All pictures by Mansoor Ahmed/@IAmAhmedphotos
Manchester Magic maintained their spell over London Lituanica for a second weekend in succession to defend their National Trophy crown with an authoritative 81-53 victory at Hertfordshire Sports Village on Sunday.
Having defeated their opponents 74-61 in Division One of the National Basketball League a week ago, it was simply a case of different day, same story as Manchester achieved a swift double in league and cup over the club from the capital.
A game-high 19 points and five rebounds were more than enough for standout star Duane Morgan (pictured below) to emerge from this one-sided outing as the MVP.
Magic’s Stefan Gill (16 points and eight assists), captain Jack Minister (14 points and six rebounds) and Simon Anumba (11 points and eight rebounds) chalked up double digits to boot against a lacklustre Lituanica, who struggled to keep pace throughout despite the best efforts of Mantas Guzys (15 points and seven rebounds) and Mantas Adomaitis (10 points and seven rebounds).
“This was my first opportunity to play in a championship game and it’s a really good feeling to have won it,” Morgan said.
“We knew that we had to shut them down on defence, so that was a big emphasis for us, along with our high-tempo game.
“We now want to win the league and finish up as the number one side in Division One.
“There’s a great group of guys here at the Manchester Magic. They’ve been very welcoming and made me feel right at home. I feel like I’ve been playing with them for a long time. You want to play for your brothers and I feel like they are mine.”
Earlier on in the day, Team Newcastle University came away with the Patron’s Cup courtesy of a 77-65 success against Kent Crusaders and Sussex Bears clinched the Men’s National Shield thanks to a tense and tight 58-57 triumph over Team Birmingham Elite.
Kent Crusaders began the first quarter in earnest fashion, yet Team Newcastle University soon recovered from a somewhat sluggish start and never looked back thereafter.
Indeed, the Knights bookmarked the game brilliantly – winning the opening stanza 24-16 and the fourth and final one 24-18 to render the narrow losses in between (18-17 and 13-12) rather redundant.
Team Newcastle’s Richard Austin (pictured above) registered 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists to claim the MVP accolade. He was well supported on offence by Jack Beresford (17 points), Frank Urli (14 points and six assists) and Matt Brown (12 points).
RJ Eytle-Rock (pictured above) produced a game-high 23 points in the Kent Crusaders’ challenge for the silverware and Mohamed Adamu and Dan Akin both scored 10 on a day when the Shodipo brothers, John (four) and Tim (one), both failed to fire.
“The Kent Crusaders have an excellent programme and they are a credit to British basketball in terms of where they’re going,” said Team Newcastle University head coach Ian Hewitt.
“But, we’re just as talented as them, we played outstanding basketball today and we’re a little bit older and more mature. I think that showed as well.
“We fought like crazy defensively too and it was just a great win. We wanted the Cup and we stepped up massively, which was fantastic to see.
“We’ve held Thames Valley to 66 and Kent to 65 now. It just shows what we’re doing defensively and – offensively – we simply look better and better every week, so we’re excited about the rest of the season. We are going to keep getting better.”
Sussex Bears meanwhile held an eight-point cushion heading into the last 10 minutes having won the second quarter (17-11) by six points and the first and third (both 13-12) by one apiece.
However, they very nearly blew it as Team Birmingham Elite came storming back late on to set up a nerve-jangling finale.
Steven Hansell’s side just couldn’t drain that crucial basket down the stretch to ensure overtime or snatch a previously unlikely W though and Sussex prevailed by the narrowest of margins.
The Bears’ Hank Rivers (pctured above) produced a performance of Superman-esque proportions in keeping with his choice of socks for the day.
His 25 point-haul and 14 rebounds saw him deservedly pick up the MVP award ahead of other worthy candidates like his Sussex team-mate Bud Johnson (pictured below), who provided 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists overall. Darren Mason also plucked 15 rebounds out of the air.
Team Birmingham Elite had two players progress beyond single-figure tallies in Meris Masolovic (17 points and nine rebounds) and David Stevic (14 points).
“It feels good to have finally won a final as I’ve been in England for almost nine years now,” the amiable Rivers stated afterwards.
“It’s nice to have won for the people that I know as they really are like a family to me. “We’ve been together for so many years and there’s a good atmosphere. We feel like we’re moving up every year, so you cannot complain about that.
“It was a scrappy game. Team Birmingham Elite are young and we inherently knew that they were going to get runs, but we pulled it out in end. The main thing is that we got it done – that’s all that matters.”
Jnr NBL National Cup & Senior Cup Finals:
Saturday, February 18th 2017:
U16 Girls’ National Cup: Nottingham Wildcats (Maya Hyacienth - MVP: 30 points, nine rebounds and three assists; Brahe Ashton: 14 points, six rebounds and five assists) 61-47 Southend Swifts (Katie Bennett: 23 points, six rebounds and six assists; Lily Annim 14 rebounds).
U16 Boys’ National Cup: Brentwood Fire (Tim Adetukasi: 12 points and 12 rebounds; Jeremy Jacobs: 10 rebounds) 40-85 Haringey Hawks (Spyridon Kapsalos – MVP: 25 points, eight rebounds and six assists; Mohammed Sanni-Oba: 17 points and 15 rebounds; Cameron Morris: 12 points; Elliott Quail: 10 points and six rebounds).
U18 Girls’ National Cup: Southwark Pride (Toyosi Abiola – MVP: 19 points, seven rebounds and two assists) 49-40 Charnwood Riders (Anna Popovic: 12 points and five rebounds).
U18 Boys’ National Cup: Myerscough Spinners (Zion Tordoff – MVP: 20 points and nine rebounds; Konrad Kantorski: 15 points; Stephen Izobo: 14 rebounds) 68-55 London Thunder Lewisham (Josh Edwards: 23 points and six rebounds; Kyle Best: 10 points and nine rebounds; Genay Zorro: Nine rebounds).
Sunday, February 19th 2017:
Men’s National Shield: Sussex Bears (Hank Rivers – MVP: 25 points and 14 rebounds; Bud Johnson: 16 points, seven rebounds and seven assists; Darren Mason: 15 rebounds) 58-57 Team Birmingham Elite (Meris Mazolovic: 17 points and nine rebounds; David Stevic: 14 points).
Patron’s Cup: Team Newcastle University (Richard Austin – MVP: 21 points, 10 rebounds and six assists; Jack Beresford 17 points; Frank Urli 14 points and six assists; Matt Brown 12 points) 77-65 Kent Crusaders (RJ Eytle-Rock: 23 points, six rebounds and four assists; Dan Akin: 10 points and 15 rebounds; Mohamed Adamu 10 points).
Men’s National Trophy: London Lituanica (Mantas Guzys: 15 points and seven rebounds; Mantas Adomaitis: 10 points and seven rebounds) 53-81 Manchester Magic (Duane Morgan – MVP: 19 points and five rebounds; Stefan Gill: 16 points and eight assists; Jack Minister: 14 points and six rebounds; Simon Anumba: 11 points and eight rebounds).
The NBL and WNBL Playoff Finals will take place at Belle Vue in Manchester over the weekend of Saturday, April 22nd and Sunday, April 23rd.
Single-days tickets are £8 for adults and £4 for concessions, with a family ticket (for up to four people, including a maximum of two adults) available for £20. Weekend-long rates are as follows: Adults: £12, Concessions: £6 and Family: £30.
Tickets are available from the official Basketball England website at the following link: https://www.basketballengland.co.uk/news-and-events/events