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Friday, 29 May 2015

Gain in Spain as Thorns are too sharp for Port

THE TOURISTS: Winners Barrow Thorns  (in red) on court in Lloret de Mar with opponents from Ellesmere Port. The Thorns are Zac Mooney (6), Sam Hearty (1),  Danny Smith (7),  James Preston (8), Sam Lightfoot (5), Nathan Watters (4), Jonathan FranceSUBMITTED PICTURE


THORNS basketball club last week set off on an ambitious tour to Loret De Mar (Spain) to take part in the top Eurobasket tournament.

This is an annual event held in the first week in July and open to a variety of age groups.

There were 16 countries involved at various age groups, with teams from Venezuela (South America), Connecticut (USA) and a host of teams from throughout Europe.

Thorns had entered the tournament in three age groups, under-13, under-14 and under-15 and were accompanied from the UK by current National Champions, Ellesmere Port.

The tour was a tremendous success for the travelling group from Furness, as their youngest team produced a series of outstanding performances.

In their first game the team played the Spanish club CEP Vallfogona and on the back of impressive performances from James Preston, Zac Mooney and Danny Smith, completely shattered the Spanish team with some exhilarating fast break basketball to secure an impressive 94-23 victory.

In their second game the team secured a hard-fought victory against the South American team from Venezuela, Ignacia De Loyola by 43-26.

Nathan Osten was outstanding in this game and along with Sam Hearty scored the bulk of Thorns points.

In their next game Thorns faced up to Ellesmere Port’s A team and despite another good performance from Nathan Osten, who was fouled out of the game in the middle of the second half, they narrowly lost by 76-69.

Thorns then faced up to the Cheshire side’s B team, and with Sam Lightfoot and Nathan Watters excelling to shore-up Thorns leaky defence, they secured a comfortable 50-30 victory.

With Thorns and Ellesmere Port A team both progressing to the final.

This match was played in front of a packed audience, with nearly 40 Furness followers and 60 from Ellesmere Port adding to the local spectators.

The atmosphere was electric as the locals joined with the travelling fans to create a cauldron of noise which was daunting to the extreme for such young players.

The match followed that of the earlier encounter between the two teams, as they matched basket for basket until Thorns took a narrow lead entering the final quarter.

At this point Thorns decided to mark the Ellesmere Port guard man for man with the rest of the team falling back into the zone to prevent drives to basket.

This tactic worked perfectly as Jonathan France produced an excellent defensive display to help stem their opponents scoring while baskets from James Preston, Nathan Osten and Sam Hearty sent Thorns to a thrilling 59-49 victory.

The Thorns supporters spilled onto the court as the final whistle saw scenes of wild delirium as the Thorns youngsters realised the magnitude of their victory.

Thorns’ other travelling sides also had a series of successes as the under-14s defeated Lloret De Mar and Tragoda, only to lose to Ellesmere Port and Stradella (Italy).

Without the services of Jamie Park, who had been injured in an earlier match, Thorns then faced Lloret for a second time in a third place play-off.

Thorns started badly as they trailed by 17 points at the interval with no players performing to their potential. As the teams started the second half Thorns again failed to respond and harsh words at the end of the quarter saw a thrilling fightback led by James Bonner and Matthew France.

With one minute remaining Thorns had reduced the gap to just six points, when a long-range attempt from Bexley Bathie took the gap to just three points.

Josh Fitzgerald then sank two free throws and a final free throw from James Bonner tied the game and sent the teams into overtime.

Thorns were now on a roll and on the back of a strong defensive effort secured a thrilling 69-64 victory to take third place overall in the tournament.

After two victories against Greek side Kissova and Spanish side Vallfagona and a loss against

Stradella(Italy), Thorns oldest team, their U16s, almost produced the upset of the tournament.

The Barrow team were involved in a thrilling encounter, this time against previous winners, Pamphili (Italy).

Once again Thorns were faced with an uphill battle, as in their first game of the tournament they had lost Buster Evans with a broken hand. Entering the final quarter Thorns trailed by ten points and looked to be out of contention.

However with an inspirational display from Ashley Mowat and Matthew Quegan, Thorns levelled the scores with four minutes remaining.

The Italians were clearly rocking and the game erupted as one of their players was ejected from the game for verbal abuse against the officials, that almost led to a physical attack on one of his own players.

Thorns took advantage to race into a five point lead with just two minutes remaining. Mathew Isherwood was then fouled out of the game and Thorns collapsed under intense Italian pressure which saw them take the game into extra time with Thorns still having led by one point with 16 seconds remaining.

The extra period proved one step too far for Thorns as they failed to cope with intense Italian defence which saw their opponents move to a 69-62 victory. In their final game for 5th/6th place Thorns failed to match the heights of the night, before as they lost to another Italian side by 66-32.