Ahead of this weekend’s Jnr. NBL Final Fours, we’ve got a preview for each age group, along with some quotes, insight and details on how you can follow all the action as it happens! Doors open at 9:00am both days and tickets are available to buy on the day:
The Under 14 Girls competition should remain as competitive as ever with four division winners all making it to Manchester. North winners City of Sheffield Hatters (13-1) reached the Final Fours last season but couldn’t win it all, with South champs Richmond Knights (14-0) suffering a similar fate as they also fell at last year’s semi-final stage. Those 2 sides battled it out for 3rd and 4th a year ago, with the Knights emerging victorious.
Oaklands College Wolves (16-2) won the Midlands division and London Youngblood Lions (16-2) took the spoils in a competitive East division. All four teams have a winning pedigree after the regular season, but only one side can come out on top!
Richmond Knights Head Coach Isaac Omirin, “The season has been fantastic. What I have loved the most about it is the improvement of each player, the intensity in which they play and our team defence. All season the girls have given me 110% at practice and at every game. This has allowed us to make it back to the Final Fours in hope of improving our placing from last season.”
London Youngblood Lions Head Coach Caroline Charles, “Keeping together was hard this season with a lot of external problems for the team, but we have prevailed and progressed. Working together is where we have found our success.”
City of Sheffield Hatters Head Coach Sue Bettesworth, “The girls have worked hard as a team throughout the season and hope to improve on last year’s placing at the Final Fours.”
Oaklands College Wolves Head Coach Will Twigg, “This is a great opportunity for us. Over the last two seasons the squad has been developing and growing as a team. We understand the stakes are high to reach our final goal!”
There is a great split of teams in the Under 14 Boys competition, with interest from across the country for this pinnacle in Manchester. City of Birmingham Rockets (19-2) won the Premier North title, and they’ll face off against Premier South runners up Team Solent Kestrels (17-3).
In the other semi-final, Brentwood Fire (19-1) will look to cause another upset as the only non-Premier team remaining in the competition. The Conference side have already beaten Premier South winner’s Richmond Knights and are on a roll right now. They’ll face home town side Manchester Magic (19-2) who along with City of Birmingham were the cream of the crop in that Premier North division.
City of Birmingham Rockets player Tyrese Lacey, “This is amazing because it’s a once in a life time opportunity and playing with this team is special. It’s a family orientated team and everyone has their own ability to help us.”
Team Solent Kestrels Head Coach Khalid Missouri, “We are absolutely thrilled to have reached the Final Fours. This is a huge achievement for the boys, many of whom have been part of Team Solent Kestrels Junior program for several years now.”
Brentwood Fire Head Coach Dougie Bennett, “I’m very excited for the club to get back to the Jnr. Final Fours. It takes a lot of hard work from people behind the scenes to run such a fantastic club and get it back to where we want it to be. I am so proud of the players who have had an exceptional season, growing as a team and really working hard to obtain their personal and team goals.”
Manchester Magic player Ben Brown, “We’re looking forward to the Final Fours. We've worked very hard all year for this great opportunity to compete against some of the best teams in the country.”
Three of last year’s Final Fours representatives return to Manchester this season as the top quartet of teams in the Under 16 Girls Premier division have all made it through. Division winners GCA Haringey Angels (17-3), along with 3rd placed side Ipswich (14-6) and 4th placed City of Sheffield Hatters (12-8) were all present here a year ago, with Sevenoaks Suns (16-4) the new side to the party this time around, though they won this title two years ago.
With former winners in Sevenoaks, last year’s champions Haringey, and current U16 National Cup holders Ipswich (who beat Haringey 58-42 in the Final) all mixed in with a talented Sheffield side, this is a group of very strong programmes that should provide some thrilling basketball!
GCA Haringey Angels Head Coach Dan Bowmaker, “We have been badly affected by injuries towards the end of this season so to make it to Final Fours is in part a relief. Now we have to fight hard one more time and see if we can claim that gold medal.”
City of Sheffield Hatters Head Coach Walter Campbell, “I am very pleased with the progress the squad has made over the season. The team has shown so much character in fighting through many tough games.”
Sevenoaks Suns Head Coach Kap Kumar, “Reaching the Final Fours has been one of our goals. It is good recognition not only for the team but also for the parents, supporters, officials and coaches at Sevenoaks Suns for their commitment and dedication to the club.”
Ipswich Captain Cameron Taylor-Willis, “The games this season have been very competitive and it has been a huge success to the team to make the Final Fours. Our season has had many ups and downs and so to finish it on a high would be amazing. The results against the other teams competing have been both wins and losses so it will make for an interesting weekend.”
