EABL Playoff Preview: Sweet 16

The 2013-14 EABL regular season has come to an end, and the playoffs are officially upon us. Check out the first round Sweet 16 match-ups, which will see eight teams left standing in the next round.

Loreto 6th Form College v Gateway College

Monday 28th April 2014, at Loreto College (TBC)

Loreto come into the game as the first seed from the North Sea Conference, finishing the regular season at 10-2.

In the midst of a five game winning steak, Loreto will match-up with Gateway College (8-6), who after struggling at beginning of the season, finished the season on their own five game winning streak to make the playoffs as fourth seed from the All Midlands Conference.

Loreto are led by the 7’1″ Aaron Menzies, who is averaging just short of a double double on the season, 12.5 points and 9.8 rebounds per game on 69% shooting and at times dominating the paint against opponents. With shooting guard Pharroh Gordon (11.8ppg, 6.3rpg, 3.0apg), Loreto have an impressive 1-2 punch, who will also likely be suiting up for England Under-18s this summer. Add in fellow junior internationals Kingsley Nwagboso and Joe Swindells, and Loreto will be heavy favourites going into the game.

Umar Siddique leads Gateway College, who are coached by England Under-18 Head Coach, Karl Brown. Siddique is averaging 10.8 ppg, for a team who have a balanced attack with a number of different players stepping up at any one time.

Gateway will no doubt have their work cut out to pull an upset, but with a coach who knows Loreto’s best two players’ own tendencies well, they could just be up to the task.

Myerscough College v Derby College/Noel Baker School

3:30pm, Wednesday 9th April 2014, at Myerscough College

EABL newcomers Myerscough (10-2) went 2-3 through their first five games of the season, but haven’t lost a game since, riding an eight game winning streak to finish second of the North Sea Conference to set up a match-up with third placed Derby College/Noel Baker School from the All Midlands Conference.

Led by Andre Gayle, who has been deadly accurate from long range, averaging 20.1ppg on the season on 56% shooting from beyond the arc, Myerscough also have help from Trevor Samuels (16.3ppg, 7.5rpg) and Montel Dennis’ 11.4ppg, that has led them to have the second highest scoring output in the entire EABL (81.4ppg), whilst being the most accurate from beyond the arc (as a team they are shooting 41.4% from three).

“It’s a great achievement for us to be involved in the playoffs during our first competitive season, I think we’ve earned it,” said Myerscough Head Coach Neal Hopkins. “We’re looking forward to playing Derby, they come to us with a decent record and it’ll be a challenge.

“I’m confidence my guys can put in a good performance.”

Injury ravaged Derby College/Noel Baker School struggled through the end of the season, going 2-3 over their last five games, and continue to be hit by the injury bug.

“There are no easy games in the playoffs and we know that Myerscough are a well coached team that contains players that have seen BBL minutes this year,” said Derby Head Coach Matt Shaw.

“Having said this we obviously don’t want our season to end early and I believe that if we can play like we did against Charnwood last week we will give ourselves a good chance of progressing to the Elite 8. We are without a couple of players due to injury but we have watched game film and prepared as best as we can for the tough game that we know is ahead of us.”

Deivids Kravalis is their leading scorer at 13ppg, but dynamic point guard Kayne King (12.5ppg, 5.3apg) isn’t far behind, along with Jake Wesselingh (11.9ppg) and Jonno Jessup (9.2ppg).

Charnwood College v Preston College

Monday 28th April 2014, at Charnwood College (TBC)

Charnwood are the second seed from the All Midlands Conference, going 12-2 on the season, taking on Preston College, third place finishers from the North Sea Conference at 7-4.

Charnwood are led by Gibraltarian Tim Fava’s 16.3 points and 6.8 rebounds per game, whilst Josh McSwiggan is averaging 15ppg in his two outings so far on the season. He is expected to suit up in the post-season and will no doubt be looking to make his mark. Emanuel Burton has been Charnwood’s Mr versatile, averaging 13 points, 6.5 rebounds and 5.8 assists per game.

Charnwood will be making their second consecutive post-season appearance after failing to make the playoffs in the first two seasons of the league, but will be looking to go a step further than last year where they were knocked out in the opening round of 16.

