Solent Stars 2006/07 Season

Following several seasons without on-court success, owner Bob Paulley widened his net in his search for a new coach once Steve Chant had announced his resignation both as a coach and a club director.

Inevitably there were protracted long-distance negotiations before, late in the summer, the club announced the appointment of Kerry Kirby from Alabama, USA. His job also would encompass a role at Southampton Solent University in an effort to demonstrate Solent Stars commitment to building its Academy credentials.

Nationally a new policy concerning club franchises was relaxed - despite the protestations by several club owners - with the result that two new clubs within a short radius of Fleming Park entered the national league. One of the teams, playing in Division Four, eventually comprised most of the English players from the recent teams of Solent Stars plus the previous season's Assistant Coach, Sylvain Donneaud.

Coach Kerry Kirby, fresh from a successful USA representative team tour of China, thus found he had to build virtually a new team in a very short time with most of the experienced local talent - including Solent's Academy players - not available.

Kerry Kirby (coach)

The first fixture was an away National Trophy game at West Herts Warriors. Kirby had only arrived in the country four days before the game and it had been Mick Byrne who had had the job of finding and training the new English players. The coach brought with him Earl Moore who had played in the team that had visited China. Moore made an immediate impact in this game. With youngster Craig Teesdale and also Liam Wyatt having to play a lot of court time, Solent were always going to be hard-pressed against a more experienced and bigger Herts team. The result was close, Solent losing by just eight points, 84 - 92 (Moore 44).

A friendly was arranged for a fortnight later at Fleming Park, to allow all the Academy players to be seen. Solent Stars won 93 - 64. This was one of only four occasions that Solent had a home game before Christmas in an example of poor programming by the national body.

A further lack of imagination by England Basketball sent Solent back to West Herts for the first league game. The game followed a similar pattern to the first with Solent losing 97 - 104 (Moore 45) despite a late comeback. For Solent, Sebastian Zwolak made an impressive debut.

Earl Moore

A trip to Cardiff Celts followed for a National Cup game. The match went to overtime when Cardiff scored a three pointer - one of their 14 in the game - on the final buzzer. Solent exited the National Cup with a 101 - 107 loss (Moore 37, Milner 28, Zwolak 20).

Mick Byrne, aided by injured player Ryan Payne, took over the coaching role for the visit to London Leopards. This was because of a viral illness to coach Kirby. John Wilkins worked hard at both ends for Solent but could not prevent another league loss, 78 - 92 (Moore 26, Zwolak 21).

With Kirby fit again, amazingly Solent Stars were programmed for two away games on consecutive days, in the following weekend. A long trip to Sheffield Arrows came first. With Milner carrying an injury and Moore under the weather with a cold, it was left to youngsters Rob Bawden, Liam Mitchell and Darren Mason to help the more experienced players. The result was no surprise, Solent losing 73 - 109 (Moore 28).

A comparatively short trip to London Capitals followed the next day. The result, a 58 - 82 loss (Moore 28) was not expected after such a hectic weekend.

Clayton Milner

At last, on November 11th, a home game had been arranged by the league. With clubs sometime dependent on gate receipts, there seemed little support for Solent from the league management in denying any possibility until this date. For the home fans it also provided the first victory for Solent in the league, although they were denied an opportunity to ever see Zwolak who had left to return to Poland. Solent led after the first quarter with Ryan Payne returning from injury and won 73 - 66 (Moore 29, Milner 20).

Away next to Coventry Crusaders in the league, Solent saw the debut of Antonio Bright, a second American brought in by coach Kirby. Solent led at half time and at the three-quarter mark, but fell away at the end despite late scoring by Ben Stanley and Liam Mitchell to lose narrowly 96 - 101 (Bright 33, Moore 25).

Ryan Payne

Solent paid heavily for lack of big men and Bright's fouling out with 8 minutes left in their second home league game against Worthing Thunder. A comprehensive defeat 85 - 112 (Moore 38, Bright 21) was the outcome.

A visit to league leaders Reading Rockets was never going to be easy. In the game both Payne and Moore were injured, effectively ending any challenge as Solent lost 76 - 111 (Bright 21, Moore 20).

Coach Kirby missed the home game against Manchester Magic with another illness bout. With Moore still injured and no Payne, Mick Byrne was left to take a very inexperienced team to a National Trophy crushing defeat 78 - 126 (Bright 33).

Back in league action on the road to Kings Lynn Fury, Solent missed club captain Ryan Payne who strangely chose to coach the Solent Under 18 team for the second consecutive week. When Darren Mason fouled out early in the second half, Solent had no big men left to counter the Kings Lynn attacks and lost 99 - 112 (Moore 41, Bright 25, Milner 23).

Antonio Bright

Two National Trophy games began the new year. Solent put up a good performance at Worthing before losing 95 - 106 (Bright 33, Moore 20). Paul Young made an impressive debut as Solent's new centre.

