Thurston College pupil Little is tipped for the top by her coach Linton

LEADING SCORER: Thurston Community College pupil Esther Little scored 26 points for Ipswich Under-16s Girls
LEADING SCORER: Thurston Community College pupil Esther Little scored 26 points for Ipswich Under-16s Girls
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Bury-based basketball coach Amy Linton believes England Under-16s star Esther Little could make it all the way to the top.

The Thurston Community College pupil top scored with 26 points for the Ipswich Under-16s Girls as they edged a thrilling National League Play-Off quarter-final 74-70 against Surrey Goldhawks on Sunday.

It was the first time a Suffolk junior female basketball team had progressed through to the semi-finals in 21 years, with Little producing a starring role in the historic win.

And Linton, who is the coach of the Ipswich Under-16s Girls, said: “To be honest with you, Esther is the best player I’ve ever coached.

“She’s only 15, but watching her play in our team, she’s a great captain.

“I could see her going over to America and playing at a very high level. She works hard and has got the talent.”

Linton, a former pupil at Westley Middle School and County Upper School, described reaching the last four of the national competition as a dream come true.

“I’m just unbelievably proud,” the 2010 Suffolk Sport Junior Volunteer of the Year said.

“I could see how much the players wanted it. It was just brilliant and I had no idea of the stat, 21 years, which is quite good to know.”

Little, a winner of the 2015 Suffolk Sport Young Sports Personality of the Year and People’s Youth Champion awards, was joined by her fellow Thurston Community College pupil, Kenzie Day, in the Ipswich team.

The duo both played key roles in the win against the Goldhawks, which finished with Ipswich just four points ahead at the final buzzer.

Ipswich club chair, Kathryn James, said: “Amy never made the ‘final fours’ but she was part of a great junior team and if Ipswich launch a senior women’s National League team next year, I can see her being tempted back to play, possibly with these girls she has coached!”

n Elsewhere, County Upper Under-14s Girls were beaten 61-50 by Sevenoaks Suns in their National League Elite 8 fixture.

See next week’s print edition for report and reaction.