#RoadToPrem Complete! Westminster reach the Promised Land of BUCS Premier

The Dragons would embark on an unforgettable couple of days in Cardiff for the BUCS Premier South Playoff, leaving a legacy and completing the #RoadToPrem

Westminster would leave on the morning of 4th April 2023 and take the train from London Kings Cross to Cardiff Central. The team arrived earlier than check-in at the Radisson Blu Cardiff and had a chance to visit the local city centre and sights in the central area of Cardiff. The team capped off the evening with a dinner in the city centre.

Game day was upon the Dragons, and after an early team breakfast, the group gathered for a small team meeting before heading to the town centre for lunch. Westminster would re-group at the hotel for 4pm to head towards the arena and prepare for the playoff game.

Team Line-Up – The Dragons looked at full strength in consistency and chemistry throughout the team.

Wing Rinor Dragusha was nursing a slight ankle tweak during his National Basketball League (NBL) game with London United the previous weekend. However, soft tissue therapist Gerald Aguilar (GA therapy) was on site to wrap and prepare Rinor and the team before the game.

Notable players out, Guard Ali Ozdogru, who was instrumental in the beginning part of the season, fell injured (ankle) during the Super Series game against Middlesex.

Pre-Game – Westminster would arrive early at the Archers Arena and start warming up from 5:30pm. The facility hosted an exhibition game between a British Universities College and Sport (BUCS) Women’s Select Team and Wales Junior International Girls just before. The BUCS Women’s Select Team staff included previous Westminster Dragon Head Coach Michael Case, which was a pleasant surprise. Head Coach Clive Castillo would bring the team in the locker room moments before tip-off give a motivational pre-game talk.

Tip-Off – In front of a packed crowd, including our very own Westminster students who came on our fan bus, Cardiff Archers exploded to a fast start, with American star Daniel Flaherty scoring 23 of his 35 points in the first half. The Archers took a 3-point lead going into the 2nd quarter, before the Dragons imposed their presence into the game. American Senior Kamari Hunter led all scorers going into the break with 15 points, followed by Aundre Reid and Rinor Draguhsa with 13 points each. Dragons took the lead 47-44 at half-time over Archers.

In a nail-biting second half- the 3rd quarter was just as close as previous ones, with both teams going on runs. Dragons found breathing space in the start of the 4th Quarter, where a 7-0 run forced Archers into a timeout with only a minute in – including big plays from Captain Julius Vaitkus (3-PT) and Rinor Dragusha (inside 2 PT). The Dragons would lead Cardiff by 12. After the time out, Julius Vaitkus would drain another 3-PT, and the Dragons would eventually take the lead to 17 points.

Westminster would dominate the quarter 22-13 and finish the game with a 95-81 win over Cardiff Met, reaching the promised land and officially and now promoted to BUCS Premier South for 2023-24.

Game MVP – Cardiff Met would provide an excellent live stream and production setup with commentators Dafydd Jones and Ryan Bellenie. Their Finals MVP went to rookie Rinor Dragusha, who played 35 minutes and finished with 31 points and 17 rebounds. Bellenie described Dragusha as “so so powerful, so so present”. As it was Ramadan, Draghusa was fasting during this game and broke this during half-time, which meant this performance was even more impressive.

Notable performances: Dragons seniors will bow out with a legacy left, Aundre Reid finished with 17 points and 9 rebounds in 39 minutes of play with his fellow American Guard Kamari Hunter scoring 26 points and adding 6 rebounds. Captain Julius Vaitkus finished with 10 points, 7 points coming in the 4th Quarter and Michael Otoo contributed with 9 points in 33 minutes.

French forward Lilian Nahum added energy off the bench, in 10 minutes  grabbed 5 rebounds and 2 blocks. Lilian Nahum follows on his brothers (Thomas Nahum in 2019-20) footsteps winning a BUCS Championship and Promotion for Westminster University.

Celebrations continued into the locker room, where the team chanted “MVP” after soaking Head Coach Clive Castillo with water. 8 years in the making. 

Legacy – When Coach Clive Castillo first took in charge of Westminster Basketball in 2015, he set a five-year plan to make it to the BUCS Premier Division. Without no scholarships, clear sporting history and courses, lack of facilities, Coach Clive managed to recruit top international talent from North-America and Europe and build a culture and style of basketball which would see Westminster rise to the top. The plan may have made him and the Dragons wait a little longer, but it was worth the journey.


View this post on Instagram


A post shared by Coach Clive (@coachcastillo_)

Westminster received support from all over, with students past and present, alumni, Dragons all over the world watching and supporting through the live stream. Westminster Vice-Chancellor Peter Bonfield was unable to attend, but was supporting from afar.

Watch the full game here provided by Cardiff Met Sport & SU

🎥 Media provided by LVisuals 

Leave a Reply