- National Teams
Sussex Bears held on for a 58-57 win over Team Birmingham Elite to claim the 2017 National Shield on Sunday afternoon at Herts Sports Village.
Hank Rivers picked up MVP, dominating inside for 25 points and 14 rebounds, 10 of which came on the offensive end.
With Sussex appearing firmly in control for the majority of the game, Birmingham – made up primarily of Under-19 academy players from EABL side Bournville College – turned up the heat in the fourth quarter, going on a furious rally over the final five and a half minutes after trailing by 9.
Birmingham outscored Sussex 15-7 over the final minutes, bringing the game to within one with a little over a minute to play but neither team were able to convert the rest of the way as time ran out on Birmingham, whose last gasp three point attempt was not released in time.
“It feels nice,” said Sussex Head Head Coach Gary Smith, who grew up with Team Birmingham coaches Steve Hansell and Nigel Hanson.
“The club has been around three years, this is our first championship, it feels good. We didn’t play particularly well, but at the same time, a win is a win, a win is a win!”
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“Yes and no. That was there run, we know basketball is about runs, but at the end of the day, we stuck it out, we did what we were supposed to do. We knew Birmingham were going to come with something, why? Because it’s in their nature, it’s how they play, scrappy but very well coached as a basketball team so they were always going to make a run, but luckily for us the time ran out.”
“It feels good, I ain’t been here since Worthing days so it feels good,” MVP Rivers said after the game. “I’m back and I can’t complain!
“I wasn’t worried, they’re young so they are going to be scrappy, they got a lot of energy, the game is like that, a lot of runs. We contained them at the end and got the W, that’s all that matters.”
Bud Johnston had 16 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists as the only other player in double figures for Sussex.
Birmingham were led by 17 points and 9 rebounds from Meris Mazalovic, and 14 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists from David Stevic.