A number of competitions will have winners crowned this weekend as 7 games span across the two days in Worcester. On Saturday, the under 18 and under 16 National Cups for both the men and women will take place. On Sunday, the National Shield (for D3 and D4 sides), the Patrons Cup (for D2 Men's sides) and the National Trophy (for D1 Men's sides) take centre stage, making for an exciting weekend of basketball.
As the top two sides in the Jnr. NBL Under 16 Girls’ Premier competition this season, this Final really does represent some of the best basketball at this age group right now. The Angels are top of the standings and look dominant so far this season. Their only loss this year came against Ipswich in November, providing plenty of reason for hope for the Suffolk side. These two teams locked horns in league play again just a week ago and this time the Angels came out on top, securing a 71-61 win. One thing is for sure, these sides will be more than familiar with each other once they get out on court tomorrow!
Haringey’s Aaliyah Samuels-Campbell, “We have a real belief in ourselves but we are yet to lift the Cup and we know the tough task ahead of us. I’m very excited to play in the Finals as it will be my first, hopefully we can pull off the win!”
Ipswich’s Captain Cameron Taylor Willis, “The games to reach the Final have been very competitive and it has been a huge success for the team to make it this far. I think we have a good chance in the Finals. Even though it was a very tough game, we won against Haringey at the start of the season and our supporters are amazing so it will make for an interesting contest.”
It’s a North v South battle in the Jnr. NBL Under 16 Boys’ Final as Premier North leaders Manchester take aim at Premier South side Sussex Storm. Both teams had to come through tough Semi-Finals to make it this far and are more than deserving of their place in tomorrow’s showcase. Manchester overcame unbeaten South Premier leaders Haringey Hawks 87-79, with the Storm heading up to Mansfield to defeat the Giants 87-58. With plenty of quality on both of these rosters, this one will be tough to call!
Manchester Magic’s Coach Alen Ramic, "We’re all very excited for the Cup Final! While there has been some very tough competition to reach this stage, our team has played some magnificent basketball. Whilst Finals are incredibly exciting and unpredictable to play in, we are hopeful of maintaining the good form and standard of play that have got us this far.”
Sussex Storm’s Ben Hilton, “I’m really excited to be playing in the National Cup Final. When you want something and work hard for it, then it can happen. I’m proud of my team and just can’t wait to get out on court. We haven’t played Manchester but they are top of the Premier North for a reason. Hopefully we play our game and that’s enough to win.”
With logistical issues meaning the Myerscough and Oakland Semi-Final didn't take place until last weekend, Charnwood had to wait until the 11th hour to find out who they’d be facing in tomorrow's Final. Still, as one of the top sides in the Jnr NBL Under 18 Women’s North division, the Riders are used to taking on a variety of opponents and they’ll be ready regardless. With Oakland only opting to enter the U18 Cup this season, rather than any league competitions, they’re somewhat of an unknown NBL quantity outside of the well-known strength of their basketball programme. That could make this a surprise match up with plenty of intrigue.
Charnwood College Riders’ Head Coach Oli Parr said, ''Cup Final time! The excitement is unreal, the girls and I cannot wait. With some good performances leading up to this game it really gives us some confidence to work with. The Final will be good but with a tough opponent in Oaklands, we will be pushed to perform at our highest level to get the job done. It's a great chance to demonstrate on a big stage how girls’ basketball in this country is on the rise. We're going leave everything out there on the court and if all goes well, we will be bringing the Cup back with us to Charnwood!”
Two sides that will be very familiar with each other from their games in other competitions as well as different age groups in the NBL, games between Manchester and Charnwood are always compelling viewing regardless of the level. Need proof? When these two Jnr. NBL Under 18 Premier North sides met this month in league play, 2 periods of over time were needed to split them as Manchester snuck the win, 86-84. With Charnwood grabbing a 75-65 victory when the sides first met back at in October, which way will this 3rd meeting go?
Manchester Magic’s Coach Peter Paraskeva Quote “The guys have been really working hard in the weeks leading up to the Final. Charnwood are always a tough match up and we are all relishing the opportunity to compete against some of the best U18 players in the country.”
