Sunderland pupils win basketball tournament run by Newcastle Eagles

Victorious pupils with Newcastle Eagles Community Foundation general manager Deirdre Hayes.
Victorious pupils with Newcastle Eagles Community Foundation general manager Deirdre Hayes.
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A group of ‘amazing’ Wearside youngsters proved themselves as the best in the region by winning a basketball competition.

Year 5 pupils from St Cuthbert’s Primary School, in Grindon Lane, Sunderland, were victorious in Newcastle Eagles’ Hoops 4 Health programme.

We joked that our victory meant it was now six in a row for Sunderland over Newcastle.

Nicola Bonallie, coach and teaching assistant

The scheme saw players from the basketball club visit schools to encourage youngsters to keep physically active and stay healthy, while the schools involved competed over a number of months to win the title.

The mixed team of boys and girls from St Cuthbert’s first proved themselves as the best in Sunderland to win their way into the regional part of the competition, and they then qualified for the overall semi-finals.

Their last four match took place prior to a Newcastle Eagles game at Sport Central, at Northumbria University, Newcastle, and St Cuthbert’s won that to book their place in the final.

They played that at half-time of the Eagles game, and defeated St Alban’s Primary School, of Newcastle, to lift the title. Usually, that would qualify them for the national stage, but due to a cut in basketball funding, that is not taking place this year.

However, that did not take any of the shine off St Cuthbert’s’ victory.

Nicola Bonallie, who coaches the team and is a teaching assistant at the school, said: “The children absolutely love basketball, and they were amazing in the competition.

“I’m over the moon with how they did, but it was a bit sad that the funding wasn’t there for us to compete at national level.

“When we won, as we had beaten a school from Newcastle in the final, we joked that our victory meant it was now six in a row for Sunderland over Newcastle.”

The competition – and programme itself – proved valuable for the children.

Miss Bonallie added: “The Eagles players are such good role models for the children.

“When they came into the school, they talked about their lifestyles and how they stay healthy, and about some of the decisions they have made over the years.

“They also went through statistics for things like smoking and peer pressure, and gave a lot of good advice.

“At that age, children need things like that, and when it comes from professional sports people, it seems to carry extra weight.”