IT HAS been a fairytale start to life for Sudbury’s first wheelchair basketball team after the women won the country’s top league at the first attempt.
In their debut year, led by former Great Britain international Wendy Smith as a combined player and coach, Eastern Blue Stars have taken the Federation of Small Business Women’s League by storm.
The Sudbury Upper School and Arts Centre-based side triumphed in a tense final in Sheffield at the weekend to end opponents Capital City’s monopoly on the title, having tasted seven years of success.
Eastern Stars, who draw on players from as far afield as Sheffield and Oldham, as well as Haverhill’s Great Britain star Caroline Maclean, emerged with a 55-42 win on Sunday to complete a dream first season in the league.
Delighted player/coach Smith, who collected seven assists in the game, said: “It was very close, but we kept on playing our own game and people stuck to the game plan - to play calm, cool basketball and keep our heads.”
She added: “It was so pleasing to win this. Capital City have dominated this for the past seven years and this is a tremendous win for a first-year team.”
Blue Stars forged ahead early but failed to shake off the champions who led by a narrow margin twice in the game.
But the Sudbury-based side, who have three current Great Britain internationals in their squad, turned on the power in the final quarter to cruise to a 13-point victory.
The final session started with Blue Stars 34-33 ahead, but the talented team soon went eight points in front and City’s heads went down.
Smith paid tribute to her assistant coaches Hadj Lahmar and Matt Foden, as well as captain Sally Wager and added Amy Conroy was “immense” after she scored 15 points and collected 10 rebounds. Maclean was next best with 10 points and eight assists.
Team manager Emily Scrivener, who played in the final minutes of the final, said: “It took a long time to get the team together but we’ve made history.”