BE U15 Boys Roar at the Lions Cup ’19 in Paris

Posted by on Jun 6, 2019 in Uncategorized | No Comments

The Lions Cup in Paris, France offered a tremendous opportunity for the England U15 boys to experience high-level international competition, with a chance to develop as both individual players and as a group in the face of challenges and new experiences.

The tournament was hosted by St. Charles Basket located in Charenton-le-Pont, a suburb of Paris, with an exceptional team line-up of Poland National Team, Belgrade Selection, SPARS Sarajevo, Nanterre (France), CB L’Hospitalet (Spain), SKM Vilnius (Lithuania) and hosts St. Charles.

Day 1

The team had arrived in Paris the previous evening, and their Friday tournament preparations would include two practices to sharpen skills and become acclimated with each other as a group. The practices took place at “The One Ball,” a state of the art basketball facility built recently to accommodate the Pro B team Paris Basketball, and the Tony Parker gymnasium where the first two days of the tournament would take place.

Two intense practices with Coaches Chris Bourne and Adam Sewell included skill development, defensive principles and basic offensive strategy, as the boys locked in to take on likely some of the best competition they’d faced in their young careers.

Day 2

England’s first game of the tournament was against Belgrade Select, the reigning Lions Cup champions who had size, strength and a lot of skill. Belgrade played tough, physical basketball and scored both inside and outside, running efficient ball screen action to pick apart the defense and find open layups and shots.

It was a hugely tough test for the English boys, who struggled to break down Belgrade’s relentless defensive efforts and couldn’t contain their offensive prowess, and the Serbian’s ran away 81-56 winners.

Head Coach Chris Bourne said “It was a very valuable experience for the boys to play in such a tough environment against a strong Belgrade team. The guys acquitted themselves well and competed at both ends of the floor, and now it’s about playing more consistently at this level.”

The boys had some lunch and took the chance to re-group before their 2nd game against another physically imposing and defensive-minded Polish National Team. The Polish team fought hard for every single loose ball and rebound and put immense pressure on the ball-handlers of the teams they played against. While they weren’t as offensively refined as the Serbians, they showed great ability in finishing around the basket and had shooters on the floor at all times to knock down long 2’s and 3’s.

England faced another battle where they were outmatched physically, and the Polish team’s size, strength and tenacity caused the boys a lot of difficulty in the early stages of the game. However in the 2nd half the England boys re-grouped and played a great 16 minutes of basketball, making smarter decisions offensively and fighting on the defensive end. However Poland had amassed too large of a lead in the first half and won the game 71-37.

Head Coach Chris Bourne said “It was another tough challenge for us, where we were a bit disappointed at half-time as a team because we didn’t compete to the level required. We identified that we needed to raise our level and did a much better job in the 2nd half, and the guys felt much happier after the game because of it.”

That evening the team were taken into central Paris on a whirlwind sightseeing tour, which included a boat trip on the River Seine that went past such sights as the Eiffel Tower and the ruins of Notre Dame Cathedral. It was a tremendous opportunity for the boys to experience such an amazing city and gave them a chance to relax before their next two tournament games.

Day 3

The team’s final group game was against hosts St. Charles Basket, a quick and athletic team that looked to play the passing lanes and run the floor hard. Their guards were small, fast and aggressive and it would be the first game of the tournament in which the England boys would match up on size and strength.

The game proved to be a thrilling end to end battle, with England holding a small lead for most of the game thanks to crisp ball movement and hot shooting, while containing the speedy French guards on the defensive end. However St. Charles put the ball in their key players hands in the crunch time and they produced, taking a 3-point lead in the final 30 seconds and holding on for a 35-32 victory. It was a disappointing loss for the England boys who had battled so hard for the entire game, but again provided another vital learning experience.

Head Coach Chris Bourne said “We definitely took a step forward in the 3rd game, after setting the benchmark in the 2nd half of the Poland game. We had our strongest start of the tournament, and even though the guys are disappointed we didn’t get the win, ultimately it’s about us getting better.”

A break from play ensued in order to run the preliminary rounds of the 3-point contest and skills challenge, during which the England boys got some much-needed rest and ate their lunch.

The loss against St. Charles left the England U15’s in 4th place in their group, putting them in the consolation bracket where they would face the 3rd place team from the second group, Nanterre of France. Like St. Charles, Nanterre played fast and aggressive basketball, taking advantage of their quick and skilled backcourt while trying to force opponents into making bad passes and taking rushed shots.

England got off to a great start, playing much better team basketball and creating great scoring opportunities that they converted both around the basket and from the perimeter. They dominated the boards at both ends, with multiple offensive rebounds that led to put-backs or fouls drawn on the Nanterre defense. The team morale was high and they cruised to victory 84-65.

Head Coach Chris Bourne said “It was really good for the guys to get the win to build confidence and as a reward for all their efforts in the tournament so far. We showed a lot of toughness despite the players being tired.”

After their final game of the evening they headed to the restaurant for dinner, which was followed by individual player meetings and an early night back at the hotel in preparation for their final game of the tournament.

Day 4

The team’s last game of the tournament would be the 5th place playoff versus St. Charles at the Nelson Paillou Gymnasium, a beautiful stadium where all of the final placing games were held. The boys were determined to avenge the previous day’s loss against the host team, and started the game on fire as they poured in a barrage of long-range scores to open up the lead right from the jump.

There were parts of the game that became scrappy as St. Charles fought to stay in contention, but the team chemistry of the English boys was blossoming and they stuck together to continue their strong offensive display. Every player contributed on the court and the England U15 boys won the game 76-49.

Assistant Coach Adam Sewell said “Everyone really pulled together in today’s game and it was great to finish the tournament strong. The players did everything we as a coaching staff asked for.”

The 3rd place and championship games were played, with the Belgrade Select team taking the overall title after defeating the Poland National Team in the final. The games were followed by the closing ceremony, in which the England boys received the “fair play” award, a testament to their stellar character and attitude throughout the tournament.

After saying their goodbyes to the tournament staff, including Jerome the wonderful team attaché, the boys headed to dinner at a local restaurant and then back to the hotel to pack their bags for the 7.30 am Eurostar the following morning.

A huge thank you to St. Charles and the town of Charenton-le-Pont for being such fantastic hosts for our players and staff, and we look forward to returning to the Lions Cup with future England national teams. Special mention to all the parents and supporters of the group that joined the team in Paris to cheer the team on, bringing fantastic energy to every game from the sidelines.

Head Coach Chris Bourne’s final thoughts were “It was a great tournament for the boys as everything that happened has been a learning opportunity, and they have worked really hard to get better from it. All the players did what we asked them to do with the challenge of getting better every single day, and our objective was accomplished in that respect.”