National success for junior Thunder teams

Worthing Thunder juniors celebrate after being crowned national champions. Picture by Mansoor Ahmed
Worthing Thunder juniors celebrate after being crowned national champions. Picture by Mansoor Ahmed

Worthing Thunder’s junior teams made a splash at the National Basketball Performance Centre in Manchester as the club’s under-14 and under-16 teams won national titles on Sunday.

The under-16 team, who are managed by former Thunder head coach Daniel Hildreth, overcame Newham Youngbloods in the semi-final on Saturday to book a place in the final.

Thunder’s young guns then followed up by dispatching Haringey Hawks 80-68 less than 24 hours later to be crowned national champions at under-16 level.

England junior international, Hosana Kitenge, deservedly collected the MVP award after stuffing the statsheet.

The 16-year-old scored 13 points, 19 rebounds, three steals and three blocks in the semi-final, before adding another 16 points, 17 rebounds, five assists two steals and six blocks in the final.

Thunder’s under-16 head coach Hildreth felt the success was a real team effort and said: “It was a total team effort evident in the fact we had five guys in double figures.

“These boys were told on day one of training that I believe we could win a championship and they proved me right.

"We have such passion and a truly respectful group of young men and we are all so grateful for the support, it’s a weekend we will cherish forever.”

This was not the only national success for an age-group Thunder team this weekend, though, with the under-14 team achieving the same feat.

Mark Richards’ team saw off City of Birmingham 99-72 in Saturday’s semi-final to set-up a championship decider with London Thunder Lewisham the following day.

Not to be overshadowed by the under-16’s, Thunder’s under-14 team cruised past Thunder Lewisham 87-72 in the final to also collect a national title.

Cameron Hildreth followed up his explosive 37-point, ten-rebound double-double in Saturday’s semi-final with an impressive haul of 34 points, seven rebounds and six steals in the final.

It was a second national age-group title for this particular group of Thunder players and head coach Richards believes this was another remarkable achievement.

He said: “To achieve the first national championship two years ago was fantastic but to do it again was absolutely amazing.

“The boys have worked hard on improving their game, as individuals, but even more so as a team all season. They peaked at the right time and I’m proud of everyone of the boys.”

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