The U18s played their first home game in a friendly against Leicester City Riders on Friday 13th. The team is mostly last season’s U16s combined with the welcome addition of Reuben Wertheim and Dan Archer plus newcomer John Shyirambere.
Welcome John to the Eagles’ family!
Leicester City Riders are one of the biggest Clubs in the UK and they train in a purpose built stadium in the middle of Leicester. As soon as the Riders walked in the gym the tension rose as they looked very big, athletic and, some people thought, a little older than our Eagles! This game was expected to be a quiet friendly but it did not turn out that way. The Sports Hall soon filled up with family, friends and players from all over the Club and County. It was amazing to see such fantastic support and the atmosphere was electric.
The Eagles were understandably nervous facing such imposing opposition in their first full pre-season game in front of a large crowd. Luckily we had 3 coaches on the bench to help cope with such a big occasion. We had Hayley, Poppy, John and Dan on the scorers table running our new scoreboard and 24s clocks and this added another level of professionalism to the occasion. We had 2 experienced refs in Tony and Aggie, so a great game was on the cards.
It was clear from the tip-off that Eagles were not going to be intimidated by Leicester. The Eagles came up with some incredible intensity and determination and dealt well with the Rider’s physicality. The first 42s of the game were action packed and no one scored! Eventually, Joe C put the first points on the board and the Eagles settled down and started scoring well to take an early lead.
The game ebbed and flowed throughout with the Eagles leading for most of the game. The atmosphere was amazing and the game physical and exciting throughout. The Eagles had 12 players so there was plenty of payer rotation. The refs were calling many fouls which caught out Leicester early on but then the Eagles were soon in the penalty.
All Eagles made a solid contribution to this amazing game. Sam Hart has started the season shooting the lights out and this continued in this game. Unfortunately, he ended up in foul trouble and was eventually fouled off in the 4th. His ball handling was excellent and at one point had the crowd on their feet when he crossed up his defender who was desperately trying to guard him. Dillon Bose lead the team throughout with his cool, calm and collected manner. He also scored some points at crucial moments in the game. Harry Lovett continued his fine shooting form and his intensity and hard work on defence is crucial to the Eagle’s success. Ben Dowsett has become a team stalwart and was reliable as ever. His defence was top notch and he works hard for all his team mates. He also scored some great baskets off back cuts to the basket. John Shyirambere showed everyone his athleticism and speed, scoring well and playing the physical type of basketball needed to succeed at u18s. He has an exciting season ahead of him at the Eagles. Dan Archer was lighting quick off the wing to steal and drive. Reuben Wertheim provided a physical edge and toughness that the Eagle’s needed to compete against Leicester. It was fantastic to see Henry back in the team after 350 days. He hit an important basket, played tough ball and worked really hard. Sadly he landed on another player’s foot and rolled his bad ankle. We wish Henry all he best for a speedy recovery. Harry Sellick continues to improve every game. Joe Wright was solid as ever, took some good shoots and brought his usual determination and grit.
Last but by no means least, I need to mention the big guys, Ruben Collins and Joe C who both had outstanding games. They both play inside but are very different players who work very well together. Their defence was exceptional with Ruben battling and hustling for every ball and Joe providing blocks a plenty. The offence is often channelled through Ruben who is totally unselfish providing many assists for his teammates. He scrambled for every loose ball and scored an exceptional up and under basket which had the crowd on their feet. Joe was dominant inside scoring some great baskets and making 7/8 from the line. He top scored with 19 points.
A casual observer would have thought that the Eagles had no chance of winning this game. However, every time the Riders came back at the Eagles the Eagles would sublimely move back way from them on the scoreboard. The Eagles played unselfish team basketball with composure and sportsmanship. This combined with huge Club support made this a night to remember for the Eagles.
What a team and what a Club!
Eagles 72 riders 66.