More height and aggression was added to the Solent squad as Nick O'Harabe returned to the team. His and Young's presence were instrumental in restricting Coventry to 60 points in this home game played at the Mountbatten Centre, Portsmouth. Solent's very rare National Trophy win, 87 - 60 (Moore 28, Bright 24) meant that they did not occupy the final place in the pool.

It was Solent's turn to feel the effect of good defence in the next league match, home to West Herts Warriors. As with Coventry in the previous game, Solent could only manage 60 points as they stumbled to a 60 - 75 loss.

A daunting trip to Manchester Magic saw Solent put up a good fight in an entertaining game that they lost 80 - 106 (Bright 26, Moore 21).

The next home game, against London Leopards, proved the most exciting of the season. Only one point separated the teams at the end of each quarter. O'Harabe's cool shooting of two final free throws gave Solent the victory, although with one second to go they contrived to throw the ball away and give London a last chance. Solent's win 89 - 87 (Moore 26, Bright 23) was only their second of the league season.

This total was doubled over the next weekend with consecutive home games on Saturday and Sunday. First up were Sheffield Arrows who would have been expected to win. Solent's confidence had been boosted by their last win and despite falling behind for the majority of the game, a last quarter in which they outscored Sheffield 38 - 19 gave Solent a famous victory, 112 - 107 (Bright 43, Moore 30, O'Harabe 22).

A first ever visit by Northampton Neptunes saw Solent complete a double victory weekend by the score 98 - 90 (O'Harabe 30, Bright 27).

With Bright not available for the next game, Solent were unable to match the scoring of London Capitals at home and lost 75 - 113 (Moore 21).

Bright was back for the trip to Teesside Mohawks in a game that marked the first away win for the Solent team - as well as a double over the Teesside club. Solent led throughout much of the game but needed to keep their composure at the end before edging the game 87 - 80 (Moore 26, Bright 25).

Coventry Crusaders were Solent's next visitors - ironically once again at the Mountbatten Centre. Solent had travelled back from Teesside the night before and it may have affected their game. With the scores close throughout, it was Coventry that nailed the final points to give Solent a narrow loss, 87 - 90 (Bright 25).

Needing at least two wins from their remaining five matches, Solent could expect no favours from the visit of Manchester Magic. Despite their best performance against their opponents, Solent's missed free throws would have helped narrow the 85 - 96 gap (Bright 28).

Nick O'Harabe

League contenders Reading Rockets were also in no mood to help Solent in their play-off quest when they came to Fleming Park and Solent fell to their superior power 65 - 88 (Bright 29).

It was yet another game at the Mountbatten Centre for the vital fixture against Kings Lynn Fury. Solent did not disappoint the few fans that made the trip. A stirring display saw them run out winners in a high scoring game, 118 - 111 (Moore 36, Bright 28).

The next game - away to Northampton Neptunes - was equally vital for Solent who blotted their copybook by arriving late for the game, which began 35 minutes late. Northampton led for most of the match until Solent levelled at the start of the final quarter. Northampton did not help their cause by losing several players who were fouled out, which left them just five players for the final six minutes. Solent finished stronger to record a second away win, 100 - 94 (Moore 29, O'Harabe 21, Bright 20). This victory assured Solent of eighth place in the league and therefore a play-off spot.

The final league game was away to the league champions Worthing Thunder with the knowledge that the two teams would meet again the following week on the same court. The final league game went to form eventually, but Worthing were shocked when Solent led at the first quarter 26 - 21 after Worthing had taken a long time to get into their stride. With the scores level at half time (55 all) an amazing 50 points by Worthing in the third quarter deflated the visitors and Solent eventually lost 108 - 129 (Moore 44, Bright 29).

One week later, the teams met again. The league champions had only lost one game in the season and Solent's effort in the play-off game was a tribute to the fighting spirit of the whole squad. Although the American duo of Earl Moore and Antonio Bright had taken the scoring plaudits, they were backed by a group of fairly inexperienced players who had been thrust into League Division One action. The play-off game performance was typical of the squad who had given their all throughout the season and although Solent lost 102 - 115 (Moore 36, Bright 27) they won much respect from basketball fans.

Little did those travelling Solent fans realise that they were watching the end of an era as Solent Stars began a summer of unrest that would mean that for the first time since 1980 no Solent Stars name would be seen in the fixture list.

(Division 1)
Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points
1 Worthing Thunder 22 21 1 2267 1850 +417 42
2 Reading Rockets 22 19 3 2013 1623 +390 38
3 Manchester Magic 22 17 5 2138 1868 +270 34
4 London Leopards 22 13 9 1991 1929 +62 26
5 PAWS London Capitals 22 13 9 2019 1825 +194 26
6 UH West Herts Warriors 22 11 11 1954 1902 +52 22
7 Sheffield Arrows 22 11 11 1914 1914 +0 22
8 Solent Stars 22 7 15 1899 2151 -252 14
9 Coventry Crusaders 22 6 16 1667 1927 -260 12
10 Kings Lynn Fury 22 5 17 1936 2231 -295 10
11 Tees Valley Mohawks 22 5 17 1686 1888 -202 10
12 Northampton Neptunes 22 4 18 1831 2207 -376 8

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