BATHURST’S Sara Matthews and her Australian Country Junior Basketball Cup representative team had a tournament to be proud of at the weekend’s Mel Young Easter Classic in New Zealand despite coming up just shy of the top prize.
Matthews and her under 17s side returned home with a silver medal after going down in Monday’s final by just four points to Waikato.
After a great fight the Australian team went down 68-64 in the decider.
The team got their tournament off to a flying start with a thumping 110-25 win over Tauranga and followed that up with a 105-23 hiding of Thames Valley.
Matthews and her squad got their first solid test against Taranaki but emerged 96-63 winners. The Australians then had a strong 105-40 semi-final win over Manawatu.
Meanwhile, Bathurst Goldminers coach Grant Cole was able to celebrate gold medal success with his under 15s side at the tournament.
In the lead up to the competition Cole let on his outfit was up against some very physical opposition.
What he didn’t give away was his boys in green and gold were well and truly capable of punching above their weight.
Against some ginormous opposition at Tauranga the Aussies stormed to the tournament victory in an overtime thriller against Waitekerie, coming from behind to prevail 87-81.
Cole was thrilled for his team, one that battled vastly taller opposition for virtually the entire four days in New Zealand and still managed to progress through to the final undefeated.
“These young men were outstanding all week,” Cole said from New Zealand, praising his side’s never-say-die attitude.
“They never gave up against some very big teams to make it to the grand final undefeated and they came from behind to win in overtime.
“Every single player contributed all week every time they stepped onto the court.”
The team qualified for the final thanks to a 63-58 win over Waikato in front of a massive crowd that ballooned during a semi-final’s final quarter.
Incredibly, Cole’s tallest player looked up to all bar one of the opposition’s players in that clash.
Cole dubbed that contest a genuine David versus Goliath encounter.
The win marked the first time an Australian Country Cup side has made the final of the under 15 boys’ division of the tournament.
“Super proud of them all,” he added.
“And to be the first Australian under 15 boys’ team to make it to a grand final at this tournament and then win it is a huge achievement in itself.”
It’s the first time Cole has been appointed to coach an Australian Country Cup side, the job giving the Orange-based super coach a thrill he hasn’t had since mentoring college players in America in the 1990s.
The under 15s girls’ team also came away with a silver medal. The side lost 75-66 to Waitakerie in their final.