THE Coffs Harbour Termimesh Suns under 14 boys division 1 are off to Darwin in the September school holidays in search of a national title.
The young men qualified for the event after delivering a sensational performance at the recent NSW Country Championships down in the Illawarra region. The feat is quite an historic one as the team has become the first ever Coffs Harbour boy's team to make it to the National Championships.
To give their achievement extra significance, the under 14 age group is the only level that association teams get to compete in a national championship as in the under 16 and under 18 divisions, individual players are selected to represent their state at Nationals, not their club or association.
Team coach Laurie Van Loo was absolutely thrilled with the way that her boys performed while they were away at the carnival.
She says she was even more impressed with the way the squad conducted themselves.
“I would like to tell you how fantastic Coffs Harbour Basketball was represented by these young men,” she explained.
“Not just in the way they played, but everywhere we went, the boys were dressed in tracksuits, stayed together and acted like gentlemen.
“The people at the motel congratulated them for their behaviour in the dining room and around the motel. The people at the club where we had dinner gave the team a Citizen watch the second night we went there. They said the boys were such good customers and so well behaved.”
To get through to the nationals, the Coffs Harbour boys needed to be one of the top-two teams from the weekend-long championships.
A 72-63 loss against Illawarra in the opening match didn't deter the young squad even though the pressure-laden press that the home team put on the Suns created some doubts.
A hard fought win over a small but aggressive Gosford outfit by only three points was mainly due to the 20-point effort from Macthany Nebo. Following up the next morning with a comfortable 67-34 win over Albury was enough to see the Coffs crew finish second in their pool.
That result was good enough for a quarter-final matchup with the Central Coast Waves who had no answers to Coffs Harbour's overall strength as evidenced by the one-sided 71-27 scoreline.
Canberra were the designated semi-final opponents with the winner assured a berth in Darwin.
Coffs were off to a fast start, at one stage leading by as much as 15 points.
Canberra then put on the dreaded pressure defence and started chipping away at our lead and ended up winning the game 58-44.
The Suns boys were devastated thinking they had missed their chance at a National place but then the equivalent of a Governor's reprieve arrived.
The local boys' moods changed dramatically when they were told that Canberra weren't a part of NSW Basketball and were going to the Nationals regardless of the outcome of the Country Championships.
This meant the Suns still had a chance to qualify for Darwin but faced a 'must win' game against Gosford.
The earlier win that the Suns had enjoyed over the Rebels counted for nothing and with both teams keen for a spot at Nationals, there was a lot more at stake and the lead changed throughout the contest.
The Suns again struggled with the Rebels pressing defence, turning over the ball but the team's guards were able to find Broke Dries who was unstoppable in the post scoring 29 points to help the team to a 64-53 victory and a trip to the Top End.
Now the hard work of going to Nationals is just beginning.
“We are looking forward to the rest of the NJL season, and our fundraising for the Nationals will now start,” Van Loo said.
“With a budget of $20,000 we have as much work to do off the court as we do on it”.