Luke Littler retained his JDC Super 16 title in Milton Keynes on Sunday, after defeating Thomas Banks 5-3 in a sensational final at the Marshall Arena.
Littler, who whitewashed Eleanor Cairns to lift the title 12 months ago, came out on top in a thrilling contest to continue his remarkable progress in the sport.
JDC World Junior Champion Littler had relinquished just three legs in November’s qualifying event to seal his place in the final, while Banks - who topped this year’s JDC Super 16 Order of Merit - also progressed in style.
The pair served up one of the greatest finals in JDC history, played on the Marshall Arena stage ahead of the Cazoo Masters quarter-finals.
Reigning champion Littler drew first blood in Sunday’s showpiece, before Banks followed up the game’s first maximum with a clinical 81 finish on the bullseye for a 12-dart leveller.
Littler replied with a 12-darter of his own, converting a sublime 140 checkout to regain the lead, before extending his cushion with a 14-darter via double one.
Banks punished five missed darts at double from the 16-year-old to reduce the arrears to 3-2, and he continued his charge with a 14-dart hold to restore parity at three apiece.
However, the Harlow ace was unable to register a dart at double for a 103 checkout in leg seven and Littler capitalised, following up a two-dart 89 finish with a 13-dart break to secure the title.
“It’s another title which I’m happy with, and I’ve put in a really good performance,” reflected Littler, who averaged 96.98 and landed three 180s to scoop the £1,000 top prize.
“To win back-to-back titles is special. I lost to Keane [Barry] in 2020, last year I won against Eleanor, so it’s more history for me and more history for the JDC.”
Littler - who was crowned JDC World Junior Champion in December - will now get his latest taste of big stage action in March’s UK Open at Butlin’s Minehead Resort.
The Warrington star came through last Saturday’s Rileys Amateur Qualifier in Chorlton on his 16th birthday, and is relishing the prospect of making his debut in a senior PDC televised event.
“I’ve been playing well for a while now, and I cannot wait for the UK Open, it will be more experience for me,” added the teenage star.
“I was speaking to my sponsor - he has Nathan Aspinall and Lewy Williams on his team so it will be good fun, but win or lose it’s all experience for me and I will just take it in my stride.”
The 2023/24 JDC Super 16 will see 16 Academy students and 16 qualifiers compete in the early rounds on November 4, ahead of the final being played during the 2024 Masters.