READING Rockets Under 18 Women had to dig deep to become National Cup champions as they beat Charnwood College Riders 65-60 in a pulsating encounter.

After building a significant lead throughout the 1st half, the Rockets led by as many as 25 before being reeled in by Riders as the game wore on.

That made for a tense final quarter as both teams tried to find a way to secure the win, but ultimately Reading were able to hang on to their lead as Charnwood came up just short.

MVP honours went to Anabelle Latore Cria as one of three Reading players with 17 points, though Cria added 12 rebounds to lead her team on the boards.

After a lopsided first half, Charnwood looked to be heading for a third straight Under 18 Women’s National Cup Final defeat.

Following a measured start from both teams, Reading quickly put their foot down and left the Riders trailing.

Ten points from Carmen Segura Moreno (17 points, four rebounds, two assists, two steals) was one reason for the difference, another was Charnwood’s 1/9 effort from beyond the arc.

When the Riders did manage to put points on the board, Rockets found an immediate answer and continued to stretch their lead.

With the score at 23-9 by the first break, Reading pushed on in the second quarter.

The deep ball still refused to drop for Charnwood (1/15 from range in the first half), who fell behind by 20.

A Jarju Saffie assist was undoubtedly the highlight of the frame, slashing down the lane and drawing in the Riders’ defence before a short hook pass to a wide-open Latore Cria led to the easiest of lay-ups.

Were it not for Ugne Pranculyte’s only basket of the game in the closing moment of the half, the Riders would have been down by north of the 20-point mark. As it was, the difference was 19 at 46-27.

Even the most diehard of Charnwood fans would have been fearing the worst as Reading’s lead hit 25 early in the third stanza, but it was here Riders finally got the spark their offence needed.

A pair of triples from captain Niamh Kelshaw helped create a 14-2 run which narrowed the gap and provided some hope.

Now it was Reading’s turn to struggle, shooting 5/16 from the floor in the frame and 0/5 from range.

A 57-42 score with 10 minutes to go was still comfortable for the Rockets, but momentum was clearly with their opponents.

That proved to be the case as the Riders roared back into contention.

Reading looked disjointed on offence, scoring just eight points the rest of the way.

Charnwood were having no such issues, particularly Holly Wright, who added eight points to her side’s tally down the stretch.

Lucy Threlfall’s only basket proved to be a big one, adding a triple with 70 seconds to go to trim the Reading advantage to six.

That difference would shrink further before a foul on Wright would send her to the line for three free throws.

Despite being the hot hand, she only hit 1/3 to make the contest a one-score game at 63-60.

The nerves from Reading were clear to see, but they iced the game emphatically with a slick in-bounds play, slipping Noa Sanchez Marquez free under the basket with just a few seconds remaining for an easy lay-up to seal the win.

There was a heartbreaking 73-71 defeat for Rockets U18 men, who were edged out by Haringey Hawks, while Rockets Ladies were beaten 81-54 by Loughborough Riders in their National Cup final.

l FIFTH-PLACED Reading Rockets (9-3) return to NBL Division One action this Saturday when they travel to second-bottom Hemel Storm (3-9).