North West win the double
The Lord’s Taverners National Junior Championships 2014 saw almost 200 junior wheelchair basketballers descend upon the birthplace of the Paralympic Games from the 25-27 July, on the quest to bring home the highly coveted U15 and U19 titles.
With players from all across England, Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales representing their regions over three days of fantastic matches, the teams opened their campaigns in fiercely contested pool groups.
In the U15s, it was reigning champions the North West who finished top of Pool A with four out of four wins. In second place with 3 wins and 1 loss was the South East; third place went to London with a 2-2 record and it was Wales who secured the last quarter final spot in fourth place with a 1-3 finish. Narrowly missing out on a quarter final place was the North East who also finished 1-3.
In Pool B, Northern Ireland – the 2013 silver medallists – stormed to the top of the table with an undefeated finish. Taking the second spot in the quarter finals was Yorkshire (3-1); in third was the West Midlands (2-2) whilst Scotland secured their spot with a 1-3 finish. This meant that the East Midlands (0-4) would take on the North East in the 9th-10th Play Off.
After a series of stunning play off matches, it was the East Midlands who came in 10th with the North East earning 9th place. A 17-7 win against the South East then saw Scotland earn 7th place whilst London played their way to 5th place with a 10-5 victory against Wales. The battle for bronze was a nailbiting encounter with the West Midlands just edging out the medal over Yorkshire with a 16-15 triumph.
In a rematch of the 2013 U15 Final, reigning champions the North West lined up against Northern Ireland once again in what would prove to be another high-scoring battle. It was the North West who took a 16-10 lead at half time and, from there, the 2013 Champions continued to push forward to claim gold once more with a 33-19 victory.
In the U19s, the North West also secured a first place finish in Pool A with an unbeaten 5-0 record. In second place was Yorkshire (4-1); third place the South West (3-2), and with the last quarter final spot was Wales with a 1-4 finish. This meant that the East (1-4) and Northern Ireland (1-4) would enter the 9th-12th Play Offs in fifth and sixth respectively.
In Pool B, it was the East Midlands who claimed top spot with a 5-0 winning streak. In second place was last year’s silver medallists the West Midlands (4-1); third place the South East (3-2), and in fourth was London (2-3). Entering the 9th-12th Play Offs were the North East who came fifth (1-4) and Scotland in sixth (0-5).
After another series of hard-fought play off games, it was Scotland who took 11th place with a 13-8 win against Northern Ireland, whilst in the battle for 9th spot was an incredible tussle between the North East and East which required triple over time to determine the winner: the North East eventually edging it by 25-23. It was Wales who secured 7th place with a 19-14 win against the South West before the South East narrowly defeated London by 14-12 to take 5th. The bronze medal game then saw the West Midlands find another level to earn a 24-13 win against the East Midlands.
The U19 Final proved to a fitting end to a spectacular Championship. After the Yorkshire team played their way to an 8-2 lead at half time, defending champions the North West managed to keep their composure as they first fought their way back into the game and then on to another U19 Title with a 14-11 win.
In addition to fantastic team performances, there were also some notable individual achievements:
• The Jean Ratcliff Outstanding Achievement Award: Gemma Lumsdaine (Scotland U19 Team)
• Most Improved U15 Player: Jess Dowdeswell (West Midlands)
• Most Improved U19 Player: Peter Cusack (West Midlands)
• The Peter Jackson Young Female Player of the Year: Charlotte Moore
• The Peter Jackson Young Male Player of the Year: Gregg Warburton
Gemma Lumsdaine, winner of the Jean Ratcliff Outstanding Achievement Award said: "I am absolutely honoured to have won this award. I can't believe that this time last year I wasn't playing basketball and hadn't done any work with disability sport to now winning this award.
'I couldn't have been through this journey without two fundamental people in my life. Firstly my mum who has driven miles and spent endless hours trying to help me achieve things in my life. Secondly is my coach Tina Gordon who has inspired me to coach and help change people's views on disability.
'My goal is to inspire and educate everyone that being in a wheelchair doesn't stop you doing anything. Achieving this award has made me realise how much I love basketball and changing lives. Unfortunately I never got to meet Jean but she sounds like an inspiring person who I have a lot to thank for.”
British Wheelchair Basketball CEO Charlie Bethel said: "With more players and teams than ever before the Lord’s Taverners National Junior Championships 2014 has once again seen our nation raise the bar in terms of the quantity and quality of junior wheelchair basketballers. Indeed, the success of both this annual Championship and our international teams, truly is a testament to the incredible support of the Lord’s Taverners.
“The impact of this support is felt at all levels of the sport and it goes without saying that we will forever remain truly indebted to the Lord’s Taverners and, in particular, Jean Ratcliff. Whilst Jean remains sorely missed by us all, her legacy continues to lives on in the foundations of our ever thriving junior programme – we could not be where we are today without her.”