Cheshire Phoenix Wheelchair Basketball Club are continuing their success with a double win in their first outing in the British Wheelchair Basketball National League 4th Division.
The club was formed in 2014 and have entered the National League for the first time in the 2016/2017 season. They will compete against fellow North West Teams Vikings from St Helens and Calderdale Wheelchair Sports Club from Halifax, in three rounds of competition in January and March 2017.
The team made their debut yesterday in St Helens and rolled out convincing winners in both games, beating Calderdale 28-6 and Vikings 27-20.
The 4th Division is designed for new and less experienced players and is the perfect place for the new club to start out, with 5 of the team not having played in the National League before. It is an excellent way to gain match experience in a more relaxed tournament atmosphere.
Team: Anna Jackson – Head Coach, Emma Horan – Team Manager, Caroline Ballard-East – Captain, Katie Berisford – Vice Captain, Darius Fletcher. Kai Miller, Paul Southall, Steph Taylor, Niamh Horan, Rob Cayton, Stu McNeill, Steve Midghall
GAME 1 V Calderdale Wheelchair Sports Club
It was a nervous start for the starting five players as they were getting ready to take to the court; McNeill, Horan, Southall and Fletcher led by Captain Ballard-East took to the court for the first time for Phoenix WBC. From the start they showed how hard they had worked at training and it did not take them long to take control of the game and they quickly took the lead with Calderdale not able to convert their scoring attempts. Phoenix were 16-4 up at half time thanks to baskets from Miller, Taylor and Ballard-East. Taking an early lead gave Coach Jackson chance to rotate all the squad and give everyone valuable court time ready for the second game. Horan, Fletcher and Southall added to the scores and Phoenix won easily in the end 28-6.
Player of the Match – Steph Taylor
GAME 2 V Vikings 2009 Wheelchair Basketball Club
Phoenix WBC had a short break then took on the home team led by Coach Dan Craddock. This was always going to be a tough game as Vikings are an established club and have a great depth of talent across the club. Coach Jackson went back to the line-up that started game 1, it was Vikings who took control of the game early on with some great baskets by some of their junior players going into half time ahead 14-12. Phoenix settled down in the second half and started to create some great scoring opportunities but just could not make the most of them and get the points. Then Fletcher found his range moving the team ahead of Vikings, and with baskets by Horan, Berisford, Ballard-East and Southall the team took the lead. Vikings fought back and closed the score in the closing minutes but just could not catch the Phoenix with the game finishing 27-20.
Player of the Match – Darius Fletcher
Team Captain – Caroline Ballard-East said
‘It was such a great performance from the whole team, I am a proud captain. It’s great to see how far everyone has come and their passion to continue to learn. We now know where our strengths are and the areas to focus on in training before the next round’.
Team Vice Captain – Katie Berisford said
‘The team put in a good strong performance which reflected well on their dedication and training. First match nerves were evident before the tip off but, to the credit of all, stayed off the court. This was a great foundation to build on’.
Coach Jackson said –
‘Today’s performances were the culmination of all the hard work done by everyone at the club since we started in April 2014. The players have really shown today that they are developing into fit, well skilled and well-disciplined players and although we still have things to work on they performed brilliantly today’. ‘Congratulations to Steph and Darius for their great performances and also to Rob Cayton who gets a special mention for his great determination and attitude and his improvement in his skills’.
Phoenix WBC 4th Division team are sponsored by Mickey’s Boat Yard and Beach Café, Abersoch, owned by Andrew Donaldson, who helped start the club and has been a great supporter over the last three years. Mickeys have funded kit for the team for this season and they are very grateful for the support. Andrew said:
“I’ve always loved Wheelchair Basketball it’s a great sport and I’m delighted to continue my support of The Cheshire Phoenix by sponsoring the Wheelchair Basketball club.”
Phoenix WBC play their next round of fixtures on Saturday March 11th at Ellesmere Port Sports Village. Entry is free so come down and meet the team and see the sport in action.
Games are at 12.30pm – Calderdale v Vikings, 2.30pm – Phoenix v Calderdale, 4.30pm – Vikings v Phoenix.
Wheelchair Basketball is open to people of all ages and abilities. You do not have to have a disability to play. Phoenix WBC have players aged 7 – 40+ so whatever your age or standard you are welcome to join in. There are sessions for league team players, development and junior sessions and also recreational sessions, so if you just want to get fit and have some fun or you want to play in the league there is a session for you.
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(All Game photographs by Andrew Fairclough Photography)