The North School 70-63 Harris City Academy CP

The North School Lions booked their spot in the ABL Playoffs with a 70-63 victory, in a tension filled Southern Conference clash against Harris Academy Crystal Palace on Wednesday.

From the opening tip, standout Guard Conal Parnell controlled the game for the Lions with poised play-making and aggressive drives to the rim; combining with Forward, Luis Beaumont for the team’s first 11 points. Harris would keep within a single point through the inside scoring of Gerald Qershija, although the shifty play of Roshan Thakali and a 3-point basket from Oakley Rigby put the Lions up 20-12. Harris Captain, William Bidi, hit a tough 3-pointer on the buzzer to snatch the momentum and bring his team to within 5 (20-15).

The second quarter saw Parnell continue to methodically pick apart the Harris defence and the clinical Beaumont showed his finishing prowess as the pair combined for 13 of the Lion’s 16 points. Harris sustained their inside attack, which provided time and space for hot-shooting duo Frank Bokesa and Maurice Aye, who connected on three 3-point baskets to give the visitors a 36-33 lead. The Lions got a spark off of the bench from the excellent Prem Sherpa, whose stellar defence and timely 3-point field-goal squared the game up at 36-36 going into half-time.

A tense third quarter saw the two teams trading baskets before another Bokesa 3-point basket gave Harris their largest lead at 47-44. Beaumont issued a commanding response for the Lions, scoring 8 straight points to give them a 50-47 advantage heading into the final quarter.

The start of the fourth quarter saw Harris score a quick 7 points through the continued excellence of Bidi and Bokesa, however back to back 3-point baskets from Lions Captain, Harvey Kemp-Green gave the home team a 58-54 advantage with 5 minutes to play. Harris fought valiantly until the final buzzer, but the Lions answered every run through the sensational Parnell, who scored his team’s final 9 points to help claim a famous victory. The win secured the Lions place in the top 4 of the Southern Conference which guarantees them a place in the ABL Playoffs.

Parnell produced a dominant stat line as he led all scorers with 26 points, on 65% shooting, to go with 11 rebounds, 7 assists and 3 blocks. Beaumont’s rise as one of the country’s rising stars continued with another impressive double-double of 23 points and 11 rebounds. Harris had four scorers in double figures; Reece Price-Harrison leading the way with 14 points whilst Bidi (13), Aye (13) and Qershija (10) were all key contributors.

Lions Head Coach, Andrew Sunderland commented ‘This was an excellent win for us against an excellent team. Our offence wasn’t quite firing on all cylinders today but our team defence gave us the opportunity to secure one of the most significant wins of the year. Making playoffs is a fantastic achievement but we must not overlook the final 2 games of the regular season. There is still a lot to play for in terms of home court advantage and seeding so it will be back to work tomorrow, but I know our Captains will have us ready to go next week’.

Parnell commented ‘We lost to them away earlier this season in overtime so it’s great to get the win. We focused on our transition defence and it allowed us to slow down their break. They were very active in attacking gaps, however we were able to contain them as a team and we stayed composed to get the shots we wanted on offence to close out the game’.

The Lions face a tough road trip next week as they travel to face King Henry on Wednesday 29th January, whilst it will be a quick turnaround for Harris, who play host to the John Roan School on Friday 24th January as they look to fight for one of the remaining 2 playoff spots in the Southern Conference.