Southend Swifts annual Christmas tournament, staged at Seevic College, again provided an exhibition of exciting basketball as well as the competing teams strengthening or forging new friendships. In addition to great comrades Haringey Angels, Swifts welcomed the Jolly Jumpers club from Tubbergen in Holland. The Dutch team are last season's Dutch national champions and although technically an under 15 team, are currently in third place in their domestic under 16 league.
The format was that the clubs would play each other twice over the two days of the event but without any huge desire to have an overall winner. For all three clubs it was the opportunity to get in some serious competitive play before starting the second half of their seasons.
The first game was actually the most exciting as Swifts managed a one point win, 61-60, over Jolly Jumpers. Trailing 36-32 at half time, the hosts put in an excellent third quarter to lead by one. They continued their superiority to hold a 59-52 advantage, with four minutes to play before Jumpers hit back with eight straight to make it a one point game. The teams traded scores and after a turnover the Dutch team had the ball with 15 seconds to play. But they too turned it over and Southend recorded the narrowest of wins.
Next up were Swifts again in action against Haringey. With a number of players unavailable for the second game, Swifts took the opportunity to give some younger players the opportunity of a run out with the older team. Haringey made a strong start and 13 unanswered points midway through the second quarter took the 20 ahead, leading to a 47-23 half time lead. But some determined play from Swifts saw the gap narrow to 63-49 after seven minutes of the 4th period before Angels closed out the game at 70-58
The final game of the first day was Haringey against Jolly Jumpers. The Dutch side had the first eight points before Haringey hot back and it was a one point game at the end of the first quarter. The second period was equally tight and it 32 apiece at half time. With neither team scoring for three minutes, Jumpers made the decisive move, leading 50-42 going into the final period. 10 straight points iced the victory, with Jumpers winning 66-51.
After a joint evening's entertainment, the teams met up again. Haringey and Jolly Jumpers had the first encounter and it was clear to see that the Londoners were in no mood to lose twice to the same team. Runs of eight and six took them to an 18-10 first quarter lead and 14 unanswered points helped them to a 40-20 half time lead. The Dutch team started to stem the tide in the third quarter but in the 4th period a 12-2 run reduced the deficit to just 48-42. But they could get no closer as they fell to a 53-48 loss that was another excellent match-up.
So it was time for Swifts to match-up again with Jolly Jumpers. Again there was nothing in it at 27-26 at half time to the home side but a big third quarter for Jumpers took them 42-34 ahead. Once again the Essex side showed their mental strength to get back to 46-43 before falling by 50 points to 45.
So with Haringey and Jolly Jumpers both having two wins, it was for Swifts to ensure parity by securing the win. Scoring the first 15 points was just the start required and 14 straight points took the home side 36-15 ahead at half time. But Haringey can never be underestimated and they put a 12-0 run together to reduce the margin to 10. Swifts recovered their composure and soon the lead was 59-37 ending in a 67-50 win.
So each team had won two games and recorded one win and one loss which was a perfect ending to an outstanding exhibition of youth basketball. Haringey chairman Phil Hayfield said "It requires a lot of confidence, determination and hard work to put this type of event on over the holiday period. All of the games were very, very good and just the type of competition we would all like every week". Jolly Jumpers coach Annelies Bussink was equally complimentary. "We travelled to England because we wanted to test our players against different as well as tough opponents and that was exactly what we got. All four games were difficult and I am delighted how my players acquitted themselves. I would also like to thank Southend Swifts for their wonderful hospitality and we look forward to welcoming them to Holland in the not too distant future".
Swifts return to domestic action this weekend. On Saturday the under 18 girls visit Lewisham Thunder, whilst the under 14 boys have a home fixture starting at 3 pm. On Sunday the under 14 and under 18 girls are also in home action at 1 and 3 pm. All home fixtures are at Seevic College.