HORSHAM’S under-16 girls basketball squad proved itself against some of the best junior talent in the state with a win at the Shepparton Basketball Tournament at the weekend.
Playing in division one, the team was pitted almost entirely against Basketball Victoria Country Junior Country Championship division one teams.
The tournament, which is one of the largest junior tournaments in country Victoria, received more than 160 team entries.
The team also won in division one at last month’s 23rd annual SPORTFIRST Horsham Classic Junior Basketball Tournament.
Despite playing a string of highly-ranked opponents, the team managed to stay undefeated and beat Mildura 30-28 in the grand final on Sunday.
On Saturday, the Hornets defeated host city Shepparton 45-25, the Melbourne Tigers under-16 squad 32-19 and Wodonga 42-35 in hot and testing conditions.
They beat Echuca 45-25 on Sunday to earn a grand final berth and pulled off a narrow victory over Mildura to win the tournament.
Horsham coach Owen Hughan said the final two-point victory margin in the grand final did not reflect the Hornets’ dominance.
Several missed free throws by Horsham in the dying seconds of the game made it a close result but Hughan said his side could easily have won by double-figures.
The big winning margins against powerful teams were even more impressive since Alexandra Hiscock went down with a twisted ankle in the match against Melbourne.
Hiscock was sidelined for the rest of the tournament – and the team competed with only two players on the bench.
Hughan said for the girls to win the division one grand final against the odds was nothing short of fantastic.
He said it was the first time a Horsham team had won the tournament in any division.
“We went down there to see where we stand because we don’t really play much competition, so we were a bit unsure how we were going to go,” he said.
“When we won we were absolutely beside ourselves that we were able to pull the whole thing off.
“Sometimes it’s probably better when you go in with no expectations and just say ‘we’ll see how we go’.”
Hughan said Faith McKenzie was a dominant force, leading the Hornets in scoring and rebounding for the tournament and being named best on court in the grand final.
Despite McKenzie’s superb play, Hughan said the team needed contributions from every member to win.
“You can’t win something with only one player, so they all put in a great effort,” he said.
“They all put their bit in at the time when they needed to so it would probably be unfair to separate any of them.”
Hughan said the next big test for the team would be the Basketball Victoria Country Junior Country Championship in Bendigo in February.