Title in the bag, Panthers face a tall order in playoffs

Basketballers bidding for promotion after being crowned champions of the Under-18s South 3 Conference League

Thursday, 24th March — By Zakaria Taibi

Islington Panthers

Islington Panthers won the Under-18s South 3 Conference League

A TEAM of buoyant basketballers booked their place in the National Basketball League (NBL) playoffs on Saturday after conquering the capital.

The Islington Panthers, who train and play their home games at St Aloysius’ College in Highgate, were crowned champions of the Under-18s South 3 Conference League after a resounding final day victory.

In their last game of the regular season they effortlessly beat London Warriors 106-47 at the Kingsley Academy Sports Centre in Hounslow.

The Panthers are now busy preparing for two tough playoff games in April where they will be bidding to win promotion to the Eastern Premier League.

Power-forward Manie Joses, who has been instrumental in the team’s success this season, said: “I’m really proud of myself and our team for this huge achievement – winning the Under-18s South 3 Conference means a lot to us.

“This season has been quite an eventful one where the team has seen major improvements and our focus now is on the playoffs.”

The Panthers will look to pounce and cause an upset when they travel to face Eastern Conference winners Milton Keynes who boast a 100 per cent win record.

Despite having a win percentage of 92.86, Joses and his teammates will very much be the underdogs. The 16-year-old added: “Playing against Milton Keynes in the first round will be interesting because they have a really tall team and everyone is skilled, making them a tough match-up.”

Whatever the playoffs bring, the Panthers have already had an unforgettable season. In January they beat London rivals Richmond Knights to win the Under-16s Sure Shot National Cup.

Head coach William Akuffo said: “We are proud of this team. The aim from the beginning was to make the playoffs and now we need to focus.

“We can’t make it all the way here and not cross the finish line. The playoffs will be our biggest test yet this season, so we need to be ready.”

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