SportsPark, UEA was the action centre over the weekend as the Basketball East Inter-County Tournaments came to Norfolk for the u15 and u17 Competitions.
Norfolk is one of the developing counties in the region and can find it difficult to compete with areas which have a much larger pool of talent. However, over the past five years there has been a considerable improvement in the competitiveness of Norfolk teams as, under the Norfolk Junior Basket Ball Association, greater coherence and consistency has emerged in the planning and preparation of teams.
The high spot was the victory of the u13 Girls in their tournament last month, the first time any Norfolk Team have been crowned East Region Champions and evidence is growing that there is improvement on the way from the younger age-groups upwards.
Saturday saw the u17 teams in action with Norfolk u17 Boys facing off against both Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire in the boys competition where all six counties enter and a seeding system can be operated.
The boys fell in their opening two games but showed excellent resilience in coming back to reverse their earlier loss against Bedfordshire winning 32 - 18 ending the contest on a 19 - 4 run.
There was no easy passage for Norfolk u17 Girls who, without any representation from Bedfordshire or Cambridgeshire, were pitched in against the traditionally powerful sides from Essex, Hertfordshire and Suffolk.
Nerves showed early on as they quickly fell to a double digit deficit against Hertfordshire but the girls rallied and were able to demonstrate their skill and determination as the day wore on. Their best performance came in a 37 - 26 loss to Essex where they were within a point at the half before an 11 - 0 run spanning the final two quarters sealed the game for Essex, who went on to take the title.
When everyone re-convened on Sunday it was the u15s who took centre stage.
Again the boys kicked off proceedings with Norfolk u15 Boys facing Bedfordshire and Cambridgeshire. Again they feel to defeats in the pool stage and again faced Bedfordshire in the contest for 5th - 6th Place.
It seemed as if Bedfordshire would prevail as they established a 20 - 8 interval lead but the Norfolk side showed their fighting spirit finding the confidence to score ten unanswered early in the second half to put real pressure on their opponents.
Inside the final minute, Norfolk closed to within a single score but the gap proved just too much and Bedfordshire hit the final score to close out the game at 30 - 24.
Norfolk u15 Girls faced a similarly difficult task to that experienced by the u17 group on the Saturday. However, even very early their were some encouraging signs. One could only be impressed by the composure of the team when put under intense pressure from the opening tip against Essex.
The players were adept at giving themselves time to make the right pass or movement to alleviate the press which resulted in them trailing by only six at the half.
Essex finally pulled away after the break but even then the victory margin could have been much closer as Norfolk continued to create scoring opportunities but were not consistently able to finish under pressure.
All the Norfolk sides could take positives away from the weekend experience.
Credit must go to all the Team Coaches and Mangers who continue to work to develop the players individually and junior basketball within the county.
Part of the East programme centres around Talent Identification and the selection of players to the next stage of training. The training squads operate to a set programme before teams are chosen to represent the East at Inter Regional Tournaments to be held in Manchester later this year.
This year Norfolk has seen a record number of players identified at this stage.
Over the weekend the following were selected to their respective squads:-
u15 Girls: Amelia Cropley, Emma McNally and Leah Page
u17 Girls: Amelia Abodunde and Sharleen Bradley
u17 Boys: James Newnham