Solent Stars 2002/03 Season

Back row: Steve Fitzsimons, Howard Jackson, Mark Vingoe, Dominique Jones, Adam Willis, Chris Sheldrick, Mark Scott, Mark Jackson
Front row: Alan McDonald, David Butterworth, Ollie Marsh, Anthony Rutter, Chris Glover, Trevor Donaldson

Wholesale changes of playing personnel meant that Solent Stars were about to launch a new season with mainly inexperienced players. Gone were Americans John Bynum and Marlin Capers who Solent could no longer afford given the competition from European clubs. Alan Cunningham had also finally stepped down. Steve Davison and Dimitry LaCroix had also departed. Nick O'Harabe had signed for Worthing Thunder. In their places, Solent had turned to several players from the youth development programme - these included Anthony Rutter, Rob McDonald, Adam Willis, Ollie Marsh and Mike Peel. They joined Alan McDonald, Trevor Donaldson and Chris St. Omer. Solent also signed Chris Glover who was living in the area after a spell at university. Jon Neale, who had returned from Nottingham University and who previously had come through the junior programme also signed for Solent.

But it was David Butterworth, previously a Thames Valley Tigers player who caught the eye at Solent's annual pre-season game against newly promoted Oxford Devils in a pre-season friendly. He scored 15 points in a match where coach Mark Scott was determined to give all thirteen triallists a run out. Inevitably the disruption caused Solent to lose their way and eventually the game, 67 - 94. A strong second half performance by Mark Jackson, returning from Basketball League duty with Brighton Bears was another highlight for coach Scott.

Solent visited Sutton Pumas for their first game in the National Trophy. Sutton were bigger and stronger than Solent but it was the Solent team who picked up the early fouls, which helped make the first quarter stretch to thirty minutes as Sutton paid many visits to the free throw line. Points from Ollie Marsh, Anthony Rutter and Mark Jackson took Solent to a 21 - 20 lead, but as the game went on, Sutton were able to impose themselves against the eight-man squad of Solent. When David Butterworth picked up his fifth foul in the second minute of the half, the writing was on the wall for Solent who succumbed to an 82 - 100 loss.

Alan McDonald

Whereas coach Mark Scott was upbeat about the team's performance at Sutton, he could find no words of encouragement after his squad fell to a dismal defeat at the hands of London United, at Fleming Park. "If tonight is an indication of how my team are going to progress, then it will be a long old season", he declared after the game. He had just witnessed a lack-lustre performance that had seen Solent trail throughout to a team one division below them. The final score was 79 - 98.

A visit to Westminster Warriors followed. Like Solent, Westminster were in a re-building phase. From the corresponding match eleven months previously, Solent had three same names on the scoresheet and Westminster just two. But it was the Westminster youngsters (five Under-20's) that tore into the Solent defence at the start of the game to open up a 9 - 16 lead by the fifth minute. A couple of steals from Mark Jackson gave Solent hope as they raised their game to trail by just one point at the quarter (25 - 26). A seven-point advantage in the second quarter for Solent was nullified when they failed to score for six minutes, save for a Chris St. Omer drive. With Solent in foul trouble, the home side took full advantage to win 83 - 104 (Butterworth 22).

The following day Solent were at home to Sutton Pumas. Briefly, it looked as if Solent could finally turn the tables on an opponent as they established a 29 - 25 lead at the end of the first quarter, thanks largely to David Butterworth's 16 points. However, in a repetition of the previous game's performance, Solent then went six minutes without scoring and watched Sutton pull away to record another win, 77 - 116 (Butterworth 26). Ex-Solent Star, Paul Mundy-Castle scored 44 points for the visitors.

Trevor Donaldson

Westminster Warriors were the next visitors to Fleming Park. Both teams exhibited nervousness early on and mistakes were commonplace. Mark Jackson combined well with David Butterworth to give Solent an early 14 - 5 lead. Westminster kept plugging away and once again Solent seemed to have no one on court who could rally the team. Once Westminster had established a lead, Solent were unable to make any inroads and went down 66 - 86.

NW London were Solent's next opponents in the National Trophy. The home team had things nearly all their own way as atrocious ball handling and errors galore by the Solent players made things easy for them. Trailing by just eight points as halftime approached, Solent had a three on one break which ended with Chris St. Omer passing the ball out-of-bounds as he attempted to give it to David Butterworth. NW London scored from the possession they had gained and added one more point as Solent needlessly fouled the shooter. Although Mark Scott berated his squad at halftime for their lack of intensity and discipline in attacking plays, he could not prevent yet another defeat (65 - 86).