“We’ve had a great growth year, it has been a good learning experience for our players,” said Charnwood Head Coach Mark Jarram.

“Going into the playoffs, our aim is to put in a solid performance that we can be proud of. We will not be reinventing the wheel at this time of year. Preston are a little bit of an enigma, however we will prepare as best we can for them and look to be as good as we possibly can at the things we’ve worked on all year.”

Preston are led by England under-17 Kyle Carey, who is averaging 23.5ppg and 9.2rpg on the season, and Benjamin Nkossi’s 21.8ppg, 3.7rpg and 4.5apg. They could, however, be rusty going in; Preston have not played a game since 17th March, due to cancellations and walkovers.

Milton Keynes College v Tyne Met College

Monday 28th April 2014, at Milton Keynes College (TBC)

Milton Keynes College match-up with Tyne Met, as the number one seed from the All Midlands Conference with a 13-1 record, versus the fourth place finisher from the North.

Michael New Jr, the son of Milton Keynes College’s Head Coach, Michael New, has been the Trojans’ rock this season, leading the EABL in scoring at 29.1ppg, and proving to be one of the most versatile players in the league as he added 9.7 rebounds and 4.3 assists per game. New, along with guard Max Denham (12.8ppg, 7.1apg) form an impressive backcourt.

There will be an intriguing match-up on the perimeter with Tyne Met’s own versatile guard in Danny Horta Darrington (17.8ppg, 6.9rpg, 4.4apg) and England Under-18 Eddie Matthew (16.0ppg) who is one of the best shooters in the country. Tyne Met have the most balanced offence in the EABL, with no less than 6 players averaging double figures.

“We are looking forward to playing Milton Keynes,” said Tyne Met Head Coach Marc Steutel.

“I saw them play this past weekend at the BCS national finals and was very impressed. Coach Mike New has those guys playing extremely well and they are very disciplined within their team concepts. Mike New is their main player and will be a difficult match up but hoping collectively we can focus on the defensive end. It is a tough challenge that we are looking forward to.”

Milton Keynes have not lost since the opening game of the season, riding a thirteen game winning streak into the game, and have the highest scoring offense in the league (88.4ppg), shooting the highest percentage, along with sharing the ball the most (18.3apg).

They will need to hit them with accuracy against Tyne Met, who are the best rebounding team in the EABL (28.4rpg), to ensure they advance.

Harris Academy Beckenham v Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College

Monday 28th April 2014, at Harris Academy Beckenham (TBC)

Defending champions Harris Academy Beckenham suffered a single loss on the season, an early season upset by Oaklands College, but quickly regained form to claim the South East Conference title and number one seed, setting up an enticing match-up with fourth place finishers in the South West, Ealing, Hammersmith & West London College.

Harris Academy Beckenham are led by arguably the best 1-2 punch in the EABL in point guard Myles Laurent-Smart and big man Kavell Bigby-Williams, both England junior internationals, who are the individual league leaders in assists (Laurent-Smart averages 9.6apg) and rebounds (Bigby-Williams’ 14.7rpg) respectively.

Don’t count EHWLC out just yet though. In combo guard Tyrell Isaacs (24.3ppg), a former teammate of Kavell Bigby-Williams on England Under-18s last summer, EHWLC have one of the most potent offensive threats in the country, who on his day could single handedly topple any team in the league.

“We know it’s going to be a tough game, but it’s winnable,” said EHWLC Coach Tarryn Algar. “We need to play physical lockdown defence, and of course focus on stopping Kavell Bigby Williams. If we do this and execute our offence, we’ll have a great chance.”

Barking Abbey v The Harefield Academy

3pm, Thursday 24th April 2014, at Barking Abbey
Last year’s third place finishers, and Great Britain Regional Institute, Barking Abbey, locked up the second seed in the South East, with only two losses on the season, both coming to South East Champions, Harris Academy Beckenham.

With the Men’s Division 1 season finished, BA were expected to be back to full strength in the post-season, but with the England Under-18s away in Germany for a tournament during the scheduled fixture, there is a chance the likes of Josh Steel, Joe Junior Mvuezolo, Calvin Nevill-Kintu and Akwasi Yeboah will be away.

