BARNET BULLDOGS: 38
BRENT PANTHERS: 37
The newly named Brent Panthers (formerly North London Hoopstars) faced the previously undefeated Barnet Bulldogs in a closely fought u12 Development League Final that had to go into overtime to ultimately decide who would take home the 2019 CBL Championship Trophy.
The teams had met once before in the season with the Bulldogs narrowly winning by 4 points in a tense affair at the JFS School in North West London. In that game, the irrepressible force of Tokky Omotunde proved too much for the Bulldogs interior defense to handle and once again, in the finals, the talented forward appeared to be the main focus of attack for Barnet. Omotunde was joined by an equally imposing forward in Hashim Abukar, in gobbling up a majority of the rebounds on both ends of the floor, giving the Bulldogs a distinct advantage around the basket.
However, as the game played out, for all of the dominance the Bulldogs displayed ‘in the paint’, the quick and mercurial play of the Panthers guards, Axel Thibaut and Eli Francis, balanced proceedings as the drained shot after shot from outside.
With the game tied up at the end of the first quarter (8-8), neither team seemed able to pull ahead until 8 second quarter points from Omatunde sent the Bulldogs in at the half up by 5 points (20-15).
The 3rd quarter saw Francis (6 points in the quarter) and the free-scoring Joe Fletcher (5 points in the quarter), for the Panthers, reverse fortunes and bring Brent storming back into the game, levelling the score at 27-27 going into the final stanza.
The game was understandably tense and swayed back and forth with each team making big shot after big shot. Barnet continued to rely on their ‘twin towers’ and both Omotunde and Abukar continued to deliver. Abukar, in particular, found his scoring touch in the 4th quarter and looked to have sealed the deal for the Bulldogs with a made lay up and free throw, to put Barnet up by 2 in the last 30 seconds. However, Francis had been playing an exceptional game and stepped up to drain a shot in the dying seconds of regulation to level the score at 32 each, sending the game into a dramatic period of overtime.
In ‘OT’ Abukar would not be denied, scoring back to back baskets to push Barnet ahead by 5. An outside shot by Theo Watson brought the Panthers back to within 2, but it wouldn’t be enough as Omotunde broke free for another lay in to extend the lead back up to 3. A last second lay up by Thibaut pulled the Panthers back to within 1 point but the clock finally ran out on an exciting, tense and well-played game – giving Barnet their first ever CBL U12 title.
Omotunde played an outstanding game but for his late game heroics in leading a well-deserving Barnet team to their first championship, game MVP honours were awarded to Hashim Abukar. Barnet will now move up next season as U12 Development Champions and build around the dynamic inside duo who should prove to be a force to be reckoned with, within the CBL for many years to come.