“It has been big experience for us, our main goal was to develop some maturity for the future and we did that,” were the words of U15 Boys Head Coach Manuel Peña Garcés upon the team’s return from Copenhagen last week. The U15 invitations tournament has just completed its 10th year and with a regular line up of talented teams and division A FIBA nations travelling from across Europe, the experience the competition offers for England can’t be understated. “This was such a great experience for the whole program. We’ve shown a massive growth from the first game till the last one,” said Cristina Stanciuca, Peña Garcés’ counterpart on the girls’ side.
And whilst the development opportunities of such a tournament clearly can’t be overlooked, the national teams also achieved some success as the boys finished 3rd overall and the girls secured 7th place out of 16 teams.
Upon their arrival in Denmark, the two sides experienced differing fortunes. The boys got off to a flyer with an 86-52 win over Malbas thanks to 17 points from Ipswich’s Veron Eze. The girls however fell in a tough contest with Division A side Netherlands, losing 56-48 but taking pride from a tied score line of 41-41 after 3 quarters. That disappointment didn’t linger for long though as the team bounced back with consecutive wins to finish group play on a roll, topping C.D Presentacion Granada 67-58 before comfortably beating Iceland 70-56.
The boys continued to show some quality of their own, chalking up 2 further wins to finish their group campaign undefeated. Iceland proved to be no match for the team as they went down 72-50 before another commanding result went England’s way, a 90-78 win over crowd favourites Denmark. With 3 consecutive wins, that put the boys in the tournament’s semi-final but Estonia proved too much to overcome and ran out to an 83-58 victory. It was double heartbreak in the first round of classification games as the girls also lost, a close run 62-57 defeat to Sweden.
Those results placed the girls in a 7th/8th place game with Berlin, who they managed to beat 66-59. The boys were left with the prospect of a potential 3rd place though, taking on a strong Sweden team. Up by over 30 early in the 3rd, the game was well and truly in the bag before the final buzzer signalled an end to proceedings. An 86-57 win meant the team would return to England with a trophy, the least they deserved for their efforts during the week.
There were accolades for Jade Guidolin Duncan and Vernon Eze with both players being recognised in the All-Tournament teams. Eze in particular started the week very brightly, scoring 19PPG as he helped push his team into the semi-finals before struggling with an achilles problem.
Stanciuca paid tribute to the tournament and all it had offered her team, as well as the road it could put some of her players on for the future, “The tournament is a great environment to be in from a coaching perspective but also for a player to. Hopefully its an eye opener for all in regards that hard work is still needs to continue and that to succeed in this type of environment, it’s not just about bouncing the ball or scoring, it’s mental toughness, acting like aprofessional and investing in your physical shape that will make a difference on results.”
Peña Garcés was pleased with what his squad was gained from the experience, both on and off the court, “We’ve had some difficulties throughout the tournament, missing some key players in the most important moments of the tournament, but that helps for other players step up and lead us in the games. And that´s being amazing, because the young athletes have grown up, not only basketball wise, but also as people.”
For more information on the tournament, head over to Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/CopenhagenInvitational/
A selection of photographs and tweets from throughout the competition are available from: https://twitter.com/bballengland