Having finished third in the league last season, Solent Stars were automatically entered in the National Cup competition that included the Basketball League teams. Solent were drawn at home to Brighton Bears in a match to be played less than 24 hours after the visit to NW London. Having virtually nine Americans in their squad, Brighton took charge of the game from the start. However, with Mark Jackson rising to the occasion against his ex-team members, the Solent squad kept plugging away and took a lot of credit for their performance, despite the 60 - 99 defeat.

Mark Jackson

Back to National Trophy action, Solent visited Worthing Thunder. A tremendous performance by David Butterworth, ably assisted by the other team members of the squad saw Solent show their best form of the season. Worthing were forced to call a timeout as Solent built up an early 24 - 12 lead. Although Worthing came back, late three pointers from Mark Jackson and Butterworth aided by two points from Adam Willis gave Solent a 48 - 44 lead at halftime. The game continued to be close throughout and Solent fell foul of a referee's decision - overruled by the commissioner - that denied them possession at a critical phase. Trevor Donaldson scored a three pointer to bring Solent within reach but efforts from Butterworth and Jon Neale (who stole the ball and attempted a long shot to take the game into overtime) failed. Solent lost 84 - 87 (Butterworth 29).

A visit to London United saw Solent demonstrate their Jekyll and Hyde nature as the previous good performance against Worthing was replaced with a poor showing in London. The game was lost in the first quarter when Solent fell behind 12 - 29. Thereafter Solent almost kept in touch, but eventually went down 67 - 98.

Solent's all-English player policy was rescinded as a result of coach Mark Scott's pleas to the club directors to bring in more experience. As a result, Solent approached the agent who had previously supplied John Bynum and Marlin Capers. His recommendation was Dominique Jones, a 6' 6" forward/centre from Toledo.

Dominique Jones

Jones arrived in the country in time to play in the penultimate National Trophy game against NW London at Fleming Park. Solent led from the start to build up a healthy 21 - 10 lead by the sixth minute. They still held a ten-point lead with about a third of the game remaining, but then Solent ran into foul trouble, losing Dominique Jones in the process. Alan McDonald was forced out with a migraine whilst Trevor Donaldson was having a nightmare shooting performance. Assistant coach Steve Fitzsimons could only tear his hair out as Solent lamely conceded the game to NW London, 88 - 101 (Butterworth 24).

The next day Solent played their final National Trophy game against Worthing Thunder, at home. For the faithful fans this proved to be as disappointing as the day before when Solent again ran into foul trouble (26 fouls as opposed to 14 from Worthing). Often these fouls allowed the visitors to add points at critical stages to keep ahead of any Solent comeback. Solent were kept in the game by a series of successful three pointers by Dominique Jones (3), Trevor Donaldson (2) and Mark Jackson, but it was not enough as Solent lost 82 - 92 (Jackson 22).

Having lost all their National Trophy matches, Solent looked forward with apprehension to the start of the 22-match league season.

The first game was at home to Manchester Magic. The first two quarters were even affairs. Solent opened a six-point gap at one stage, but last minute man-to-man pressure from Manchester saw Solent completely unable to handle the pressure as Manchester closed the half at 51 all. The visitors took an early six point lead in the second half but once David Butterworth and Mark Jackson had scored for Solent it was nip and tuck throughout the rest of the game until a late scoring spree by Butterworth (2), Jackson (4) and Dominique Jones (2) saw Solent home for their first win of the season, 100 - 93 (Butterworth 36, Jackson 30).

Another home game followed, against Oxford Devils. Solent seemed to be in control of this game in the first half, gaining a 51 - 40 lead with four minutes of the first half remaining. They then failed to score for four minutes to allow Oxford back to 51 - 48 at halftime. Mark Jackson sprained his ankle early in the third quarter and his loss had an immediate effect on the home team. Nine match turnovers so far were augmented by 13 in the third quarter alone as Solent conceded possession of the ball and fell behind. Solent were outscored 14 - 37 in the quarter and when Jackson returned, heavily strapped, for the final quarter the task was too big for Solent who lost 89 - 111 (Butterworth 22).

Injured David Butterworth, along with Trevor Donaldson, missed Solent's next home game against Hackney White Heat. Despite a 30 minute delay for the late arrival of Hackney, Solent were still able to catch the visitors cold as they ran up a 25 - 4 lead by the sixth minute. Hackney pulled back the difference to just nine points shortly after halftime, before a timely Mark Jackson three pointer steadied the Solent ship. Despite a further late rally by Hackney, Solent were able to keep them at bay to win 82 - 74 (Jackson 20).