Charnwood College Riders’ Hosana Kitenge, “We had a goal going into this competition to make it to the Final. It wasn’t an easy journey to get this far and we know it will not be an easy game. However, we are up for the challenge and we will be ready when the ball goes up for the tip. It will be a great experience to play in this Final but me and the guys know what we are capable of and what we can achieve when we put our minds to something. The hard work has just begun for this group. Bring on the Final!”
As a straight knockout competition only eligible for teams in NBL Division Three and NBL Division Four, both Myerscough College and Team Solent Kestrels II have weathered the storms of knockout basketball to emerge with a shot at some well-earned silverware.
As the runaway leaders of Division Three North, Myerscough have taken on all comers and rarely looked troubled throughout their campaign. Promotion to Division Two is a real possibility for this side if they can continue their winning ways. Their National Shield run has been in a similar vein, with few matches offering too much stress. A 96-66 win over Blackpool started their journey, and a 104-55 win over Tameside was a highlight. In the Semi-Finals, Myerscough came up against Division Three South leaders East London All Stars, but a mixture of slick play and home court advantage allowed the North West side to triumph 86-81. Their success is based on a young core of talented age-group players who are really flourishing with the exposure to senior basketball at a higher level. Mate Okros (England), Konrad Kantorski and Callan Low (Scotland) all have recent international experience, and Italian Edoardo Del Cadia and Latvian Eduards Sirmbardis both help to contribute to a well-rounded roster.
Their opponents today are Team Solent Kestrels II, who are flying the flag for Division Three South. With a league record that is only just hovering over the .500 mark, it has been knock out basketball where the Kestrels have thrived this season. After initial victories over Surrey Rams and Thames Valley Cavaliers II, the Kestrels had to do things the hard way to make today’s Final as their remaining three games to reach this stage were all on the road.
Not to be deterred, Solent beat Huish Taunton Tigers 78-71 in Somerset, before heading up the country to the West Midlands to dispatch WLV Albion 73-56 in mid-January. The West Midlands turned out to be a happy hunting ground for the D3 side as they once again ventured there earlier this month, beating Birmingham Mets 75-68 in their Semi-Final.
Richard Mann and Jordan Walker are a handy duo that can control the game for Solent, with Karl Teesdale and Sam Dye both able to assist when needed. Teesdale scored an impressive 40 points when his side won in Taunton earlier in the competition, so Myerscough will need to make sure he doesn’t get hot in this one.
Myerscough College’s Head Coach Neal Hopkins, “We are a young team and I have to give credit to our guys for their maturity over the season and during the run in the National Shield. We will come into the Final hungry and ready to do what it takes to win against a Solent team that possess talent throughout all positions. We will without doubt come into this well prepared and it’ll be a great test, but one that we are certainly looking forward to."
Team Solent Kestrels II’s Coach Sylvain Donneaud, “I am very pleased with the performances, the team worked hard to get to this Final. We had 3 away games in a row against competitive teams and the guys responded very well and focused on our objective. We’ll be prepared as this will be a very tough encounter against a young, talented and well drilled Myerscough team.”
With the Patrons Cup only available to NBL Division Two Men’s sides, the format is very similar to Division One’s National Trophy. 4 pools of 3 are created, and each pool winner advances to the Semi-Final stage. Both of today’s Finalists won their pool, but Westminster were made to sweat, relying on a tie breaker after all 3 teams finished on 2 points each. Thames Valley had no such problems, dispatching Middlesex LTBC and Sussex Bears to finish 2-0.
In the Semi-Finals, the roles were reversed as Westminster won in straight forward fashion to advance, and Thames Valley were made to work. A 68-53 win on the road over Team Birmingham Elite was enough to see the Warriors through. The Cavs needed to dig deep to overcome league leaders Nottingham Hoods though, eventually coming out on top 78-77 thanks to a last second Abdoulaye Sylla block to deny their opponents a shot at victory.
With both sides well placed in Division Two, Thames Valley took the first match up between the teams back in November and they’ve since cemented a top two spot in the standings. 99-87 was the score that day, but any neutral contemplating a one-sided affair on Sunday afternoon should take note of the most recent fixture between these clubs. The Warriors were good value for their 104-89 victory a few weeks ago, so this game really could go either way.
