It’s Cup Week! The Dragons have an opportunity to reach the BUCS South-Eastern Conference Cup Semi-Finals for the first time in programme history. However, Westminster has to overcome a tough match-up against league rivals Essex 2nd.
Westminster 1st are on course for a perfect season, as they continue to perform and deliver results every week. The Dragons are undefeated in all BUCS competitions, convincingly beating rivals City University 1st last week 116-58 to go 8-0 in the league, one win away from sealing the Division 2 title and advance to BUCS Division 1.
Promotion would mean Westminster 1st would achieve something they’ve never done before in programme history, a chance to compete with the top 12 universities in the UK (South-Eastern Conference).
Essex 2nd are showing their fight as Westminster’s title challengers. Back-to-back wins in the league against Imperial 1st and away against Kings College 1st will help fire the confidence back into the Blades, after a shocking overtime loss to LSBU 1st at the start of 2020. They comfortably defeated Canterbury CC 1st 73-100 to advance to the BUCS Cup Quarter-Finals, where the Dragons are waiting for them at the Den.
Essex 2nd arrived early to Harrow, getting a proper warm-up at Harrow Sports Hall to face off with the league leaders. The team came in full strength, a roster of 12, full of talented college academy players with Essex Rebels National League Coach Ross Norfolk.
Westminster 1st would miss Spanish duo Fernando Roman (knee injury), and Carlos Javier (groin injury), but would welcome back high-flyer Kiam Jaudenes to the team. Spanish guard Kiam last suited up for the Dragons in the previous BUCS Cup round against Greenwich 1st; he’s been sidelined out with recurring injuries. Recent promoted 2nd Team Captain and energy forward Thomas Nahum joined the Dragons line-up for a second game running.
Dragons vs Blades
Essex 2nd came out the blocks, consistently running a successful motion offense and converting their first bucket of the game through the Blades National League (ENL) player Josh Moore. This was matched by back-to-back 3 pointers from Westminster guard Afrasyab Khalil. The Blades piled on full-court pressure forcing rare Dragons turnovers, pushing Coach Clive Castillo to call an early timeout.
Westminster 1st found their rhythm defensively, forcing turnovers and converting easy transition points – storming to a 37-24 lead in the 1st quarter in a full house at the Dragons Den. The 2nd quarter, the Dragons continued their momentum, extending the lead to 20 going into the half – fueled by highlights from elite athlete Mylo Mitchell, defensive energy from Philip Hambe-Manu from the bench and effective rebounding and clean-up plays from VP of Activities Gerald Aguilar.
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Essex 2nd came out the second half with more intent, especially on the defensive side. The Blades did an excellent job of denying the primary Westminster scorers and forcing other players to make plays. Rookie guard Orestas Vasiluaskas rose to the challenge, getting to the rim and finishing consecutive times. Strong finishes at the rim from elite-athlete guard Afrasyab Khalil also helped provide the cushion for the Dragons.
Guard Mylo Mitchell provided the crowd with more memorable plays, including an and-one highlight on a euro step move – losing one of his shoes during the motion. Also, the American guard from Miami saved the ball from falling out of bounds and beating the shot clock with an exceptional corner three-ball. Dragons still up by 20 going to the 4th.
The 4th quarter was a different story, as the Dragons had to demonstrate resilience and mental toughness. Late in the 4th Quarter, Essex 2nd went on a 10-0 run led by back-to-back threes from Blades guard Josh Moore and intense full-court defense, firing back hopes of an Essex comeback.
Coach Clive Castillo had to call two times out in the final two minutes to adjust his team and reinforce the composure. A putback layup in the clutch from guard Orestas Vasiluaskas (Closed with 14 points and 5 rebounds) provided the stress reliever, as the Dragons secured final free-throws to finish the game 93-84.
Elite-Athlete guard Mylo Mithcell finished with a game-high of 30 points and 11 rebounds (double-double), plus 7 steals and 5 assists. Captain Afrasyab Khalil contributed 24 points (3-7 from 3PT FG) with 4 assists. Guard Kiam Jaudenes impressed on his return, in 13 minutes he scored 7 points including shooting 1-3 from 3PT FG.
Way2Work in the building
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Thank you to Way2Work Highlights for coming down, covering and following our journey
Westminster 1st advances to the BUCS South-Eastern Conference Cup semi-finals for the first time in programme history!
“It’s a fantastic achievement. We want to build on this. The boys had their backs against the wall in the second half, and showed the maturity, experience and composure to close out the game. I’m proud of them all.”
Coach Clive Castillo
They will face off with the University of Kent 1st on Wednesday 26th February 2020 @ Harrow Sports Hall. The winner will book a place in the BUCS Cup Final on Wednesday 11th March 2020. Kent and Westminster hadn’t faced off since their fiery rivalry during 2016-2018 when both universities were competing in BUCS Division 3.
Dragons News Elsewhere
🐲 Westminster Dragons (6-2) take on Haringey Hawks (5-1) and will look to avenge their home loss, today (Sunday 16th February 2020) at Haringey Sixth Form College, 12pm tip. A positive result will help put either team in the best position for promotion and league title contention.