Ollie Marsh

With no David Butterworth, Solent's next task - a visit to league champions Teesside Mohawks - looked formidable. Poor defensive play allowed Teesside almost free access to the Solent basket and forced coach Mark Scott to call an early timeout. Only four points separated the teams at the end of the first quarter but a barren spell between the fifth and ninth minutes of the second quarter let Teesside open up a commanding lead (31 - 57) before points from Mark Jackson helped Solent narrow the gap by halftime. Solent's fighting spirit was demonstrated when they shaded the final quarter (36 - 30) and even included a last second three pointer from the half way line by Ollie Marsh! Solent lost 107 - 123 (Jackson 35).

Sutton Pumas were the next visitors to Solent. David Butterworth returned to the side after injury, but it was the performance of the captain, Mark Jackson, that was the feature of the game. Solent held the edge over Sutton throughout but never by more than a handful of points. With five minutes remaining the lead was just one point (85 - 84) and Solent were under the cosh, but brave defensive play saw Solent deny Sutton any points for four minutes. In that time free throws from Butterworth and Anthony Rutter put the game out of Sutton's reach. Solent Stars won 99 - 89 (Butterworth 34).

A woeful first half performance cost Solent the game when they visited Kingston Wildcats. Having fallen behind by nineteen points midway through the third quarter, Solent suffered the departure of David Butterworth with a twisted ankle. Without their top scorer, Solent redoubled their efforts and came to within one point (81 - 82) in the last minute. After Kingston scored four more points there remained thirty seconds of the game. In that time Anthony Rutter scored one from two at the free throw line, whilst Mark Jackson missed both his chances. Solent went down 82 - 86.

The missing David Butterworth (injury) could only watch helplessly from the bleachers as Solent opened up their home game against Reading Rockets by missing two easy lay-ups and turning the ball over twice in the opening few minutes. Solent's hapless form continued throughout the game which culminated in their largest league defeat of the season (72 - 105).

With just one game remaining before the mid-season break, Solent Stars owner, Bob Paulley, felt the need to strengthen the squad. Two candidates were sought. One was Mark Vingoe, a 6' 5" student at Chichester College, who had playing experience with Worthing Thunder. The other was 6' 4", 250lbs, University of Colorado player, Howard Jackson. He had previously been playing in Ireland.

Within 24 hours of arriving in the country - and after just one training session with the squad - Howard Jackson was on the bench for the start to the home match against Worthing Thunder. It was seven minutes before he came on court, by which time Solent were trailing 11 - 23. The shaven headed American bagged a swift two pointer and then weighed in with a spectacular slam dunk from Mark Jackson's pass. With the other newcomer, Mark Vingoe, adding to Solent's defensive abilities the home team were able to claw their way back into the game. With 90 seconds remaining Vingoe provided Howard Jackson with a perfect pass to allow Solent to take the lead for the first time (86 - 85). Soon after, Worthing needed a three pointer to take the game into overtime. They missed with their final attempt. Solent gained the rebound and Alan McDonald wrapped up the 92 - 87 (H. Jackson 28) victory for Solent with an easy lay-up.

Howard Jackson

The Christmas break was not long enough for the recovering David Butterworth who was declared unfit to travel to Sutton Pumas. Also missing was Jon Neale who probably would miss the rest of the season because of glandular fever. Neale had been ever-present so far in the season, often to be found in the starting five. Also missing was Trevor Donaldson (holiday). Solent started the game slowly, but by halftime they held a slender one-point lead (42 - 41). A high foul count (14 - 5) in the first half, limited Solent's defensive capabilities. When Howard Jackson fouled out - and with no obvious replacement - Solent ran out of ideas and points and fell to a 74 - 96 defeat.

With no home game in January for the fans, Solent arranged a home game with USAF Lakenheath Eagles. The match gave David Butterworth an opportunity to try out his injured ankle. It also provided Howard Jackson with the chance to demonstrate a variety of slam dunks as he enjoyed playing against fellow Americans. Solent won 91 - 71 (H. Jackson 26, M. Jackson 20).

