Manchester Magic are the new Jnr NBL U16 Boys National Cup Champions after a 75-57 win over Sussex Storm.
Both teams looked evenly matched in the early going, with Sussex securing a 20-16 lead after the 1st quarter. From there, it was all Manchester as they limited their opponents to just 6 2nd quarter points before pulling away after the half time break.
MVP honours went to the Magic’s Saul May for his balanced stat line of 8 points, 11 rebounds, 4 assists, 5 steals and 2 blocks in 27:36 of action. May was well supported by Dan Gargan, who went 5/10 from deep to finish on 21 points, and Ty Jordan added 13 more. 3 Storm players made it into double digits, with Cam Hildreth leading the way on 16 points.
Sussex’ Head Coach Daniel Hildreth suggested some neutrals may see his side as underdogs before tip, but anyone with that view would have been in for a surprise as the Storm more than matched Manchester in the early going. The teams traded baskets to move the score on to 11-11 before Manchester’s influential guard Greg Wild picked up 2 quick fouls and went to the bench. Sussex used the opportunity to their advantage and led after 1.
Early in the 2nd quarter, Manchester provided a slick play that would serve as a preview for the rest of the game. A baseline drive by May was finished with a pass out into the corner and from there, the North West side zipped multiple passes around the perimeter to find an open Luke Gordos. The young guard dropped the 3-pointer to put Manchester ahead and from there, the Magic began to pull away.
Credit to Sussex and their young roster, they did manage to get within touching distance of Manchester a number of times. When Lewis Jee hit a free throw to get the Storm within 2 at 33-31, that prompted Manchester to once again pull out their A game to go on an 8-2 run. As the 3rd quarter wound down, Manchester moved further ahead as they received good contributions off their bench, eventually finishing the period up 55-42.
Turning up their intensity on defence in the final quarter, the South coast side struggled to find a way to get back into the contest. Beginning to build some momentum, the Storm may have felt they had a chance to put some pressure on as time ticked by but a dagger 3 from Manchester’s Noah Togo put an end to those hopes. A steal and fast break dunk from MVP May with a little over 5 minutes to go pushed the Manchester lead close to 20, effectively signalling an end to the contest.
MVP Saul May, “We all played as a team and I’m happy for the everyone. We didn’t go single player, stuck at it to get the win, I’m over the moon! I didn’t really think I was worthy of the MVP, but I’m delighted!”
Manchester Magic Head Coach Tom Paraskeva, “Winning this feels really great. This group are really together, they moved the ball really well, everyone plays for each other, it was a perfect performance. This is the best group that I’ve coached, they’ve done really well.”
“Obviously the result didn’t go to plan but I cannot question the effort of the players or support from our travelling fans,” said Storm Head Coach Daniel Hildreth. “The story of the game, unfortunately for us, was being unable to do the most important thing and put the ball in the basket. We also had a number of unforced turnovers which led to easy scores to break the game open. We are a young group with over half the team able to play u16’s next year. Now they have seen what it’s all about today, I’m sure it will be motivation for them to return next year”.