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Girls academy to be set up alongside boys at County Upper to provide pathway for unbeaten under-16 team

County Upper School is set to become one of only three centres in the east of England for women to join a full-time post-16 scheme to combine playing basketball with an education programme.

From September, the Bury St Edmunds school will be expanding its County Upper Basketball Academy programme to incorporate a female under-19 team to run alongside the men’s pathway.

It follows on from the big success of the Girls Under-16s Wolves side who wrapped up their 11th straight win in the National League U16 South East Conference at the weekend to maintain their perfect campaign.

County Upper Girls U16s - Alex Popova in action (7119872)
County Upper Girls U16s - Alex Popova in action (7119872)

Head coach Darren Johnson is excited to be able to finally offer female players a pathway to the top of the game in west Suffolk.

“We have been looking to do this ever since we started the under-16 girls team about four or five years ago,” he said.

“With the boys it has been to try to feed sides into the under-19 elite team (started 11 years ago) but with the girls it has worked out that we have been building a girls programme from the ground upwards.”

The school has also already established a U14s girls team but the U19s side will offer something for players already in their system to aspire to and help realise their dreams within the game, as well as allowing them to gain some A-levels.

“At the moment a lot of these students are local girls and they do not really know what we are playing for,” he said.

“We compete and do well but they do not understand what the reward is for the work they put in.

“It is quite a full-on programme that helps them to develop to get them where they want to try to go to.”

The new course, which will be run by Johnson and former Spanish professional player and coach Angel Navarro, is set to deliver around 15 hours of basketball coaching a week as well as out-of-school opportunities and matches combined with studying for A-levels at County Upper School.

Initially, Johnson foresees the programme being mainly made up of the successful existing U16s Wolves team, with a league yet to be confirmed, but has asked anyone interested in enrolling to contact him by emailing djohnson@burytrust.org

l County Upper U16 Girls continuing their winning streak with a solid 71-45 home win against a very physical Feltham Warriors side in National League South East Conference.

They ended the first quarter 15-10 up before building up a 19-point lead for 41-22 at half-time. They ended the third 60-32 ahead before both teams traded baskets in the fourth.

County Upper were led in scoring by Alec Popova with 21 points and supported by Grace Spooner and Lizzy Sanders with 17 points and eight points respectively.

Next up is a key top-of-the-table clash at London Youngbloods on Saturday.

l A heavily depleted County Upper U14 Girls came away from Northants Lightning II with a 67-59 win to move them up to third in the National League Midlands East Conference with three games to go.

The Wolves worked excellently as a team and led in three of the four quarters.

Kent just led the scoring from Soar and Fudge. Wolves travel to unbeaten table toppers Ipswich on Saturday.

l County Upper U14 Boys had a 92-42 success against Braintree Blue Devils in the National League East Conference.

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