The Mudgee Lakers under 14s boys basketball team created history last weekend becoming the first Mudgee team to qualify for a grand final at the annual Country Championships.
Unfortunately they could not go all the way, beaten 47-35 by Port Macquarie, the team that defeated them by a similar margin, 45-39, in round one of the pool qualifying games.
While quietly confident they could turn the tables on their talented opponents in the grand final, prospects looked bleak down 17-2, the Lakers unable to convert their shots into points and shut down Port Macquarie's offence.
But the Lakers with tenacity and a never say die attitude, doubled their defensive efforts to stymie Port's attack, and with their motion offense spearheaded by Josh Watson, at last breaking down their opponents defence, a 16-3 run closed the gap to a single basket.
By halftime however, Port Macquarie had eased ahead 20-14, and once again the Lakers were playing catch up as the third quarter unfolded.
The Lakers kept their hopes alive with another concerted effort in this period and were now within five points of the opposition, outscoring them 10-9 as the teams went to the final break.
Unable to sustain the pressure on their opponents, the Lakers were dismayed to see the gap gradually widen as Port Macquarie found their offensive rhythm in the final period they had been denied since the first break, and outscored a persistent Mudgee outfit 18-13 to take the match by twelve points.
Logan Geddes top scored for Mudgee with 18 points and was the player of the match, Lachie Doran and Oscar Diprose 4 points each, Josh Watson 3, Ed Disher, Tom Briggs and Jordan Geddes 2 each.
The improvement by the team has been astounding, emphasised by the defeat of the favourites Albury 39-35, and then Canberra number one side in the semi-final 25-22.
Congratulations to all the players and coaches Peter Doran and Julian Geddes.
The under 16 boys were also on the verge of a semi-final spot with three wins from six games, defeating Shoalhaven 46-17, Merimbula 30-17 and Maitland (2) 59-38.
A 40-34 loss to Albury, the eventual under 16s winners, a significant pointer to how close they came to a play off game.
With yet more improvement to come, the team is shaping up to be grand finalists in 2023. A great effort from all the players under coach Peter Mayson.
The under 18s boys competition is arguably the toughest nut to crack at the Country Championships, with the majority of teams, if not all, playing together through the age divisions, all players with honed skills and polished team work.
The Lakers U18s, like the 14s and 16s, were put together only a few months ago, and although training hard over that period, again found it extremely difficult to break through for a win over the weekend.
Their best game was a 40-38 loss to Orange with only five players available due to illness.
The Lakers played out of their skins to lead by 12 points with two minutes remaining in the game, but this concerted effort took its toll, and Orange were able to drag back the deficit to lock it up at 36 all by full-time.
A frenetic end to end effort from both teams in overtime had Mudgee supporters urging their team to victory, but the Lakers were unable to control the ball for perhaps the winning play and Orange hung on for a two point victory.
Still, the heavy defeats during the competition did not dim the enthusiasm or commitment from the players in any of the games, and under the guidance of coach Anthony Hamson showed improved skills and team work throughout the tournament, despite losses against the skill and experience of opposition sides.
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