It will not phase the team however, who have played the majority of the season without their marquee names; a testament to their depth.

Exciting point guard Nevill-Kintu has been their statistical leader on the season, averaging 15.4 points and 6 assists per game, whilst Irish big man Oisin Kerlin and Lithuanian Karolis Kundrotas have manned the inside, both averaging double digit rebounds (10.3 and 10.1 rebounds per game, respectively).

They will match-up with West London Rivals, The Harefield Academy, who have had a trio of guys lead them to the post-season.

Point guard Reuben Tatham-Nunn (17.4ppg, 6.8rpg, 7.2apg), athletic wing Stephen Robinson (17.4ppg, 7.6rpg, 3.2apg) and big man Sebastian Ferenc (15.4ppg, 13.4rpg) lead Harefield, who have struggled with consistency at times, but on their day can compete with anyone.

“We are looking forward to matching up with Harefield,” said BA Head Coach Frank Holloway. “They are a tough and competitive team and should be an exciting match up for us.

“Our focus will be doing doing things correctly and playing with passion, if we can accomplish this, everything else will fall into place.”

Itchen College v Copleston High School

Wednesday 23rd April 2014, at Itchen College

Itchen College come into the playoffs as the second seed from the South West Conference with a 10-4 record, matching up with third place finishers from the South East, Copleston High School (10-6).

Elliot James’ 18.3ppg leads all Itchen scorers, but it is Elliot Dadds who runs the show for Itchen, leading the defensive minded side, with a balance offence that likes to push in transition.

Itchen suffered two losses in their first four games of the season, and then lost just twice the rest of the way

Copleston, who last year finished third in the country, will be looking to continue to ride Luke Mascall-Wright, the EABL second leading scorer at 26.ppg, who has had some of the most impressive scoring streaks in the league this season.

Along with Irish guard Dylan Costelloe, who also starts in Senior Men’s Division 2 with Mascall-Wright, Copleston will be looking to use their experience to get a victory.

Copleston have had a rough ride heading into the playoffs, going 1-3 over their last four games, but heading into the game Head Coach Nick Drane thinks they have what it takes to get the win.

“Solent teams are always incredible well drilled and incredibly well toughed and Solent is always a place to get a win at club level so we’re expecting the same kind of task for an academy games,” Drane said.

“The key for us is our defensive identity, we’re the polar opposite of the team we had last year, we do have a tough defensive attitude and mindset, so if we play great defensively we give ourselves a great chance of winning.”

SGS College v Oaklands College

Monday 28th April 2014, at SGS College

SGS College remain the only undefeated team in the EABL heading into the post-season, going 14-0 to lock up the first seed from the South West, and a match-up with fourth place finishers from the South East, Oaklands College.

Led by a pair of England Under-18s in Dwayne Lautier-Ogunleye (16.5ppg, 6.9rpg, 5.3apg) and Deane Williams (14.2ppg, 10.8rpg), along with former England Under-18s Tamas Okros (16.4ppg, 10.9rpg), and Jack Griffiths (9ppg, 3.8rpg, 3.1apg), SGS have a wealth of talent and experience with the same core that took the team to the final last year before coming up short against Harris Academy Beckenham.

Meanwhile, Oaklands could be one of the best teams in the league to have the potential to upset SGS. They are the only team to have beaten defending champions Harris Academy Beckenham, featuring a pair of England Under-18s themselves in sharp-shooter Aidan Gastaldi-Davies and forward Theo Oghide.

Gastaldi-Davies is their only player averaging double figures at 11.6ppg, with his brother Kieran not far behind at 9.8ppg.The Wolves’ balanced attacked sees Oghide averaging 8.8 points and 5.8 rebounds.

Dates

Sweet 16: 7th – 28th April
Elite 8: 29th April – 5th May
Final Fours: 9th/10th May at UEL Sports Dock

Catch up with all the statistical leaders in the EABL here.

Follow the results from all the playoff match-ups with the EABL on Twitter @OfficialEABL and Facebook at Facebook.com/OfficialEABL.

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