- National Teams
The 2014-15 EABL regular season has come to an end, and the playoffs are officially upon us. Check out the first round Sweet 16 match-ups, which will see eight teams left standing in the next round – which will also be seeded for the first time.
(1) Myerscough v (8) Moulton
Myerscough, amongst the team leaders in almost every statistical category, sealed the number one seed in the North in the last week of the season after defeating Preston. They suffered just one loss on the season, a two point defeat at the hands of Derby, to go 15-1 and dominate the North.
Myerscough’s season has been characterised by a team effort, with no less than 7 players averaging over 9 points a game, led by Montel Dennis’ 15 points per outing and England Under-18 point guard Alex Roberts’ 13.8 points and 3.4 assists per game. With Earl Russell and Emmanuel Kabengele being forces inside, Myerscough have depth that will give any team trouble.
Moulton on the other hand, snuck into the playoffs with a 6-9 record and are the definite underdogs, having suffered a 101-53 loss at the hands of Myerscough the only time these two teams matched up during the regular season, in January.
Linas Bajorunas is their star player and will be the focus of Myerscough’s defence. Bajorunas is averaging 27 points, 11.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 3.5 steals per game, all while shooting over 50% from the field.
(2) Preston v (7) Allerton
Along with Myerscough, Preston have been a dominant force in the North, going 12-2 on the season to lock up the second seed.
Preston have the second highest offensive rating in the EABL, and are also the league’s best rebounders, with Cameron King finishing sixth in the league at 11.1rpg, and Melkisedek Moreaux averaging 10.1 to go with his 20.5 points per game.
England U18 Kyle Carey has been Preston’s best offensive player, averaging 21 points (good for eighth in the league), along with 7.6 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 3 steals per game.
Allerton make the playoffs in their debut season in the EABL, going 7-6 to finish a game above .500, however, have won just 1 of their last three games heading into the playoffs.
James Banton has been their star player, averaging 23.0ppg (fifth in the league), while being ably supported by England U18 point guard Danny Evans (11.6ppg, 6.3rpg, 5.5apg, 3.3spg) who has stuffed the stat sheet.
Though they won both games in their previous match-ups, Preston’s victories were not both blowouts. They dominated the opener, 84-56, but in the rematch in March, escaped with a 63-54 win.
(3) Charnwood v (6) Loreto
Looking to build upon their Final Four appearance last year, Charnwood College enter the playoffs as the number three seed, after going 13-3 on the season.
With the second highest defensive rating in the league this season, Charnwood’s focus will no doubt want to be at that end of the floor. Recent UTEP signing Josh McSwiggan will be looking to make his final season with Charnwood one to remember, as he has been their leader with a 19.3ppg average. Hafeez Abdul has been his partner in crime (14.9 points and 7.3 rebounds) after joining the squad from Harris Academy Beckenham for this year.
For Loreto, who finished 10-5, a balanced scoring effort with four guys averaging double figures is led by Raheem Idris who is another of the EABL’s 20ppg+ scorers this season (21.4), He’s joined by fellow current or former junior internationals in Joe Swindells, Ayo Nuwe and Hamad Ali as Paul Middleton’s team has managed to cover the loss of a number of his players who headed to the US last season.
Both match ups between the two squads this season hav been close, though Charnwood were on the right side of them, getting an 82-77 win in their opener, and then a 75-69 victory when they met in the AoC cup.
(4) Milton Keynes v (5) Derby
The final match-up in the North sees last year’s Final Four team Milton Keynes College take on Derby College/Noel Baker School.
Milton Keynes finished 12-4, and were led by reigning MVP Michael New Jr, who had another impressive season as he averaged 23.7 points, 7.6 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 3.9 steals per game, while leading the league in efficiency rating. Max Denham, averaging 17.3 points and 6.5 assists per game, has provided ample back up from the point guard position.
Derby, went 11-5 and despite finishing fifth, can beat anyone on their day – being the only team to have upset Myerscough. Jake Wesselingh has been the high man for Derby with his 19.5ppg, while Kayne King will provide a good match up for Denham, as he has filled every statistical category with averages of 12.3 points, 5 rebounds, 8.7 assists (league leader) and 3.3 steals.
It was Milton Keynes who won the only match up between these two teams this season, getting an 88-69 victory in November.
