THE Wonthaggi Coasters under 14 girls basketball team have returned from the Australia Club Championships at Gosford with a wealth of experience at the higher level.
The team was ranked 18th in Australia at the completion of the week-long tournament – an incredible effort against much bigger towns with far superior facilities.
It was a very nervous start to the first day of play for the players and coaches of the Wonthaggi team.
The girls were introduced onto the court individually as well as coaches and the team manager for the exchanging of gifts at the start of the match.
Looking very smart in the new playing uniforms, the girls were ready to rumble at the tip-off.
Up against a much-bigger Stirling (Western Australia), it didn’t stop a very determined Wonthaggi side matching it end to end.
The Wonthaggi girls were learning very fast with the 24-second shot clock stopping on every whistle and physicality that the Wonthaggi team has never experienced before.
Down at half time, coach Hannah McRae and assistant coach Bill Jeffs assured the girls
they were still in the game, to keep working as a team and keep the tight defensive pressure on Stirling.
The Wonthaggi girls responded and kept the pressure up until the final siren, going down 48-45.
The second game of the day was against the Darwin Cyclones and that’s how the girls played. Struggling to regroup from the match earlier in the day, the girls played catch up all game.
The girls’ attitude to keep battling on paid off and with 0.1 seconds left in the game the scores level at 70 points apiece.
Zali Anderson stepped to the foul line for two shots for the Coasters and with the game resting on her shoulders, she sunk the first shot to give Wonthaggi their first win 71-70.
The Coasters only game for the day was a 2pm start against the unbeaten Illawarra Hawks (NSW) and a win was needed to qualify for the championship division.
This was another high intensity game with Wonthaggi showing their determination and the skills levels that got them to the championships.
The match went goal for goal and with 30 seconds to go, Wonthaggi was one point down and had control of the ball.
Wonthaggi could sense they could steal the game but with Illawarra stealing the pass, the Hawks scored points before sinking another on siren, to win 53-48. This match demonstrated that the girls were knocking on the door against more well-known teams at the championships.
After a win and two losses, Wonthaggi were placed in the Rachel Sporn Shield division.
The first game of the day was against Hornsby Spiders (NSW) – a game which the girls should have walked away with a win but this was not the case.
Hornsby had Wonthaggi on the back foot and they seemed to have control of the game to win 53-42
Wonthaggi regrouped after the game earlier in the day and stepped out against the Northern Territory Suns ready to play strong basketball.
The Coasters didn’t disappoint as they won convincingly 87-17 and gave the side an opportunity to give all players good court time and rest players.
Wonthaggi qualified for the quarter finals and were up against the Perry Lakes (Western Australia). This was going to be a tough game, being hump day for the tournament with the girls battling tiredness, sore bodies and mental exhaustion.
Perry Lakes were another polished team that jumped Wonthaggi in first quarter.
The Coasters kept up the determination and pressure throughout this game, matching Perry Lakes on the score board in the final three quarters to lose 58-47.
The Northern Tasmanian Foresters and the Wonthaggi Coasters were evenly matched on paper but at the first jump ball Wonthaggi was hungry for a win.
That’s how they played for next four quarters – sinking shots and applying pressure on the Foresters players.
This was another development for the Wonthaggi girls due to the Tassie supporters who were very vocal with instruments that saw the girls struggling to hear each other call set plays.
To Wonthaggi’s credit, they dug deep and beat the Foresters 61-48.
The final day of the championships and the bruises were shining on player’s knees and general tiredness hit the team.
Wonthaggi were playing for position 17th or 18th and stepped onto the court eager to finish with a win.
Coach Hannah was rotating players regularly, but players in foul trouble and a week of the elite standard of basketball showed as the Coasters lost to Northern Tasmanian Thunders 52-33.
Wonthaggi had two players in the top 10 and another in the top 20 for points scored for the tournament and also had two players in the top 20 for average points per game.
The Coasters finished 18th overall which is a remarkable effort when many of the opposition sides choose their squad from over 100 girls and have the backing of a professional network.
The fantastic coaching by Hannah and her assistant Bill encouraged the girls during a demanding week and produced a fantastic performance to make Wonthaggi and surrounding areas proud.
The support from home throughout the week was incredible, particularly on Facebook where Wonthaggi won the tournament’s ‘Club Pride’ competition for the most followed association.
The Wonthaggi Coasters’ under 14 girls would like to sincerely thank the major sponsors of the side’s uniforms – Alex Scott and Staff and Wonthaggi Plaster (Warmup uniforms), Pryor’s Fencing (Playing uniforms), Elders (Backpacks) and Blue Light Disco (Hoodies).