Little key to success of basketball squad in U16 National Cup final

DOUBLING UP: The U16 Girls celebrate Ipswich's second success in National Cup finals this season, with Esther (third from right) playing a part in both (Picture: Pavel Kricka)

Emerging basketball star Esther Little has done it again, with a top performance helping to secure victory in the Under-16 National Cup on Saturday.

The 16-year-old was named MVP, most valuable player, in the 58-42 defeat of Haringey Angels in the final at Worcester Arena, as her Ipswich side were crowned the best U16 team in the country.

It follows the club’s success in the senior event in January, which Little also played a big part in.

She was joined by others local to the Bury area, including team-mate and fellow Thurston Community College pupil Kenzie Day as well as coaches Hayley Rigby and Harriett Welham — a player with the women’s team, named MVP in the senior cup final.

And Little has said she is determined to also do a double-double this season, winning the league with the senior team and the league with the U16s.

The senior side are unbeaten in Division Two North of the league and well on course for the league title and promotion while the U16 Girls lie in second in a competitive battle for the top spot.

Little said: “We’ve been a bit disappointed by some of our performances in the league so it means a lot to win the National Cup.

“We beat Haringey Angels by just two points earlier on in the season but played them last weekend and lost by more.

“We knew it would be a tough game.

“But I think everyone in the U16s team look up to the women’s team and seeing them win had given us the inspiration and belief to do it too.

“It reminded us that we are a talented team that are capable of achieving the double — a couple of knock backs in the league had shaken us a bit.

“But we’ve again proven to ourselves that we can do it all, so we’re aiming for victory in the play-offs in May now too.”

Little said it is her final year with the U16s and her final year in juniors if the club do not progress an idea to create an U18 Girls squad for next season.

“Winning the National Cup once was special but to do it twice is just unbelievable,” she added.

“It’s a pretty incredible year so far and, if it’s my final year at junior level, an incredible way to finish. ”

She said she went in to the final aware that she was one of the more experienced members of the team and one who had already tasted success in a National Cup final just weeks earlier.

Little said: “I knew I had to be a leader going in to the game, with my experience in a cup final.

“There were four of us that played in the senior team cup final.

“And I’m really happy that I was able to achieve this, although obviously the win was a complete team effort.

“We’re a close team and it sounds like such a cliché but none of us could have done it without each other.”

Little finished the game with 24 points, 17 rebounds, five assists and two blocks.

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