Thirteen away matches and almost a year had passed since Solent Stars had won a game on the road. That had been at Coventry Crusaders, who provided the next opposition for Solent at the Coventry Sports Centre. As a mark of how things had changed, not one of the current Solent squad had played in that fixture of a year ago. Both Alan McDonald and Trevor Donaldson, the only survivors, were absent for this match. Last season it was John Bynum and Marlin Capers who had done the damage at Coventry. This time it was the American pairing of Dominique Jones and Howard Jackson who scored nearly half of Solent's points in the 103 - 73 (Jones 28, H. Jackson 23) win over lowly placed Coventry.

Prior to their visit to Plymouth Raiders, Solent were once again victims of a training night injury. This time it was David Butterfield who dislocated a finger. Nonetheless he travelled with the team and played with two fingers strapped together. Solent took the early honours in front of the 1,000 plus spectators and still held a slender lead just after halftime. However, what followed was a phenomenal ten minutes of basketball that saw Solent score 22 points - a not unusual quarter tally of points - whilst Plymouth racked up 45 points of their own! No matter what Solent did - timeout, tactic changes - Plymouth just kept on scoring to take an 87 - 68 lead into the final quarter. Two minutes into the final quarter Butterworth fouled out to be followed shortly by a disappointing Dominique Jones. Solent battled on gamely with Howard Jackson prominent as Solent closed the gap to a respectable 100 - 109 (H. Jackson 33, M. Jackson 23) defeat.

David Butterworth

The next away game was at Oxford Devils. Solent led throughout most of the game and only trailed twice by one point. Unfortunately for them the second time was at the end of the game! A combination of too many turnovers and too many fouls proved their undoing. With 41 seconds remaining Chris Sheldrick fouled to allow Oxford to close the gap to 87 - 84. Twenty seconds later he fouled again and Oxford closed the gap to 87 - 86. Solent turned the ball over in the remaining 21 seconds and Howard Jackson was then called for a foul. Neil Baker calmly sank both shots to send Solent to an 87 - 88 (M. Jackson 27, H. Jackson 21) defeat.

After six weeks without a home fixture, a double-header home weekend followed for Solent. First up were Ware Rebels. Howard Jackson stole the honours in the game with a series of spectacular baskets. He combined well with namesake Mark, who provided a series of telling passes. Solent had trailed 21 - 29 at the end of the first quarter, but a thrilling second period had taken them to a halftime lead of seven points. Despite a couple of frights, Solent did not surrender the lead in the second half and ran out winners, 100 - 89 (H. Jackson 34, M. Jackson 22, Butterworth 20).

Teesside Mohawks - unbeaten in league and cup - were the visitors on the following day. Solent wasted no time in building up an early lead thanks to three pointers from Mark Jackson (3) and Alan McDonald whilst Howard Jackson worked tirelessly for his first quarter 13 points. Solent's initial 13-point advantage turned to an eight point deficit in the second quarter as the league champions piled on the pressure. David Butterworth raised the home fans' hopes with a quick burst of scoring. Then the Solent coaches were charged with a technical foul for protesting that Teesside's Ralph Bucci was being given too much protection by the referees. Despite a late rally, Solent were beaten 105 - 117 (H. Jackson 29, Butterworth 26, M. Jackson 21).

Injury-hit Solent travelled to Worthing Thunder with only eight fit players. Things did not get any better when Howard Jackson twisted an ankle early in the game that forced him to sit out most of the rest of the match. Even so, Solent were able to hold their own until a series of turnovers gave the advantage to Worthing. Mark Jackson reached his fourth foul in the third quarter and coach Mark Scott was forced to take him to the bench. However, with neither Jackson on court, Solent were unable to contain Worthing and Mark Jackson was put back into the game where he soon picked up his fifth foul. It was left to Dominique Jones, Mark Vingoe and David Butterworth to provide the points for Solent. This they did but the six-man Solent squad was unable to prevent a Worthing win, 85 - 101 (Vingoe 20).

Plymouth Raiders were the next visitors to Solent, who were without Howard Jackson. Plymouth led 10 - 19 in the first quarter before three pointers from Dominique Jones and Mark Jackson closed the gap. The second quarter belonged to Solent who outscored second placed Plymouth 38 - 28. Trevor Donaldson scored three of Solent's nine first half three pointers to help Solent to a 58 - 50 halftime lead. However, the Solent gremlins struck in the third quarter and they were only able to manage 13 points, whilst Plymouth were able to score at will. A determined last quarter rally by Solent thrilled their largest crowd of the season but Solent lost 101 - 114 (M. Jackson 28, Butterworth 23).

