National League Division Four Play-Off Final
Oxford Brookes University 89 CWA Fury 84
CWA Fury’s play-off odyssey ended at the final hurdle as their National League Division Four Final dreams were dashed by hot favourites Oxford at the English Institute of Sport on Saturday.
Despite the defeat, Fury and their enthusiastic fan base won many new friends and admirers with a performance full of grit when they could easily have folded as Oxford surged into a 40-22 point lead midway through the second quarter.
The game started well for Fury with their captain Richard Milbourne, returning to the side after missing the semi-final, creating two early baskets for Eivydas Aleksa as Fury edged into a 9-7 lead.
Basketball requires changes of personnel to deal with fatigue and fouls and as coach James Bamfield began to rotate his forces Oxford embarked on a run of 13 unanswered points.
Fury got going again when Aleksa connected on a triple and Giedrius Pakalniskis hit five consecutive points to enable Fury to hold the deficit to single figures as the quarter ended 29-20.
Undefeated Oxford began the second period strongly and at the mid-point they held a 47-31 lead. Finally, Fury regained some composure and with Aleksa driving well and Dievidas Butkevicius finding space inside and Fury reached the interval behind at 54-44.
Coach Bamfield started the third quarter with the five players who had ended the first half strongly. Aleksa and Butkevicius carried the main scoring threat but all five players on court came out with a much more defence orientated mind set.
Towards the end of the quarter Thomas Liberis scored on a driving play and followed that up with a triple to keep Fury in touch as Oxford ended the third with a lead of 74-69.
Milbourne stroked home a corner triple while Mindaugas Spukas and Aleksa both hit from beyond the arc and with less than 30 seconds remaining the margin was only two points, 86-84.
But Milbourne crashed through the advertising hoardings suffering from cramp and had to be led from the floor in his final appearance for Fury.
This injury delayed the game. Fury failed to score on that possession and with the clock against them they were forced to foul. This allowed Oxford to close out the game.
Fury never really found an answer to the scoring threat of Akim Sylla who ended the game with a game-high 37 points and deservedly received the Most Valuable Player award during the post-game presentation.
For Fury, Aleksa hit 31 points, Butkevicius ended with a double, double of 14 points and 10 boards, Pakalniskis added 13 and Liberis 12.
It is little compensation that they got as close to Oxford as any other side has all season in the league. No-one expected Fury to get to this stage and this was a fantastic achievement to end up in second place out of 49 in the division.