(1) SGS v (8) EHWLC
SGS want to go a step further than last season, where they suffered a heartbreaking loss in the final to Barking Abbey. Having gone undefeated last year, their only loss came in the final – this year they suffered two losses, going 16-2, as they will look to make up for it when it matters most.
They returned their core this year, led by the ‘big three’ of Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye (18.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 5.5 assist and 2.0 steals), Tamas Okros (16.4ppg, 8.0rpg, and 2.9apg) and Deane Williams (16.4ppg, 12.9rpg, 1.8apg, 1.2spg, and 1.4bpg), who will all be looking for one last title run before departing.
For EHWLC, it will be a tough match up, finishing the season 7-11. Having struggled since the departure of England U18 Jules Dang Akodo to Germany, EHWLC have lost 8 of their last 10 games. Kevaun McKenzie is holding the scoring load, averaging 20.3ppg (and 7.3rpg, 2.3apg and 2.5spg), while point guard Maurice Gilbert is handing out 4.1 helpers per game to go with his 11.5 points.
EHWLC met SGS in their final game of the season, and suffered a 106-49 blowout.
(2) Itchen v (7) Canterbury
Itchen College have been the surprise team of the EABL this season, using balanced team play to finish with a 16-2 record to match SGS but secure the second seed.
Charlie Coombes has led Itchen in scoring with 17.4 points per outing, while lefty guard Elliot James is adding 16.4 to be their only two players in double figures. Itchen have had a number of notable victories against other top teams this season, being one of only two to defeat SGS, while also blowing out Copleston.
For Canterbury, James Lloyd has been their leader, averaging 17.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 5.3 assists, while Dave Couchman has dominated down low, scoring 14.1 points, along with 9.7 rebounds and 1.7 blocks. Canterbury are the sixth best three point shooting the EABL, as they will look to hurt Itchen from deep.
Itchen and Canterbury’s only encounter of the season was a close one, as Itchen escaped with a 63-60 victory – it will be all to play for in their match up.
(3) Copleston v (6) Plymouth
Copleston ran out to a 15-3 record this season for the third seed, led by EABL leading duo, Sam Newman and Luke Mascall-Wright.
Newman finishes as the league leading scorer, at 30.3ppg, while Luke Mascall-Wright finished third, with 23.8ppg. Both players make contributions across the stat sheet, a testament to them finishing third and second in efficiency rating, respectively. Any plan Plymouth have to beat Copleston will need to be focused on stopping them both.
Copleston will match up with sixth seed Plymouth, who went 11-7, led by another of the top individual performers in the league this season, in Jose Malo. Malo is averaging 21.2 points and 11.1 rebounds for Plymouth, and is supported by Reece Thomas-Wright (15.1 points and 7.0 rebounds) and Diogo Oliviera (14.5 points).
Copleston got a slim 99-91 win over Plymouth in their only match up of the season.
(4) Barking Abbey v (5) Hackney
Defending champions Barking Abbey could only secure the fourth seed, going 14-4, however the squad that will suit up for the playoffs is likely to be one that was only seen on a couple of occasions this season.
Last year’s Finals MVP Josh Steel, has only appeared in two EABL games this season, but having led Kent Crusaders to the Division 1 Men’s title, will return to the squad, along with fellow D1 squad members, Akwasi Yeboah, Calvin Nevill-Kintu, Nathan Smith, Karolis Kundrotas, Reis Pinnock, and Dwayne Orija – all junior international level players.
Diarmuid O’Shea has held the floor in their absence, averaging 13.6ppg, along with point guard Malik Griffith-Johnson, who has chipped in 12.5 points, 4.7 rebounds and 4.4 assists.
Hackney, who also finished 14-4, will bring an East London rivalry, with five players who average double digits led by guard Arif Sempala’s 20.5ppg (ninth in the league). With Rossano Dias, Ola Ayodele, Jonathan James and Johnathan Lashley, Hackney have a strong and hungry group looking for an upset.
Hackney having lost both games to BA, in their two match-ups this season, one by only two points in OT.
Sweet 16: Wednesday 21st April
Elite 8: Wednesday 29th April
Final Fours: 8th/9th May at UEL Sports Dock (join the Facebook event here)
Catch up with all the statistical leaders in the EABL here.