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Split emotions for Southend Swifts’ young stars
IT was a day of celebration and heartbreak for Southend Swifts in the National Final Fours.
The Under 14 and Under 16 girls’ teams travelled to Sheffield to do battle against the best in the business with the Under 16’s battling back from the brink of defeat to record a stunning win.
The U-14s made it to the final but fell at the last hurdle, losing by 12 points to City of Sheffield Hatters.
The U-16s beat Sevenoaks Suns 76-74 in the semi-final, overturning a seemingly impossible 18 point deficit in the final ten minutes to claim victory. Zoe Willis netted a career-best 36 points, with Clare Gold and Megan Jones also scoring 10 points each.
Into the final, the Southend side faced the City of Sheffield Hatters and nothing separated them in the first quarter, the sides tied at 18 all, with Charlotte Bennett, Daisy Herd and Emma Pallett all scoring.
Pallett shot the Swifts into a ten-point lead at half-time but Hatters came roaring back and were leading 56-55 into the final quarter.
However, baskets from Willis, Jones, Gold and two more from Willis made it 69-57 and they tightened their grip and two steals from Daisy Herd settled the game, Swifts running out winners by ten points, 82-72.
Jones was selected as the Most Valuable Player of the Final but this was a remarkable team effort and why this team has been so successful.
Meanwhile, the U-14s progressed to the final following a 65-59 win over Hounslow Hawks after overtime.
Charlotte Ellmore scored early points for Swifts but it was Hawks who led 23-14 at the end of the first quarter. Amelia Wilson, Grace Crook and Chelsea Locke found the basket in the second quarter but they were still trailing 37-27 at the halfway point, with Hounslow taking an eight point advantage into the final play.
Georgia Powell reduced the lead to two with 44 seconds to play and Katie Bennett took the game into overtime with six seconds left on the clock.
Late baskets from Ellmore, Locke and Rhian Simpson recorded a remarkable 65-59 victory against all odds, Ellmore top scoring with 18 points.
Swifts took on the City of Sheffield Hatters in the showpiece and took an early lead through Simpson but Hatters led 24-18 into the first break-in-play.
Simpson, Ellmore, Bennett and the effervescent Shannon Brook all scored in a 9-2 run and the Essex team led 33-32 at one stage before Hatters scored to lead 36-35 at half time.
Sheffield pulled away into the second half of the tie, eventually running out winners by 74 points to 62, Swifts, Ellmore and Simpson top scoring with 13.
Swifts chairman Paul May said: “It was a magnificent weekend for the club. The two semi-final victories were just beyond belief. “We’re all a bit disappointed for our under 14s, who used so much emotion in the semi-final. “The under 16s showed remarkable poise in front of a large and very noisy crowd to produce a superb performance in winning the title.”