Basketball returned with a bang to Oaklands College on Sunday as St Albans Wolves staged two under-16 pre-season tournaments.
Both Wolves teams won their semi-finals before going down in the title game but with a fortnight remaining before the National League season starts, it was a great warm-up for the home sides. Games were played with eight, rather than than the usual ten, minute periods with teams playing a semi-final and gold or bronze game.
Wolves girls faced Winchester City Royals in the semi-final, and after a disappointing first period they held the visitors scoreless for almost all of the second period on their way to a 41-22 victory. Amye Swinney led the scoring with ten points, Caitlin Ryan added nine and Joanna Akpan finished with six points before leaving the game early with a knee injury.
Having seen Richmond six times at under-14/15/16 levels last season, it came as no surprise that Wolves faced Knights in the final after the London side had beaten Brentwood Leopard 98-6 in the other semi-final.
The final proved to be a bit of a disaster for Wolves as they trailed 16-4 at the first break and 31-8 at half-time. The second half saw a much better performance but it wasn't enough to prevent Knights running out 55-24 winners Akpan returned to lead the hosts with ten points, Swinney adding six.
A strong fourth period fightback from Sevenoaks Suns wasn't enough to prevent Wolves' boys progressing to the final as they moved on to the final with a 64-61 victory.
Wolves were 56-39 up at the final break, but as coach Ibrahim Gariba ran his bench, the Kent side finished strongly. Simon Patasin led the hosts with 20 points, Ethan Downing adding ten and Larry Clark eight.
The final against Kent Crusaders saw the visitors live up to their reputation a one of the best sides in the country as they raced into a 16-6 lead before an absolutely stunning second saw Wolves outscore Ken 24-4 to lead 30-20 at half-time.
Thirteen unanswered points midway through the third period saw Crusaders take control again and the visitors led 43-27 at the final break before shading the fourth quarter to win the tournament with a 57-47 victory. Patasin again led Wolves with 14 points, Clark finishing with ten and Downing eight.
Wolves wrap up pre-season on Sunday with the girls facing the under-14 boys and Richmond before the boys hosts Woking.