Panthers poised! Basket­ballers edge towards playoffs

Club celebrating 20th anniversary could be crowned champions this weekend

Thursday, 17th March — By Zakaria Taibi

Islington Panthers Two

Islington Panthers celebrate winning the Under-16s Sure Shot National Cup. Photos: Basketball England

A SQUAD featuring some of the best young basket­ballers in north London are just one win away from reaching the National Basketball League (NBL) playoffs.

The Islington Panthers were celebrating on their home court at St Aloysius’ College in Highgate on Saturday after beating title rivals London Legends by just four points.

The pulsating 71-67 victory means that if the Panthers now overcome a London Warriors side who are stranded at the bottom of the table this weekend in Feltham they will be crowned champions of the Under-18s South 3 Conference League.

Tyresse Poku Mensah

And a title triumph would simply ignite a whole new challenge for the Panthers, who would then face a series of tough playoff matches against other regional winners in April in a bid to gain promotion to the Eastern Premier League.

Tyresse Poku Mensah, who scored 29 of the 71 points against the Legends, revealed what makes the Panthers’ on-court success even more striking is the fact that the majority of the team are actually playing up an age group.

He said: “Winning the league and having the chance to qualify for the playoffs would be a great achievement for us, especially since most of our team are Under-16s.

“We have got great potential to do big things.”

Teammate Berkay Dennis Sahin was celebrating more than just the victory on Saturday as the points were the perfect present for his 17th birthday.

“It felt very good to win,” said the St Aloysius’ College pupil. “We had to win this game to give us a chance for the playoffs. It would be a big achievement to reach the playoffs as Under-18s as we haven’t done it before.

Berkay Dennis Sahin

“We can go very far. We’ve got a very good team, and a lot of people that can score. We can definitely make some noise.”

Whatever the remainder of the season brings, the Panthers can look back on what has been an unforgettable campaign.

In January, MVP Poku Mensah helped his side get the better of London rivals Richmond Knights to win the Under-16s Sure Shot National Cup.

The talented point guard closed with a game-high 32 points, plus seven steals, five assists and four rebounds as the Panthers ran out 81-61 victors.

Teammate Manie Joses also contributed a huge 28-point, 21-rebound double-double to go with seven assists, two steals and three blocks. By the final whistle Joses and Poku Mensah were responsible for 60 of the Panthers’ 81 points.

And there could be no better time to land a national trophy, with the club celebrating their 20th anniversary this year.

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