If you’re looking for predictions, Thames Valley should turn to captain Martelle McLemore early and often. McLemore is one of the best player currently outside of Division One and the talented forward is a big game player. Currently averaging nearly 25 points per contest, he is the Cavs star man. Still, don’t sleep on the rest of the Thames Valley roster. Robert Banks Jr is an age group international and is really developing as the season progresses. Abdoulaye Sylla offers a presence at both ends of the court and Philip Perre and Andre Baptiste are long established pieces of this roster to.
A year ago Westminster faced relegation from Division One with a 2-24 record. Since that point, the Warriors have rebuilt their roster, refocused and a place in Sunday’s Final is a deserved reward for the work they have done in the last 12 months. Led by the experience of Jon Johnson and Julius Joseph, players like Juan Manning, Florian Damptey and Mantas Adomaitis have been able to help form a solid core. With Manning and Joseph both dialled in from 3-point range this season, that can make Westminster a tough side for anyone to face.
Thames Valley Cavaliers’ Head Coach Robert Banks, “It is an honour to have reached the Patrons Cup Final and we look forward to the match against the Westminster Warriors. With both clubs located so close together, we know the Warriors team reasonably well and we know that they are talented, will come to battle and will be well prepared. I am sure the Final will bring out the best in both clubs, it should be an outstanding match that spectators will enjoy and remember!”
Westminster Warriors’ Coach Jon Joseph, “Having spent 10 years at Westminster Warriors, I have seen some of the best players and squads come and go regardless of success. Bringing 12 players together to have one focus is not an easy task, but it helps when all players have the same drive and will to win and reaching this Final is testament to how the team has grown together since the start of the season. I believe that the team we have now is the best that we have had for years and the hunger that the team has developed recently has caused an alliance amongst the players which will stand up against any test. I have no doubt that we will leave Worcester Arena with our heads held high at the end of the game.”
A competition open solely to teams in NBL Division One Men, the National Trophy showcases the best talent from the NBL’s top Men’s division. With a pool stage to open proceedings before a Semi-Final and Final, both Northumbria and Solent booked their place in January’s Semi-Finals with unblemished records. Northumbria then overcame a strong Manchester Magic team 91-74 on the road, whilst the Kestrels ground out a low scoring home tie with Loughborough, eventually coming out 68-59 winners.
Both these sides have been in excellent form in Division One so far this year, with a regular season title a possibility for either team. Team Solent are in pole position at the moment, topping the standings after a string of impressive performances. American Joe Tagarelli is a leader on offence, offering a high volume scoring option as well as a presence on the boards, frequently contributing a double-double performance. Fellow American Herman Senor II is a talented guard that helps pace the Kestrels offence, capable of shooting the ball as well as distributing it. Long serving forward Louie Kirkman is one of a number of players that slots in well to the rest of this roster, alongside Elliot Dadds, Chris Scarlett, Tayo Oyefusi and Josh Brown.
Despite Solent’s impressive record this season, Northumbria have actually beaten the Kestrels twice in league play this year. On opening day in early October, the North East side used home court advantage to secure a thrilling 73-71 victory, before securing the double over the South cost outfit with a commanding 86-65 win. No strangers to the big stage of late, Northumbria claimed last year’s NBL National Cup at this same venue with a win over Sunday’s opponents, so this contest will have an air of déjà vu given the two teams competing. Coach Steutel’s side also claimed the regular season league title a year ago, but couldn’t convert that into post season glory.
American Atif Russell joined Northumbria in early January and has been a revelation so far, averaging nearly 20 points per game. Reigning Division One MVP Malcolm Smith continues to be an influential player for this team, and Jack Preston, Blayne Freckleton, Lewis Champion and captain Siman Stewart all bring big game experience.
Team Northumbria’s Captain Siman Stewart, "We're all looking forward to the Final. Playing in big games and winning trophies is what everyone wants to achieve so we’re glad we've given ourselves another opportunity to do that. I expect Solent to be well prepared and maybe a little more motivated having lost to us in last year’s National Cup Final, plus both times in the league this season. We know they'll be ready to play, but we don't take anything for granted and we'll be ready to go too."
Team Solent Kestrels Captain Louie Kirkman, “It’s great to make another National Final. We’ve got a very different team to last year, everyone’s focused, and we’ve been playing some good basketball. I’m excited to see what we can achieve together, I’m sure it will be a good Final”