HUNDREDS of Wimmera residents packed into the Horsham Basketball Stadium at the weekend to watch a South East Australian Basketball League pre-season competition.
The Nunawading Spectres, Ballarat Miners, Mount Gambier Pioneers and Bendigo Braves competed for the newly created Graham Adams Shield in a six-game round robin tournament on Saturday and Sunday.
The shield recognised former Horsham Hornet Graham Adams, who was killed in a car accident in 2007.
Nunawading and Ballarat each have Wimmera connections, with Spectres captain and reigning SEABL MVP Shane McDonald, Miners captain Shaun Bruce and Miners guard Ash Constable all hailing from Horsham.
Nunawading won the shield for the first time by winning all three of its matches at the weekend.
It was the first time such a tournament has been played in Horsham, with the city turning out to support the visiting teams.
Horsham Amateur Basketball Association committee member Jamie Atherton said an average of more than 150 people attended each match, with more than 200 in the stands for two matches on Saturday night.
Atherton said getting SEABL teams to play in Horsham was an achievement that would inspire young children to take up the sport.
“The really exciting part for our association is that the Spectres came up on Friday and conducted school clinics and on Saturday we had two clinics hosted by the Ballarat Miners,” he said.
“Professional people like that coming in and working with kids is great, and it means the kids all see a pathway beyond the Hornets – they see competition at the next level.
“They get to see people like Ash Constable who was a Horsham boy playing for the Miners, and Shane McDonald who is captain of Nunawading and the league MVP.”
Atherton praised the professionalism of the four visiting teams and said the association had received positive feedback from each of them about the organisation of the tournament.
He said the association had strong hopes the teams would return to Horsham each pre-season to contest the Graham Adams Shield.
Horsham Hornets coach Tim Pickert suited up for Mount Gambier during the tournament due to player injuries on the team.
Pickert said he was contacted on Thursday night about the possibility of playing with the Pioneers and jumped at the chance.
“It was a good opportunity for me to play against some quality players,” he said.
“I didn’t know anyone I was playing with to start with so it was a bit weird, but they were a good group of guys and I enjoyed it.”
After playing football last winter, Pickert said he had no immediate plans to try and play at SEABL level this year. He said he would take a season off from playing sport after competing continuously for nearly three years.
McDonald said he enjoyed coming back to Horsham, albeit in a different uniform.
“It was a fun weekend playing back on the old home court,” he said. “It still felt like home so I really enjoyed it.”
McDonald said he enjoyed the opportunity to expand the sport in the Wimmera after running clinics with about 300 school children on Friday.
He said the Spectres drew confidence from their three wins and would look to carry their momentum into the SEABL regular season.
Graham Adams Shield results:
Nunawading 90 d Ballarat 60
Mount Gambier 57 d Bendigo 53
Bendigo 83 d Ballarat 71
Nunawading 82 d Mount Gambier 56
Nunawading 73 d Bendigo 61
Mount Gambier 87 d Ballarat 63.