Much to be proud of, even as King’s Lynn Fury dream dies

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In the end they fell just short – but what a magnficient journey it has been for the basketball players of College of West Anglia Fury.

The team fought all the way to the national play-off final in Sheffield on Saturday, only to lose 89-84 to Oxford Brookes University.

Eivydas Aleksa of College of West Anglia Fury ANL-150420-113719001

Eivydas Aleksa of College of West Anglia Fury ANL-150420-113719001

But although everyone involved with the side will be feeling deflated, all are agreed it has been a hell of a journey.

Promoter Kevin Holland said that while he was “gutted” he was immensely proud of what had been achieved.

“We were so close,” he said. “But hey, these things happen. But yes, it has been a journey. We thought we were completely out of it but what has been achieved has been absolutely amazing.”

The strength of the team has been built on the popularity of basketball among the Lithuanian population in West Norfolk.

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Basketball is by far and away the most popular sport in the Baltic states and many of the stars of the side are Lithuanians.

“It just felt right to bring in more Lithuanian players,” said Mr Holland. “Sport is a universal language and all of them, Poles, Russians, Lithuanians and Brits have gelled so well.

“It is not just about basketball, it is what sport can bring to people and the community.

“I have always felt that despite the odd comment – and I am married to a mixed race woman so I should know – there is no race division in King’s Lynn and this has proved that.

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“It has appealed to all the townspeople.”

Mr Holland said the growing crowds watching the Fury play at Lynnsport were basically divided into two. The teenagers “who see coming to the basketball as their night out rather than going to the cinema or a concert” and families, “including grandma and granddad, out for a night together”.

“It is a really great night out for people. For familes. All the family.

“Apart from the excitement of the baskeball, we have the Downham Marquettes as cheerleaders. They are great.

“Four of them are national champions in their own right. Downham Marquettes are the best in the country at what they do.”

He also said he had been heartened to see the bond between the players grow as well.

“We don’t do lots of things socially, but when we do it is so heartening to hear Eastern European accents – and it is accents because it is an unwritten rule that everyone speaks English – as everyone mixes in.”

Mr Holland said he moved up to West Norfolk with his wife 12 years ago from “cosmoplitan south London” and was pleased to find “such a diverse community”.

He said he was “very proud” to have done something to bring it all together.

Match report page 48