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WEABL team reach semi-finals

Oaklands Wolves recorded arguably their best result of the season as they reached the Women's Elite Academy Basketball League play-off semi-finals with a 57-53 at Manchester Mystics, on Wednesday.

Claire Abbott's team led from tip-to-buzzer against the Northern Conference runners-up but survived a frantic fourth period comeback to reach the final four. They were the only team in the last eight stage to win away from home and will now travel to Ipswich on Wednesday March 20 as they attempt to reach the final for the first time.

Rosie Porter split a pair of free-throws with 4.7 seconds on the clock to put Wolves up by four and, after Mystics had called a time-out, Caitlin Ryan blocked a three-pointer to end any hopes the hosts had of a dramatic finish.

Porter led Wolves' scoring with 15 points, adding three assists, while captain Ryan had 14 points, six rebounds, five assists, four steal and three big fourth quarter blocks. Cleo Lewis-Gayle had 12 point, eight rebounds and three assists while Joanna Akpan had nine boards to go with her five points.

Porter opened the scoring with a free-throw before baskets from Ella Brown and Amye Swinney saw Wolves take a 5-0 lead. Five straight Lewis-Gayle points saw the lead balloon to 21-7 before Mystics closed the period strongly to cut Wolves' lead to 24-16 at the first break.

Ryan's three-pointer kept Wolves ahead in what proved to be a tight second period as

Mystics shaved the visitors' lead to 39-33 at half-time before a Porter basket followed by a Ryan tripe put Wolves 44-33 up with 7:11 left in the third period. The rest of the quarter saw a defensive battle as both sides struggled to put points on the board, but a pair of Lewis-Gayle baskets helped Oaklands take a 50-39 lead into the final quarter.

Only Ryan's basket troubled the scorer for the visitors in the first six minutes pf the fourth period as Mystics whittled the lead down to 52-49. But Porter broke the duck as she split a pair at the foul line before Manchester's Hernandez and Lily Harkness exchanged baskets.

Swinney made it a five-point game oly for Escriva Gay's drive to the basket to get Mystics back within a single shot. Porter missed with 26 seconds on the clock but the hosts turned the ball over and Wolves had the ball to set a nerve-wracking finish,

Abbott's team return to senior National League Division Two South action on Saturday with a trip to Bracknell before resuming their quest for academy glory next Wednesday.

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