JPC basketball girls win silver despite odds
ON the surface, the effort of John Paul College's girls' basketball team winning a silver medal at the prestigious National Schools tournament is a sensational one.
Scratch the surface a little and you'll find that the girls actually achieved an amazing feat.
To start with, the team was originally entered to play in Division 3 but an alteration saw them move up to the tougher Division 2.
Playing against such polished opposition was always going to be a challenge but to do so without team captain Bronte Emmanuel who is overseas playing with the East Coast Dunkeroos made the assignment even more difficult.
Just to top off the degree of difficulty that the girls faced, the squad mainly consists of students who are in years 7 and 8 with only a couple of year 9 girls to take on a competition where most of the opponents were based around the talents of year 10 students.
Take all of this into account and you have to tip your lid to the girls from JPC for winning the silver.
After sweeping all before them in the NSWCCC competition this year, coach Lionel Conroy and the team travelled down to Newcastle last week and were immediately hit with how large the tournament was.
Entering the Broadmeadow stadium it was quickly obvious this was a prestigious event with every team keen to do well after preparing well.
It was also clear that standing at six foot was no longer considered tall.
Nevertheless the first match was attacked with gusto and despite Warrnambool's Brauer College boasting a centre who was six foot two inches in height, the JPC girls claimed a vital first-up victory.
Annabel Tonks handled the unenviable task of guarding their centre and with clever play and outstanding rebounding restricted their star player to less than 20 points and once the tall opponent was fouled out, the 58-51 victory ensured a great start.
Comfortable victories over Bendigo's South East Secondary College and Hunter Sports High School qualified the girls for a semi-final against Maitland.
Early foul trouble and a few dubious refereeing decisions caused an early scare as both teams traded baskets in a tense first quarter.
Shauna Bastick's role was to shut down Maitland's chief playmaker who scored 43 points in their previous win against Mowbray College.
Bastick's relentless defence frustrated her opponent forcing turnovers and preventing the opposition star from playing her normal game.
Bianca Oberleuter, Jessi Reeves, Annabel Tonks and Sam Bastick played strong denial defence to limit Maitland's scoring chances and despite a lopsided foul count against JPC the girls triumphed 53-31 to force their way into the national final and a surprise match-up with first round victims Brauer College.
The JPC girls, who had won 15 straight games this year on the way to the national schools final, were naturally elated by their efforts.
In the final the Brauer players started aggressively and put 10 points on the board before JPC settled in to their usual defensive pattern.
Man-to man defence was ineffective and once the girls settled back into a zone they began to chip away at the South-Western Victorian team's lead.
Brauer's two star players however proved unstoppable and created a match winning lead in the third quarter.
Despite trying their hardest for the whole game against a team who were two years older per player, Brauer were just too strong and thoroughly deserved their 66-34 victory.
The silver medal winning performance places this young side in the top 10 junior school teams in Australia.
And with all players eligible again next year, a strong performance is expected in 2009.