Following the rushed conclusion to the regular season, Balts claimed the championship title with a 6-2 record – whilst West Brom finished bottom of the table having won only one game against the remaining teams in the division following a number of drop-outs.
Having been awarded a place in the semi-finals of the post-season playoffs following Lordswood’s default, West Brom were facing a two-legged tie against the division’s best team to make the final.
But they pulled off one of the shocks of the season to beat the Worcester based side in the first tie, putting them in the driving seat for the second leg.
The game opened in style for the visiting Balts, who quickly opened up a 9-2 lead in the opening minutes – as West Brom struggled to find a clean route to the basket.
The hosts turned up their defensive intensity soon enough, and quickly began to starve the league champions of scoring opportunities, whilst benefitting from the line themselves drawing several fouls to keep the scores in touch.
Some sharpshooting from beyond the three point line saw West Brom take the lead heading into the final seconds, before the hosts snatched a two point lead heading into the second period.
Things went even better for Tim Rudge’s side ahead of the half, as their stingy defence stood strong, as Ezran Little and Sam Rudge poured in the points to build a double digit lead midway through the quarter.
Balts were struggling to find their range, and failed to chip away at West Brom’s lead as the buzzer sounded – with the hosts ahead 45-35.
West Brom came out in the third on fire, bursting out with an 18-6 run, building a 21-point lead in the process, as Balts looked to be struggling.
However, the visitors fought back as the Black Country side saw their offense slow, putting on an impressive run of their own to end the quarter just six points down, with the score 67-61 in West Brom’s favour.
Both sides began the final quarter knowing plenty was still to play for, with neither willing to risk losing a sizeable lead going into the second leg.
The visitors did bring the scoreline to within four, but West Brom once again turned on the style, to force their opponents into foul trouble – stretching the lead to nine with six minutes remaining, via some strong free throw shooting.
Balts attempted a late surge of their own as West Brom began to rack up fouls, but it was the hosts who got the last laugh as they notched three late baskets to ensure they took a healthy seven-point advantage into the deciding second leg.
West Brom will take on Balts in their playoff semi-final second leg on March 22, with the winner set to play the victor of the other semi-final contested by Birmingham Mets and MLC.
Ahead of that, Tim Rudge’s side take on LT Patriots on March 15 in the Knockout Shield semi-final, with Patriots starting with a 50-00 handicap, dictated by league placement and competition rules.
In a strange twist, West Brom’s Premier Division side could end up facing the club’s Division Two outfit in the final, who are in the other half of the draw and need to overcome a 36-point handicap against Stourport Spartans to book their place in the final.