Anthony Rutter

More injury worries plagued Solent as they travelled to Manchester Magic. Howard Jackson, Mark Vingoe and Chris Sheldrick were all unavailable for this game. Alan McDonald only managed 12 minutes in the game before he had to leave with the effects of a heavy cold. The remaining seven players, with the exception of Mark Jackson, had a nightmare game. Coach Mark Scott berated the team for 12 of the 15 halftime minutes with the result that Manchester scored the first ten points of the second half! Solent were outplayed to the tune of an 89 - 112 (M. Jackson 36) defeat.

Having slipped to ninth place in the league, Solent needed victories in their remaining games. The first of these was an away fixture at Reading Rockets. Once again, Solent could only raise eight fit players for the game. By the fourth minute of the final quarter, Solent were trailing by 31 points. With one player already fouled out, another (Adam Willis) not able to play for a period because of a cut near his eye, it was a disaster when Dominique Jones and Mark Jackson clashed heads whilst going for a loose ball. The game was halted for five minutes whilst the players were given attention. Jackson was able to continue and it said much for the Solent spirit that the remaining players on-court (Anthony Rutter, Adam Willis, Alan McDonald and Trevor Donaldson) restricted Reading to just six more points whilst scoring 21 themselves. Solent lost the game 95 - 109 (M. Jackson 20).

Solent needed to win the home game against Kingston Wildcats to hold out any hope of reaching the play-offs. Although Howard Jackson returned for the game, it was clear that he was nowhere near his previous form, being restricted in his movements. Solent's other American, Dominique Jones was sidelined for the first time since joining the club with a head injury sustained at Reading. Solent led 23 - 18 at the end of the first quarter and 45 - 44 by halftime. Kingston had the edge in a low scoring third quarter and led 63 - 68. They then opened up a 14-point lead through 40 point Wayne Henry and it was left to a late spirited rally by Solent to bring them within three points, but also to another defeat, 90 - 93 (H. Jackson 26, M. Jackson 23).

Chris Sheldrick

A visit to Hackney White Heat had all the trappings of an end-of-season affair. One referee forgot his whistle (Mark Vingoe came to his rescue) but once obtained, the referees called Solent for fouls that put them in team foul trouble by the 3rd minute of the first, second and fourth periods. This situation allowed Hackney to add points from the free throw line. Solent were being out-hustled and lost possession on many occasions. Most critically Anthony Rutter turned the ball over twice at the start of the final period which allowed Hackney to wipe out Solent's four point lead. Both American players fouled out in the fourth minute of the final quarter. Despite this setback, a couple of three pointers from Alan McDonald allowed Solent to take the lead (78 - 77) before more turnovers gave the game to Hackney, 85 - 92 (H. Jackson 24).

Coventry Crusaders were the final visitors to Solent for the season. Although they started well, the visitors ran out of steam in the second half and were no match for a rampant Solent and especially three point shooting David Butterworth. Solent won 102 - 60 (Butterworth 34, H. Jackson 20) with all ten Solent players getting on the scoresheet.

After the game Mark Jackson received the Player of the Year award, exactly nine years after he had done so originally. He was also the winner of the Players' Player of the Year trophy.

The final game of the season was away to Ware Rebels. Solent were without Howard Jackson, who had returned to America, and Adam Willis (hamstring). The first three quarters were even affairs, with Solent holding a seven-point advantage at one stage. However, the game hinged on the first two minutes of the final quarter when Solent were outscored 2 - 11. Disappointingly, Solent could not pull back against a team that had only previously won three games in the season and lost 76 - 87 (Butterworth 22, Jones 20).

(NBL Conference)
Played Won Lost For Against Difference Points
1 Teesside Mohawks 22 21 1 2238 1801 +437 42
2 Plymouth Raiders 22 18 4 2062 1776 +286 36
3 Reading Rockets 22 16 6 2092 1876 +216 32
4 Worthing Thunder 22 15 7 2045 1868 +177 30
5 Manchester Magic 22 12 10 1979 1866 +113 24
6 Kingston Wildcats 22 11 11 1698 1797 -99 22
7 Sutton Pumas 22 11 11 2011 1949 +62 22
8 Oxford Devils 22 11 11 1889 1890 -1 22
9 Solent Stars 22 7 15 1995 2108 -113 14
10 Ware Rebels 22 4 18 1696 1959 -263 8
11 Hackney White Heat 22 3 19 1652 1941 -289 6
12 Coventry Crusaders 22 3 19 1525 2051 -526 6

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