Nike LSB Invitational Basketball Tournament
On the 10th of January Haringey Sixers were invited to play in the prestigious Nike LSB Invitational Basketball Tournament, staged to showcase the best young players from each side of London, in celebration of the NBA coming to London with the big game between the Boston Celtics and the Philadelphia 76’ers at the O2 taking place the day after.
4 invited teams representing North, South, East and West London were spit into 2 semi-finals to compete for a place in the final, from which the winners were to be rewarded with VIP tickets to the NBA game as special guests of Nike Basketball, alongside a huge trophy and being recognised as the first champions of the planned annual event. In addition to the games, which were played on an elevated court with ‘showtime’ lighting and NBA-themed game introductions, the event also featured live DJ’s, game commentary, free food, customised Nike t-shirts for all spectators and a special guest performance by popular grime artist Fekky.
Haringey arrived at the venue to find brand new Nike kits with the H6 logo and players names featured on the jerseys, with brand new Nike socks, towels and a fresh pair of elite basketball playing trainers for each of the players. The players were both appreciative and excited to get on court and represent the college to the very best of their ability.
Haringey were matched up against East London’s Hackney Royals, who were stacked with athletic, talented players who were all on a mission to prove they had what it took to win the tournament. Haringey came out slower than usual in the first quarter, as they seemed to struggle to adjust to the bright lights and prestigious playing platform. Though Ayo Awojobi (the ABL national leading defensive player) was his usual self, plucking off passes and racking up steal after steal, the team as a whole were not playing in sync and as a result, went in at half-time down by 8 points, 30-22.
Head Coach Alex Ducasse calmed the team down during their half-time talk and refocused their attention on they style of play that has worked well for the team so many times before, this season. As a result, Haringey looked like a totally different team in the second half, led by an inspired performance by talented Sixers guard Taiwo Badmus. Badmus began to exert his considerable influence on the game with a series of dribble penetration pull ups that Hackney were unable to answer. Badmus’ play inspired the Sixers to claw back the lead and then push ahead themselves, with Awojobi and the impressive Akile Nyandebvo exploiting seams in the Hackney defense time and time again. With all Haringey players coming together to play as a team, there was no way back for Hackney as the Sixers eased into the final with a comfortable 11 point win, 52-41.
Taiwo Badmus led the Haringey attack with 12 points and 7 rebounds, supported by Ayo Awojobi’s 11 points and game-high 6 steals.
In the other semi-final, local rivals, COHENEL Warriors made light work of South London’s MTS (Make Time Sports), setting a finals showdown between the LSB’s top 2 academies.
Haringey came into the final knowing they have what it takes to beat COHENEL, having recently beaten them in ABL competition and were pumped up to repeat the feat. Sixers started the game on the attack and at times, looked too much for COHENEL to compete with. Defensively, Awojobi was again, his usual self, terrorising the COHENEL guards with his lightning fast hands, enroute to a game high 7 steals. With everyone in sync, the Sixers eased into half-time comfortable in control with a 14 point lead and one eye already on the VIP box at the o2 which awaited the winners.
The second half of the game was a mirror opposite of the first, for both teams. COHENEL came out re-energised and playing with a newfound passion while Haringey played with complacency leading to several lapses on defense which lead to COHENEL slowly clawing their way back into the game.
With Haringey Captain, Taiwo Badmus having to sit out with 4 fouls, the Sixers struggled to find the basket on offense going into the final quarter. COHENEL also switched to a zone defense which slowed down scoring for Haringey even further, as they were taking away from their usual running game.
With less than a minute left in the game and Haringey clinging onto a slim 1 point lead, COHENEL slowed down their offense, finally taking a shot with just 36 seconds left in the game. Fortunately for Haringey, the shot missed, but COHENEL’s Alex Amisi was able to tap the ball back in from the rebound putting COHENEL up by 1. Coach Alex called a time out to set up his final attack, confident Haringey were still well positioned to win the game.
As the play resumed, Haringey passed the ball around the defense, with Akile Nayandebvo cutting through the lane looking for the score. However, the shot bounced off the rim with Amisi again securing the rebound and passing it COHENEL’s TJ Burnett, who broke away for an uncontested fast break lay up. The Sixers came down the court quickly looking to tie the game with a 3 pointer, but good defense from Burnett resulted in a steal for COHENEL, which forced Haringey to have to foul, sending him to the line, where he made 1 of 2 to seal the game and send COHNEL to the O2, with a final score of 29-25.
The Sixers fought hard, but came up short in the end. It was a great opportunity to showcase the academy players and the college as a whole. Even though Haringey took second place in this tournament, valuable lessons were learnt which will take the team forward into the most important stretch of ABL play.
For his strong overall play, Haringey’s Taiwo Badmus was named to the ‘All-Tournament’ team, which recognizes the 5 top players in the tournament.
Haringey top performances in final:
Taiwo Badmus 8 points, 3 rebounds, 3 steals
Ayo Awojobi 6 points, 6 steals
Josh Robinson 6 points