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U16 girls follow U19 boys into national play-offs

SHOOTING FEET: Alex Popova (pictured) and Jenna Wright led with nine points each
SHOOTING FEET: Alex Popova (pictured) and Jenna Wright led with nine points each

County Upper Basketball Academy has seen its second youth side reach the play-offs, as the U16 girls march into the national tournament for the first time in the academy’s history.

Having made the play-offs stage, they have already been named as one of the best 16 teams in England, but hope to go even further when they face either Southend Swifts or Sheffield Hatters in the last 16.

They will have to play this match without key player Grace Spooner though, and coach Darren Johnson fears they may also be without other influential players.

He said: “We are young and we will not have Grace or, possibly, another influential player, so we know this will be a tough game.

“But to make it this far, for the first time in the girl’s history is an incredible achievement.

“It is a sign of how well the academy is doing, that two of our teams have made the national play-offs this year.”

The South-East Conference side will need to bounce back after narrowly losing the title to Richmond Knights in a top-of-the-table clash away in London.

County Upper held an 18 point advantage (74-56) from their previous game but fell to an agonising 53-33 scoreline, to leave Richmond triumphant in the league by two points but see them qualify for the play-offs.

The U16 girls follow the U19s boys, who suffered a heartbreaking one-point loss to Stoke Trent College in the semi-finals of their ABL play-offs two weekends ago.

Johnson had requested, after the game, that basketball authorities investigate the qualifications of one of the referees feeling he did not meet the standards.

He has since confirmed, however, that Basketball England had responded to his protest with confirmation that the referee fulfilled all the necessary requirements to umpire the game.

In the East 1 Conference, the U16 Boys beat Southend Swifts 79-60.

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