County Upper U16s to compete for National Champion crown

ACADEMY SUCCESS: County Upper U14 girls won the 2016/17 title and some players stepped up to this year's U16 squad    Picture: Mecha Morton
ACADEMY SUCCESS: County Upper U14 girls won the 2016/17 title and some players stepped up to this year's U16 squad Picture: Mecha Morton

County Upper U16 Girls will this weekend vie for a place in the quarter-finals of the end of season play-offs, after being narrowly beaten to the South East title.

The team will travel to face the City of Sheffield Hatters on Saturday at the All Saints Sports Centre (1 pm) in the first of eight matches across the country to determine the final eight.

County Upper U16s qualified to compete to become national U16 basketball champions as they were narrowly beaten into second, on points difference, by Richmond Knights in the South East division.

But, despite a strong season in the league, coach Darren Johnson knows the side will be up against it on Saturday, against a ‘very tough’ team in Sheffield.

He said: “We won’t have a full-strength squad with us and that will hurt our chances, we’re missing key players.

“There will only be seven players coming so it really will be small.

“And we’re taking on a really good side, and a team who play in the Premier, against really tough opposition, so they’re used to these big games.

“But of course we will give it our best shot, I’m just aware it’s going to be really tough.”

He said he would be taking: Alex Popova, Georgia Tansley, Eleanor Jones, Jenna Wright, Kayleigh Brown, Molly and Jemima Kent to the event, with Grace Spooner —who has a broken thumb — coming along as support.

“It’s gutting for Grace not to be able to take part,” he said.

“But it’s the way it is sometimes, making this stage is a big step up for the girls and something they should be proud of — making this stage is a big deal.

“And, alongside the U19 boys making the play-offs too, it is a good reflection of how well the academy is doing. It’s been a good season.”

• Meanwhile, both the Ipswich senior and U16 girls — both winners of this season’s National Cups — are involved in the play-off competitions, with Ixworth talent Esther Little competing in both.

She will have a tiring day, with both squads competing on Sunday at Copleston High School against the same opponents, the Cardiff Met Archers.

The U16s will take on the Cardiff youth side at 12pm, while the senior women will face the adult Cardiff Met Archers II at 4.30pm.