The Mudgee Lakers under 14 boys basketball team pulled off a stunning victory over Narrandera Knights 60-57 to capture the Division 2 Waratah Western Junior Basketball League title at Bathurst on Sunday.
Although the final score shows a win by only three points, the Lakers held a substantial 60-45 lead late in the match, before Narrandera surged back to get within three.
The Lakers coach brought his bench players into the game 2 minutes 53 seconds before full time to give them a taste of victory.
And, while this decision gave the opposition a chance to close the gap, the Mudgee players on court responded with determination and grit, holding out grimly against the last ditch scoring effort from Narrandera, and the competition's leading player, Darcy Nimmo, who finished with 30 points in the match.
The close finish disguises the fact that for the majority of the grand final, the Lakers held sway, ahead 33-30 at half-time and 48-35 at the final break.
Whenever Narrandera appeared to be on the verge of taking control of the match, Mudgee responded time and again with a steal or a basket under extreme pressure from the Knights smothering defence.
In hindsight, the numerous turnovers resulting in points the Lakers created from their defence, nullified the Knights dominance of the boards and was without doubt a crucial and deciding factor in the Mudgee win.
Only once, in the second quarter, did Narrandera hit the front and that was by just a single point, 26-25.
It was a remarkable effort by the Lakers as they had to get past Lithgow Lazers in the minor semi-final, winning 48-43, then stunning Bathurst Goldminers 55-35 to set up the encounter with Narrandera, who had beaten Bathurst 52-32 in the major semi-final.
The rapid improvement over the competition and through the play offs was eye catching, and credit for the success of the team goes not only to the dedication to training by the players, but also to head coach Peter Doran and assistant coach Julian Geddes.
Logan Geddes received the most valuable of the match award and top scored with 18 points, Lachlan Doran 13, Cooper Riley 10, Evan Wilson 9, Jordan Geddes 8, Thomas Briggs 2.
Geoff Robinson is a Mudgee Guardian contributor.
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