THE McDONALD’S under-16 Armidale Lions took out out the NSW State League in Sydney last weekend, the pinnacle of junior basketball in NSW.
The Lions remained undefeated throughout the competition State League competition where the state’s eight best-placed teams from the five contingent regional leagues.
The Armidale side played their first pool match on Saturday against Canberra and secured a 83-73 win.
The under-16 side then faced off against Camden Valley and went on to win 95-91 despite being over 12 points behind after the first quarter.
In the last of the pool matches, Armidale played against the Hunter in what Lions’ coach Bill Turner described as a tough game.
“The team from the Hunter played a very physical game and our side are not used to playing this type of game,” he said.
“But like always, the boys really rose to the challenge.”
The Lions finished at the top of their pool following the three matches and secured their berth in the State League final.
Turner said his side was prepared but at this level there is always plenty of surprises.
“When you get to the state level and you go up against best teams in the state, you never know what to expect,” he said.
“But in the pool matches, our boys left nothing to chance and they fought hard in each and every game.”
The Armidale side went into the final as the underdogs to battle it out against the Sydney Comets who were the number one ranked Sydney side.
“No hurdle is too big for these boys and when they have reached the final they really rose to the challenge,” Turner said.
The Lions edged out the favourites 72-67 to walk away the state league championships.
“The state league is the pinnacle of competition for the boys and to secure the win is incredible,” Turner said.
Turner said the side’s dominance at the State League was a team effort but a few key players drove the side’s weekend campaign.
“In the pool games Harry Baker and Ryan Shaw and Matt Turner were outstanding in controlling play,” he said.
“In the final Makuach Maluach scored 31 of our 72 points and Harry Baler scored 14 which was incredible against the strong Sydney side.”
Turner attributes the Lions’ 2012 successes to the support of the basketball community.
“The boys wouldn’t be able to travel to these types of competitions without their parents who are at every game no matter where it is,” he said.
“Not only that, without the help of the coaches Doc Manna, David Buckley and Lachie Malcolm, we wouldn’t be able to get the team working together the way we have”.
The Lions have returned to Armidale and will continue to play in the local B-grade competition.