The North School 49 v 47 Northfleet Technological College

The North School Lions took on Northfleet Technology College in their ABL home opener, coming away with a tense 49-47 win in a pulsating ‘Kent Derby’.

It was the visitors who got on the score sheet first but 9 combined points from guard pairing Conal Parnell and Harvey Kemp-Green gave the Lions a 9-4 lead midway through the first quarter. Cato-Fournillier was relentless on the offensive boards for Northfleet and he battled his way to 8 first quarter points to give Northfleet a 16-13 lead at the end of 1.

The second quarter saw Oakley Rigby start a quick 5-0 run for the Lions as they grabbed an 18-16 lead but the rest of the half was dominated by defence. With both teams having trouble finding an offensive rhythm, it was The North who won a low scoring quarter 9-5 to give them a slender 1-point advantage, 22-21, at the halftime break.

The third quarter was a see-saw battle with neither team ever going more than three points ahead. Northfleet’s continued assault on the offensive glass allowed them to get consistent scoring inside; however James Liall gave a fearless showing in his ABL debut for the Lions and his rebounding activity helped turn the tide in the crucial battle on the boards.

Diogo Araujo-Simoes was an offensive spark for The North with 5 points, 2 rebounds and 2 steals in the quarter that gave The North a 35-33 lead heading into the last.

The fourth quarter was an electrifying battle that saw both teams giving everything in pursuit of victory. Owen Longman tied the game for Northfleet  on a 3-point basket with 4 minutes to go only for Parnell to respond with a triple of his own on the very next play.

Longman hit back to back baskets that gave Northfleet a 47-46 lead with under a minute to play but forward Luis Beaumont came up big for the Lions, hitting a pair of clutch free throws to put The North ahead once more.

Araujo-Simoes scored at the free throw line to give The North a 49-47 lead and it was left to defence to close out the win. Despite battling foul trouble, Beaumont produced 2 huge blocks to secure the victory and mark himself as one of the ABL’s most exciting young forwards.

Parnell stuffed the stat sheet for the Lions with an incredible 17 points, 14 rebounds, 6 assists and 5 steals whilst Kemp-Green was outstanding with 14 points, 2 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 steals.

Northfleet were led by Cato-Fournillier who recorded an impressive 14 points, 13 rebounds, 3 assists and 5 steals and he got excellent support from Longman with 10 points, 5 rebounds and 3 assists.

Lions’ captain Kemp-Green commented: “It was great to start off the season with a win, especially against a rival team who we know brings a lot of energy to every game. We had to play tough team defence in the final quarter to force key stops and as a team we did exactly that. This puts us in a good position for rest of the year knowing we can stay composed in the last minutes of play.”

Lions’ Head Coach Andrew Sunderland added: “This is what ABL basketball is meant to be about. Our games against Northfleet are always ferociously competitive and the rivalry is heightened because of the geography, but they are played in excellent spirit, with quality sportsmanship on display. Full credit as always to Coach Parry for putting a team on the floor that fights on every possession. They are going to be tough to beat all season long. Harvey and Conal were outstanding for us today. Harvey is the team’s emotional leader and his performance as well as his actions was simply inspiring. Conal is composed beyond his years and will a force to be reckoned with this season. After graduating 7 seniors, our roster looks completely different but I don’t like the ‘rebuild’ mind-set because I feel like it sets a tone that you’re not going to be successful. We may lack experience but we have excellent talent, good poise and a desire to compete that will put us good stead this season.”

The North School face a 2 week break for their next ABL action, when they will travel to London to take on St. Thomas the Apostle College on 2 October. Northfleet will be back in action next week when they host Sir Robert Woodard in their home opener.