The 2019/2020 season has seen the Bulldogs junior teams enter new leagues and reach new heights. Thanks to the hard work of our players and numerous volunteers our junior programme is stronger than I've ever seen it. Below are my thoughts and highlights on another memorable year.
We re-entered the National Basketball League at the Under 16 age category. The season started with a difficult cup road trip to Bucks Hornets, falling to a difficult established NBL opponent. Following the summer's trials the fixture provided Bulldogs debuts for Maxi Webster-Coles and Matthew & James Bailey, who quickly showed veteran leadership that our young team would need in the long season ahead. Bulldogs then travelled to Maidstone, with fellow veteran Tavis Coulson also making his debut and impressing with his impact on both ends of the floor.
Bulldogs needed to wait until facing Brentwood at Skyliner before registering the season's first victory. Led by the defensive dominance of captain Woody Jackson and the clutch game control and scoring of Joe Whiteman, the Bulldogs secured a memorable nail-biting win. The calendar year finished on a less cheerily with Bulldogs letting a game slip through their fingers against Northants - With Samuel Godsmark leading Bulldogs offensively, It looked as if Joseph Franks behind the back layup had secured victory, until Northants scored on the final possession of the game. The loss hurt badly, but was the wake-up we needed for a strong 2020.
With the NYBL competition keeping the players game-sharp, in 2020 the Under 16's steam-rolled to back-to-back victories back at home as Skyliner. Aiden Steel earned player of the game honours against Maidstone, leading the press defence and successfully attacking the basket. Bulldogs then defeated Brentwood again, but did so comfortably demonstrating the progress that had been made by the group through the season. John Cowie's debut raised the Bulldogs to new heights, providing further veteran toughness. The victory also show-casing the pipeline of talent with both Will Witham and Corey Rose registering on the score sheet and being central to our strongest quarter.
At local level, Bulldogs entered the Norfolk Youth Basketball League at Under 13, 15 & 18 age categories. The competition provided over 30 fixtures, with Bulldogs finishing with a win ratio just shy of 50%.
At under 13 level Eliza Bartholomew became the first league wide Bulldogs MVP. Throughout the season Eliza highlighted the strength and development of our girls teams, commanding the offensive end along with Katie Hollis and Livvy Jackson. The season saw strong debuts for Sonnie Hand and Ollie Salisbury who immediately settled in to the Bulldog culture.
At Under 15 level the Bulldogs rising stars of Noah Sparks-Shepherd, Samuel Evans, Augustinas Dambrauskus and Oscar Darnell were central to the team's development, showcasing our strength across age groups.
At Under 18 level veteran's Kacper Kasica, Arain Broderick, Colby Hartwell and Luka Kohler elevated the Bulldogs to compete at this physically much more demanding level. Supported by senior club members Brandon Marshall, Luca Beadle and Jim Walker, our oldest junior team registered important victories against Norwich, Great Yarmouth and Kings Lynn, showcasing our pathway and development towards competing at senior level.
It has been a relentless season and one in which I look back on with fond memories of how strong our Junior set up is becoming, reassuring me of the strength that is emerging in to the senior set up.
I'd like to thank the Bulldogs committee and volunteers for facilitating a fantastic season and giving so many young talented athletes their opportunity to represent our club.
- Coach Seb Benford