U14’s Final Fours – Coach Josh

As a coach, there aren’t many things that make you prouder than witnessing a team come together at the right time. So many keys go into achieving success: belief, desire, discipline, and teamwork just to name a few. Our U14 squad collectively showed many of these qualities at the most opportune time: the playoffs.

If you only looked at the records and seedings, there was a good chance you’d have counted out London Thunder in the early rounds. Prior to our matchup with the Manchester Magic in the 1/4 Finals of the England Basketball playoffs, many across the basketball country had already penned the Magic to advance to the Final 4s. It didn’t go down that way. Our boys played an unbelievable game – easily my favourite performance of the season – took care of business, and qualified for the Final 4. Next up? The Mansfield Giants.

Our kids had been to the Final 4 before, so the players knew that the practices leading up to the tournament weren’t just going to be important, they were going to be brutal. 20 suicides in 20 minutes for conditioning, repetition after repetition of defensive rotations, press-breaker procedures – that was the type of work that the boys knew was needed to give us a chance to win. Let’s hope they never forget that.

An early Saturday morning train means an early wake-up call; our boys were ready. No seats on the train? No time to complain; the focus was on the mission. The mindset going into the semi-final was one of pure confidence, and we could all sense it. There was no way we weren’t coming out on top. The game was tough and very close. It went back and forth the entire 40 minutes. In the end, we hit big shots, made timely free throws, and got the defensive stops we needed to edge out the Mansfield Giants by 1 point. More often than not, it’s the seemingly small details that are the difference between living on to play the next day, or the end of your season. For us, it was the willingness to take a charge and then execute a box-out that won us the game. We had 1 more game in us.

The Final vs. Greenhouse Pioneers was interesting, to say the least. Simply put: we weren’t able to bring our best effort. As nice as it was to get to the final, I know our boys wanted to win the gold. Coming up short will surely motivate them moving forward, and now, they should look ahead to the off-season to work on every part of their games. That’s the best way to ensure that the next time they’re in that position to earn that gold, they’ll know exactly what to do. Big time players make big time plays in big time games – that’s the kind of experience and mindset I’d love for all of our players to have for the rest of their basketball careers.