The first game does not tip off until 11am but the M6 is just murder at this time of the morning so it’s a really early start to make sure I get there on time.
It is the inaugural Kukri Power 4 Invitational Basketball Tournament which took place at the University of Birmingham with Leeds Metropolitan, London South Bank, Barking Abbey School joining hosts, the University of Birmingham for a high quality celebration of skilful basketball.
In the first semi-final Birmingham entertained the prodigious talent from Barking Abbey basketball academy who included seventeen-year-old Bradley Wilkinson amongst a host of gifted players but the home team used their National League Division 2 experience to good effect by defeating the youngsters by 68-51.
The second semi-final was a battle royale between two of the strongest University teams this season with undefeated Leeds Metropolitan University lining up against a very strong and athletic London South Bank student aggregation. Leeds were without their inspirational Hungarian point guard and consequently were thrown out of their rhythm by the energy and athleticism of South Bank who prevailed by 74-59.
Before the play-off games, the University of Birmingham Women’s team entertained their fellow students from neighbours Aston University in a demonstration game which turned into a rout as Aston were unable to connect on many of their shots enabling Birmingham to race ahead with their fast break and win 68-22.
The score was only one aspect of this game however as it was dominated by Maria Savchenko who would finish with 28 points and numerous rebounds. She was sensational and I will definitely be passing her name on to Great Britain Head Coach Mark Clark; expect to see her in a senior GB uniform real soon. She explained that she has been out for a year with a serious knee injury (she showed me the scar), but now she was 100%.
I’ll put it this way… …MARIA SAVCHENKO IS BACK.
In the 3rd/4th place play-off Leeds Metropolitan University were too powerful for the youthful exuberance of the Barking Abbey team using their International standouts from Hungary and America to guide them home by 86-55. The one two punch of Matt Morley and Dan McSweeney was just too much for Barking and these are two players whose development I’ll be watching in coming years. A name check here to Lukas Volskis who handled the ball well for Barking and who was lightening quick on the court.
And so to the big one, the Championship Final. The Power 4 Final between hosts, University of Birmingham and London South Bank University unfortunately became a one-sided affair as the home side could not match the confident shooting and sheer physicality of the Londoners.
As South Bank ran into an early lead the Birmingham shooters were unable to consistently nail their shots and despite some determined defence were unable to keep the visitors in check. Although Birmingham showed some improvement in the second half and indeed, tied the final quarter, the outcome was never in doubt as South Bank strolled to a very comfortable win by 91-46 and claim the tournament prize of a complete set of Kukri basketball uniforms and accompanying trophy.
The performances by South Bank were a joy to behold. Standout players for me were Ladi Brown who finished top scorer with 19 followed by Laurie Lewis with 15 and British Basketball legend Paul Mundy-Castle with 14. Big man Papa Demba-Kasse was awesome in the paint finishing with 12 points.
Mundy-Castle shared the ball handling duties with Isaac Omirin and they gave nothing away, there was speed, intensity and sheer skill.
The play of the day was a sensational alley oop. Sadly, I can’t remember who made the pass or who finished the play but Oh BABY rang out across the University of Birmingham.
For the home team Mike Fritz finished with 9 points while Tom Harmsworth added 7. Steve Jones who was sensational in the semi final with 14 points could only manage 3 in the final after getting into serious foul trouble. In my opinion, Birmingham were a little too pumped up for this game. Had they been a little more relaxed, they could have given South Bank a much sterner test.
The basketball club are indebted to Kukri Sports for their full and enthusiastic support and also the University Sport Birmingham staff who helped make this event a veritable success. Kukri Sports helped dress the sports hall for the event and the University of Birmingham Pussycats, the resident cheerleaders brought another touch of class to the first Kukri Power 4 Tournament.
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