The 7th Annual Christmas Invitational Basketball Tournament, sponsored by System Store Solutions, saw the Varsity Lions, Hayes School, Kent College and the JV Lions battle for supremacy over two days of intense basketball action at The North School.
On day one, each team played three games in the tournament’s group stage as they fought for a place in the final. The opening game of the tournament saw the Varsity Lions take on the JV Lions and they got off to the perfect start, securing a 43-15 victory. Reigning champions, Hayes School took on the JV Lions next and a 43-13 victory led to the most anticipated clash of day one. The Varsity Lions vs. Hayes School was a rematch of the 2015 final and the Lions were keen to avenge the 1-point overtime defeat from last year. The game was a tense contest played at a blistering pace but it was the school from Bromley who came away triumphant after a 22-18 victory. Hayes completed an undefeated opening day with a 50-11 victory over Kent College to secure their place in the final for the second straight year. Kent College responded with 30-23 win over The JV Lions, which left the final game of the day to decide who would join Hayes in the gold medal game. The North regrouped for the must-win contest and defeated Kent College 40-9 to book their place in the final for the seventh time in as many years.
The first game on day two saw a rematch of the JV Lions and Kent College in a battle for 3rd place and it was the Lions who came away with an outstanding 44-34 victory to claim the bronze medal. Max Heath of the JV Lions was named as the Most Valuable Player of the game after leading the team with 18 points, 5 assists and 5 rebounds.
The final was an electrifying battle of two juggernauts. The first quarter was a tactical battle that saw Hayes take the lead 5 times, only for the home-team Varsity Lions to rally back with style and poise. A timely 3-point basket from Lion’s sharpshooter Jay Parnell gave the Lions a 16-13 lead and momentum heading into the second quarter. With the game tied at 20-20, the Lions looked to exploit their size advantage and 8 points by standout rookie Forward, Sean Trumper sparked a 12-5 run that sent them into the half-time break holding a crucial 32-25 lead. Hayes started the third quarter with 5 quick points to cut the lead to 2 but Lions’ Sophomore-sensation; Issy Solomon produced heroics that would rejuvenate his team. Despite suffering from flu-like symptoms, Solomon exploded for 8 points, 4 rebounds, 3 blocks and 3 steals in a sublime third quarter that put the Lions up 51-37. A 9-2 run from Hayes to start the final quarter cut the lead to 7 points but the Lion’s resolve never faltered. They methodically broke down the Hayes zone with the inside-out combination of Parnell and Solomon and their commitment to team defence sparked a 12-4 run to end the contest. As the final buzzer sounded, the Varsity Lions bench stormed the court in jubilation. The Lions had secured their seventh title in the six years with a 67-50 victory and finally shaken the heartache of last year’s crushing defeat. Lions Captain, Emmanuel Ephenus-Agostinho was named as the Most Valuable Player of the final after a flawless defensive display that included 12 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocks. Andrew Sunderland, Head Coach of The North School Varsity Lions commented ‘There was something very different about our mind-set tonight and I could sense before tip-off that we were not going to let this one get away. Limiting Hayes’ penetration was key for us and we put on an almost faultless display of team defence. Josh Edwards of Hayes is an outstanding offensive player but Emmanuel was immense in limiting his output and was the deserved MVP. If we can continue this momentum into the New Year, we have a great chance of putting together a very special season indeed’.
Anybody who is interested in trying out for The North School Lions Basketball Academy can contact Head Coach, Andrew Sunderland at email@example.com