North West and West Midlands triumph at National Junior Championships
The Lord’s Taverners National Junior Championships saw almost 300 junior wheelchair basketball players fill the University of Worcester Arena from the 1-2 August for an incredible weekend of wheelchair basketball.
Competing on the same courts that will welcome the continent’s leading nations for the European Wheelchair Basketball Championships later in August, the 23 regional junior teams shone as they played for the U15 and U19 national titles.
From Pool A it was the North West, London, Yorkshire, and the North East who qualified for the quarter finals; these four teams were joined from Pool B by Northern Ireland, Scotland, Wales, and the West Midlands.
The quarter finals saw the North West defeat the West Midlands (32-6); Yorkshire edge out Scotland (19-17); Wales overcome London (15-6), and Northern Ireland win against the North East (33-7) to secure their places in the semi finals.
North West and Northern Ireland continued their strong form in the semi finals, the former team beating Yorkshire 28-9 and Northern Ireland secured their place in the gold medal game with a 22-8 victory against Wales.
With both Northern Ireland and the North West qualifying for the final, the gold medal was a stunning re-match of the 2014 U15 Final. At the end of the first half Northern Ireland held a 12-10 lead; however, defending champions the North West hit back in the second half to retain their title with a hard-fought 24-17 triumph.
The North West, South East, East Midlands, and Northern Ireland progressed to the knockout stages from Pool A; the West Midlands, Yorkshire, East, and London qualified as the top four teams in Pool B.
In the quarter finals, the North West defeated Wales 24-12, the West Midlands defeated Northern Ireland (30-15), the South East overcame the East (25-18), and Yorkshire won a 20-18 thriller against the East Midlands.
It was another 2014 re-match in the U19 Final as North West tipped off against the West Midlands in what would prove to be a spectacular end to the Championships. Looking to avenge the previous year, the West Midlands roared into action – winning the first half by 17-11. But the North West showed great composure in the second half to level the game on 26 points and take the game to overtime.
An incredibly nail-biting period of overtime then ensued with both defences proving almost impossible to get past but: the West Midlands found a way to sneak over the line and win the national title 28-26.
The Jean Ratcliff Outstanding Achievement Award: Jack Davey (South West)
The Peter Jackson Young Male Player of the Year: Gregg Warburton (North West)
The Peter Jackson Young Female Player of the Year: Katie Morrow (Northern Ireland)
The Most Improved U15 Player of the Year: David Beattie (Scotland)
The Most Improved U19 Player of the Year: Stephen Johnson (North East)