The McDonald’s Nottingham Hoods are National League Division 2 Champions 2018 following two wins at the weekend.Knowing their fate was in their own hands, the Hoods travelled to bottom side London Westside on Saturday full of confidence, but they weren’t to have it their own way as they came across a Westside team fighting for survival.
A 3pointer from Westside started the game and showed the home side’s intentions as the game ebbed and flowed in the 1st quarter with neither team leading by more than 1 throughout as it finished 19-20.
The Hoods started the second quarter better as they found a bit of rhythm. A lay-up by Mestre followed by a Mitchell 3 pushed the lead out to 5 but some sloppy turnovers and an offensive foul on Slavik allowed Westside right back into the game to take the lead 27-25 midway through the quarter, forcing Coach Westley into a time-out.
Mitchell hit a 3 off a great Enkuzens feed straight after, but then missed shots and turnovers continued for both teams, in fact it was 3 minutes until the next score, which was a Powell 3. At halftime, back to back Powell steals and fast break layups had given the Hoods a 39-44 lead but they were being out-rebounded, almost 2 to 1, giving away too many second chance points.
The start of the 3rd saw momentum swing Westside’s way as they tied the game up. Robinson, who had been quiet up until then caught fire with back to back 3s to give the Hoods the advantage, but Westside kept coming. The two teams traded baskets before an Enkuzens three with the shot clock running out lifted the Hoods to the largest lead of the game 47-55. More second chance buckets for Westside bought them to within 4 and then it was Robinson who stepped up again with a great 3, before Powell grabbed another steal to send Watts away for the dunk and the lead was 12 by the end of the third, 57-69.
An and-1 for Powell at the start of the 4th stretched the lead to 15 and the Hoods were more comfortable than they had been all game. The teams traded baskets for the rest of the game and Hoods finished 86-96 winners but had been in a real contest.
The Top Performers were the usual suspects, Powell 24pts, 5rebd, 5ass; Robinson 19pts, 5rebds, 2ass; Watts 17pts, 6rbds, 6ass.
Attention then turned immediately to the Derbyshire Arrows vs Thames Valley Cavaliers game as news had got through that Arrows were 1point ahead going into the final 10minutes. If Cavaliers lost, Hoods would be champions. A 3 with just a few seconds left handed the lead to Cavaliers but Arrows found a way to sneak the win, ensuring Hoods would return back from the capital with the Division 2 League title.
With the league title secured, Sunday’s game became a home-coming celebration as the crowd, nicknamed the Merry Men, took advantage of the Sunday afternoon tip off time to make it a real family atmosphere. Coach Westley continued as he had on Saturday, rotating his team and giving the bench players more game time in front of the home crowd.
Just as the day before, it was Bears who struck first with a 3, but Watts answered back this time off. Robinson then took over and went on a personal 15-2 run himself, in just 2 minutes, culminating in a huge slam much to the Merry Men’s enjoyment and the lead was 18-5. Watts and Mitchell added 3s to push the lead out, and then Powell hit a 3 of his own as an incredible 1st quarter performance ended 30-14 to the Hoods.
Ballentine came up with a nice block at the start of the second, before youngster Nelson, enjoying his extended game time, grabbed an offensive board and hit the layup at the other end. Nelson then followed with a massive dunk as the Merry Men went crazy. A run by the Bears though put a stop to the partying as they brought the lead down to 9. Smith, having just stepped on the court had a massive two handed slam with his first touch of the game and when Watts was fouled whilst making a 3, the added free-throw averted the danger and the Hoods went into halftime 45-32 up.
A slow start to the third came to an end when Robinson hammered down the dunk as the Bears struggled to cope with the defence of the Hoods, led by the hustling Mestre. A tip-in dunk by, who else but Robinson was followed by a Ballentine dunk and the Hoods were in party mode. 7 unanswered points at the end of the quarter from Robinson and the Hoods had smashed the game wide open 65-37.
In the final quarter, the defensive pressure continued and the fast breaks came in rapid succession, Williams, another Nelson dunk and a Mestre dunk had the kids in the crowd jumping with excitement. A Slavic dunk finished the game 83-59 and the crowd rushed on to the court to celebrate the League title with the players.
Top Performers: Robinson 28pts, 8rbds; Watts 12pts, 7rbds, 5ass; Slavik 9pts, 8rbds. And young Malachi Nelson had 5 assists to go with his two dunks.
Club Captain, Bruce Lauder was their to help lead the celebrations, “this is a huge moment for the club. To finally get a League title having been runners up twice is massive and we will now be entering Division 1 as champions and that feels pretty special. Coach Westley has been immense this year and really got the troops working hard and well together. We have a great group of individual players, but more importantly we have a fantastic team.”
GM, Lee English continued, “what can I say, I’m buzzing, this has been an awesome season for us. u12 won the mini league, u16 are tied top, u18 are league champions and now a second National Championship for the men. Huge thanks to everyone that helps me behind the scenes to make this club as successful as it is. We are a family run club and we want everyone that is a part of it, players, coaches, fans to feel part of that family. Just look at the number of kids here watching today, that’s what we want.”
The Hoods have one more tricky league game away to 4th place Westminster Warriors before returning home for the play-offs on 7th April.