The Jnr. NBL National Cup & Senior Cup Finals are all set to tip off at the University of Hertfordshire’s Hatfield campus this weekend, with four junior clashes this Saturday followed by three senior showdowns the following day.
The Nottingham Wildcats and Southend Swifts will get the fast-paced and frenetic action under way by taking to the floor for the U16 girls’ encounter at 11am on Saturday morning prior to the U16 boys’ equivalent between Brentwood Fire and Haringey Hawks at 1:15pm.
“We are confident heading in to the game, but we know it is going to be very tough,” Nottingham Wildcats U16/U18 head coach Steven Lindsey commented.
“The Southend Swifts are a great team and we are looking forward to a high intensity game.
“Making it all of the way to the final is a first for the U16s, so – no matter what happens – we have made club history just by stepping on the court, which we are incredibly proud of.
“As a club, we are super excited for the finals. We have a bus full of people coming down to support us and we are looking to enjoy the day and make them all proud.”
Haringey Hawks coach Franck Batimba said of his side’s match-up with Brentwood Fire: “The team has been playing well and they are starting to trust each other more.
“I am confident as I have a great bunch of boys who are not only good players, but good people. I believe in them so much.
“I only approach games with a winning mindset so I believe our defence will play a key part in the result. As long as we stick to our game plan, we will put ourselves in a great position to win.
“I hope that we are able to take away our first national title. We have made a number of national finals, where we have come second and third, so for us to actually win would be so rewarding for everyone who has ever been involved with the club.”
Leicester Riders and Southwark Pride shall then contest the U18 Women’s National Cup Final at 3:30pm before London Thunder Lewisham and Myerscough College Spinners (pictured below) battle it out in the U18 men’s category at 5:45pm.
“The guys have been working hard leading up to this final,” said Myerscough U18s’ head coach Mike Bernard.
“We have been playing some good basketball and there is a great focus about the squad.
“Anything can happen in a final, but I’m confident that the guys can do what is needed on the day.”
Bernard added: “This game means a lot to me as it’s my first-ever final as a coach. It’s a big accomplishment for me as this is only my second year with Myerscough and my second year being a coach at this level. It feels really good and I’m happy for the guys.
“I am looking forward to it and feel sure it will be a great experience and occasion for all of the players, staff and supporters.
“We have worked hard to put ourselves in this position so we will enjoy every minute of it.”
The first of three finals on Sunday sees the Sussex Bears face off against Team Birmingham Elite for the Men’s National Shield at 11am.
“The team have been playing really well all season,” stated Team Birmingham Elite head coach Steven Hansell.
“We are second in the league (NBL Division Three), in the final for the Shield and we narrowly lost to Manchester Magic from Division One by a last-second shot in the National Cup.
“All in all, I’m quite happy how the season is progressing so far and I always try and prepare my team to win!
“Sussex Bears are an experienced team full of veterans. They are well prepared, understand the game and – like us – are also having a good season. I’m expecting a tough game, so let’s see what happens.”
Kent Crusaders and Team Newcastle University (pictured above) shall contest the Patron’s Cup Final at 1pm, while London Lituanica and Manchester Magic are the two finalists in the Men’s National Trophy two hours later.
Team Newcastle University head coach Ian Hewitt is under no illusions about the offensive threat posed by their opponents the Kent Crusaders, but he also has great confidence in the capabilities of the talented players at his disposal.
“Kent Crusaders are an exciting team full of some of the most talented young players this country has to offer,” Hewitt stated.
“They are very well coached and the Shodipo brothers (John and Tim) give them a maturity and make them a tough opposition to stop defensively.
“We are confident that we can beat anyone though when we are healthy and mentally focused.
“The whole club is excited about this one. We won the National Shield in the same event two years ago, so it really shows how well the new players have fitted in and just how far we have come.
“It goes without saying that we obviously want to come away with more NBL silverware on Sunday and take that momentum into the final stretch of the season.”
London Lituanica and Manchester Magic will be renewing acquaintances having just squared off against each other in Division One action only last Sunday, when Manchester emerged victorious 74-61.
Lituanica (8-8, 0.500) and Magic (14-3, 0.824) boast contrasting records in the top tier this term, but the Lithuanian outfit from the capital retain hope of springing something of a surprise at the weekend.
“We lost to Manchester last week, so our players are angry and ready to exact revenge,” explained London Lituanica’s general manager Linas Bridickas.
“Manchester is a good team with a great coach and they had an amazing season last year.
“It feels great for us to be in final and we’re all very much looking forward to it. It means a lot to us and it is a real opportunity to win a trophy.”
Head coach Eridanus Lazdauskas shared similar sentiments to Bridickas, adding: “My team are not performing to the best of their collective ability at the moment. We have lost our last two games, when a couple of our players were either ill or injured.
“But, on Finals Day, I hope to have a full team available to me and we will try our very best to win; I am always confident about my players and hope that they will be successful.
“I’m looking forward to this event. I believe that my team can perform very well and that they will win the final.
“Whether we win or lose though, the final will benefit my team greatly as it will provide these players with more experience for the future and give them sufficient confidence and encouragement to achieve more victories this season.”
Basketball England CEO Stewart Kellett is excited for the weekend ahead. “The Jnr. NBL National Cup & Senior Cup Finals Days are one of the main highlights of our domestic season, featuring some of the best boys’ and girls’, men’s and women’s club sides in the country.
“With seven finals taking place over the course of two action-packed days this weekend, it promises to be an unmissable sporting spectacle and I’d encourage basketball fans to come down and experience it all in person.”
Entry to the event on Saturday is free, whereas Sunday is ticketed and priced at £8 for adults and £4 for concessions. A family ticket (for up to four people, including a maximum of two adults) is available for £20.
Tickets can be purchased at the official Basketball England website at the following link: https://www.basketballengland.co.uk/news-and-events/events
The full schedule is as follows:
Saturday, February 18th:
11am: U16 Girls’ National Cup – Nottingham Wildcats vs Southend Swifts.
1:15pm: U16 Boys’ National Cup – Brentwood Fire vs Haringey Hawks.
3:30pm: U18 Women’s National Cup – Southwark Pride vs Leicester Riders.
5:45pm: U18 Men’s National Cup – Myerscough College Spinners vs London Thunder Lewisham.
Sunday, February 19th:
11am: Men’s National Shield: Sussex Bears vs Team Birmingham Elite.
1pm: Patron’s Cup: Team Newcastle University vs Kent Crusaders.
3pm: Men’s National Trophy: London Lituanica vs Manchester Magic.