals Ipswich in the play-offs final of the National Women’s Basketball League.
Gems went down 96-55 to Ipswich, who had also pipped them to the Second Division title. But Kelly said: “It has been an honour and a privilege to work with this group of ladies.
“They make so many sacrifices with their work and families to play at this level, and they fully deserved to grace this final with their talent and effort. They have made so much progress in just two years and are role models in the sport.”
Gems showed tremendous spirit in the final, battling for every point against their unbeaten opponents. But they trailed 25-12 at the end of the first quarter and 56-25 at the interval. Nerea Iniguez was their top-rated player, scoring 15 points, but she was well supported by Steph Ogden with 17 points and Kendal James with 15.
Captain Kate Loftus said: “We are only in our second year at this level, so to contest a national final is a truly remarkable achievement.”
Meanwhile, Derbyshire Arrows men’s side rounded off their campaign with a National League award for star player and franchise player Joseph Baugh, who was named the Second Division’s outstanding rebounder.
The gifted Baugh has been a tremendous servant to Arrows, on and off the court, and regularly supports and advises the younger players.