Going up! Panthers seal promotion

Basketball aces cap remarkable campaign with move up to next level

Thursday, 14th April — By Zakaria Taibi

Islington Panthers

A LINE-UP featuring some of the most talented young basketballers in north London has been promoted to the Eastern Premier Division of the National Basketball League (NBL) after capping a slam-dunking season on Saturday.

The Islington Panthers, who train and play their home games at St Aloysius’ College in Highgate, toppled the John Roan Greenwich Titans 73-61 in their play-off final to conclude one of the club’s most successful ever campaigns.

What made the victory even more remarkable was the fact that the Under-18s side had to do it without one of their star players, Manie Joses, who had contributed 32 points in their previous game.

But with the power-forward on holiday with his family, Vanga Miguel Amando helped fill the void as he scored 16 points at Thomas Tallis School in Greenwich. Tyresse Poku Mensah also continued his on-court dominance as he top-scored for the Panthers with 24 points.

“It feels great to be promoted,” said Amando after the game.

“We can now face better competition next season and see where our game is at. I believe we will be able to handle the pressure of the Eastern Premier and it will be a good experience for us as players.

Vanga Miguel Amando

“This is the best thing that’s ever happened to us but as a team we’re still not satisfied – we’re still hungry and we want to achieve more.”

Despite finding themselves 18-16 down after the first quarter, the Panthers continued to roar forward and opened up a 36-25 lead at the halfway stage. They extended that advantage to 51-35 in the third quarter, amassing what would prove an unassailable lead.

As if such a success story needs any more twists and turns, the Panthers were often ranked as underdogs when they stepped out on to the court this season as they were one of the youngest squads in the Under-18s South 3 Conference League – the regional division that they conquered to reach the play-off.

But it was clear that big things were coming for William Akuffo’s team back in January when – reverting to a more familiar age group – they won the Under-16s Sure Shot National Cup.

“This season has been a really good one,” said coach Akuffo. “The boys have achieved great results – myself and the club are very proud of the team.

“Knowing the teams we will be facing next season, it will be difficult, but I’m very excited and looking forward to every game.

“We will be working hard in the off-season to prepare for the challenge.”

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