SHANE Smith says an ability to embrace pressure moments underlined Warrnambool Seahawks’ rise to become country Victoria’s best under 14 team.
The Seahawks trailed in both the semi-final and grand final before clawing their way back to win the Basketball Victoria Country division one championship in Ballarat on Sunday.
Their achievement came a week after the Seahawks’ under 12s accomplished the feat, giving Warrnambool claim to two of the best junior sides in the state.
Their efforts capped off a stunning period for the sport in Warrnambool.
Ex-Big V player Nathan Sobey claimed Commonwealth Games gold for Australian Boomers on Sunday and teenagers Jay Rantall and Liam Herbert were part of the Australian Crocs’ successful Asia Cup earlier this month.
Smith said his under 14 squad dominated its pool games before facing tough challenges in its 55-35 semi-final victory over Pakenham and 53-41 grand final win over Geelong.
“They had the finger pointed at them – everyone wanted to beat them so they did feel a bit of pressure,” he said.
“They really pull together as a group. Their tenacity to lock down in pressure games (is fantastic).”
Smith said the Seahawks, who have now qualified for two national competitions, showed that fight in their finals.
“Pakenham is a new team in country Victoria basketball,” he said.
“They’re from the outskirts of Melbourne and have been brought into the competition. It was a big challenge because we’d played the other teams before.
“They were a big, physical team and they brought the yahoo, yelling and cheering.
“We were down 12 ot 14 points early and we had to weather the storm.”
The Seahawks found themselves in a similiar position against Geelong.
“They came out of the blocks fast and were up by 10 or 12 points up early,” Smith said.
“It was a fairly even game at half-time and then we got a 10 or 15-point lead and maintained it.”
Warrnambool’s 10-player squad impressed Smith.
“George Stevens is a standout in a number of sports but he had great support,” he said.
“A lot of our taller kids in Luamon Lual and Harry Keast were really strong on the boards and we had exceptional guards in Oliver Smith, Connor Byrne and Finn O’Sullivan.
“We had great contributions from the point of view of defensive and offensive perspectives from Isaiah Woodbury, Oliver Myers, Rupert Morley and Pwoch Akoch.”