Manchester Magic head into the Under 16 Boys competition as the on paper favourites for glory after a strong regular season. The North East side finished top of the Premier North standings with a 15-1 record, and also claimed the Under 16 National Cup back in February. Fellow finalists Haringey Hawks have had a pretty stunning regular season of their own though, finishing with an unbeaten 22-0 record to win the Premier South. Both sides would love the opportunity to face off for the title, but have tricky semi-finals to overcome first.
London Greenhouse Pioneers (17-5), who finished 2nd in that competitive Premier South division will play Manchester. The Pioneers are no stranger to the big stage, having made it to the Final Fours at this age group last year. Ipswich (11-11) round out the quartet and the Suffolk outfit have hit form in the playoffs after a somewhat up and down regular season. Defeating 3rd placed Premier South team and National Cup finalists Sussex Storm during their playoff run shows the quality they possess.
Manchester Magic Captain Jason Ani, “After winning the National Cup, other teams would have laid back, celebrated and been happy with this achievement. Not us though. The Cup was just a stepping stone for our real goal, the National Championship.”
London Greenhouse Pioneers Head Coach Lucio Semedo, “I'm very happy and proud of the boys for finishing 2nd in the league and ultimately reaching the Final Fours. We know it's going to be very tough, but we are excited about the challenge.”
Ipswich Captain Ethan Price, “The development of this team has been an amazing thing to be a part of. We have had some amazing highs but also some real lows and now we can’t wait to get on court.”
Haringey Hawks Head Coach Franck Batimba, “We are really starting to come together as a team. They are playing for each other, and that is part of our whole mantra; Together Everyone Achieves More.”
Southwark (11-3) will be looking to make it three titles in a row this weekend as they have been the dominant side in U18 Women’s basketball for the last few years. After finishing 2nd in the South East division, another Final Fours success is a real possibility for this programme as they continue to go from strength to strength.
Standing in the Pride’s way are GCA Haringey Angels (9-6), who finished 3rd in the South East division, plus two northern sides in Manchester Mystics (15-6) and Charnwood College Riders (19-2). Manchester’s record was enough to help them to 3rd in the North standings and they’ll be looking to harness strong local support to give them an advantage here. Charnwood were beaten in the U18 National Cup Final but would love to add this title to their regular season success as the North divisions’ top team. It’ll be a North v South Final regardless, but who will be lining up to take their shot at glory?
GCA Haringey Angels Head Coach Dan Bowmaker, “I am so pleased for this group of players to come through at the end of the season and to give their best performances. Now we’re at the Final Fours, anything is possible!”
Southwark Pride Head Coach Jackson Gibbons, “We are very proud to have reached the Jnr. Final Fours for the fourth year in a row. This year’s line-up is very competitive with anyone capable of beating anyone and some great programs involved.”
Manchester Mystics player Fiona Connolly, “Final Fours are always exciting; it's what everyone looks forward to from September when the season begins. We are really happy to have come this far, but our focus is now on completing the job.”
Charnwood College Riders Head Coach Oli Parr, “Making the Final Fours is another great achievement for team! Credit goes out to the girls; their concentration and work rate throughout the season has just been incredible.”
Fans will be treated to some high quality basketball in this year’s Under 18 Mens competition as some of the country’s finest sides have all managed to make their way to the National Basketball Performance Centre. Team Birmingham Elite (18-2) and Myerscough College (18-2) were the top two sides respectively in the Premier North this season, with Manchester Magic (15-5) rounding out the division’s top 3.
London Thunder-Lewisham (22-2) are the lone representative from the Premier South, but they did win that division against a number of strong programmes. All four sides have a real shot at this one and bring their own strengths to the table in what is sure to be a fascinating competition.
Team Birmingham Elite Coach Steven Mroso, “This group of young men are very talented. They possess a mixture of speed, power and skill as well as a unique talent that is sure to catch the eye. It’ll be an emotional weekend for this group as their leader and Head Coach will not be able to battle with them one last time this season. Never the less, do not expect this group to shy away from a battle!”
Manchester Magic player Michael Anumba, “We have been hoping to get back to Final Fours since last year’s semi-final loss. I believe in our team and we are excited to hopefully achieve what the last few Under 18 Magic squads haven't been able to achieve with a spot in the Final.”
London Lewisham Thunder Head Coach Steve Bucknall, “We are looking forward to continuing our journey and hope that this season never ends. I have coached a few exceptional Under 18s teams over the years and this team is definitely something different!”
Myerscough College player Mate Okros, "Reaching the Finals Fours just shows the hard work the team has put in over the course of the year and it’s a great feeling to be a part of it. We’re expecting a tough game from Lewisham who will for sure put up a good fight but if we maintain our focus throughout the game we’ll have a great chance in winning."