SOUTHEND Rockets’ under 18 side have been crowned champions of the National League East Conference.

Basketball England opted to to stop the final two round of fixtures due to the coronavirus pandemic.

But the unbeaten Rockets had already done enough to secure the league title after winning all 16 of their games.

And coach Josh Prentice was quick to praise his players.

“I am immensely proud of the team’s achievements on the basketball court,” said Prentice.

“They have been trailblazers this season, surging from one game to the next, gaining experience and momentum in the process.

“Winning the league in undefeated fashion is laudable and should be celebrated, however for me, this is eclipsed by their achievements off the court.”

And Prentice was thrilled with the togetherness of his squad.

“They achieved something even more allusive, a brotherhood,” said Prentice.

“They created a fraternity of support, motivation and accountability.

“They supported each other through challenging and distressing times off the court.

“They even gave each other a shoulder to cry on at the loss of the great Kobe Bryant.

“All of this was done while remaining humble and empathetic, as well as using their influence positively as role models.

“The team were an inspiration to myself and the club and will be remembered for as long as a basketball bounces in a Southend Rockets gym.”

The nucleus of the Rockets squad has been together for a number of seasons and their success comes after many years of hard work.But it was far from easy to finish top of the table.

“It was a tough league which featured some stiff opposition including several nationally renowned powerhouses including the likes of West Herts Warriors, Milton Keynes Trojans, Brentwood Leopards and Northamptonshire Titans,” said Prentice.

“But we managed to maintain a perfect record of 16 wins and this is the first time in club history that such an accolade has been achieved.

“Only a handful of boys teams in Essex have ever gone undefeated in the National League.

Rockets’ biggest win of the season saw them thrash Braintree Blue Devils 139-36 and most of the youngsters also pushed on to play for the club’s senior men’s team who finished fourth in Essex Division One.

The under 14 girls team finished fifth in the South Conference in the club’s first ever season for a female team. The under 14 boys side came ninth in the National Premier League while the under 16s took 10th.