THE Horsham Junior Classic basketball tournament this weekend is shaping up as one of the biggest in years, with 75 teams competing from across the state.
Teams representing Colac, Mildura, Horsham, Warrnambool, Ararat, Warracknabeal, Portland, Swan Hill, Maryborough, Hamilton and Shepparton will participate, as preparation ramps up for next February’s country championships.
Two boys teams from Shepparton will combat the long travel time to compete in the event for the first time in several years.
Matches are played on both Saturday and Sunday at seven different locations: Main Stadium, St Brigid’s College, Holy Trinity Lutheran School, Horsham Primary School, Horsham College and the under-12s girls matches on Saturday will be played at Murtoa College.
Tournament committee head Nicole Lakin said it has been a huge effort to organise and was thankful for the ongoing efforts of volunteers.
“We took on 15 more teams than we had planned, so Murtoa has been kind enough to put their hand up and support us this year,” Ms Lakin said.
“We’re a small country town but we’re really well respected throughout the state, so there’s always a real demand to play in our tournament.
“The junior pathways into the Country Basketball League are going to be on show out on the court this weekend, and it should be a great couple of days.”
Fourteen Horsham basketball teams will compete in the Horsham Junior Classic this weekend.
Players are excited to play in front of family and friends at their home courts in one of the biggest junior basketball tournaments in the region.
Junior representative squad organiser Tony Sleep said he was hopeful of seeing some good results.
“I’ve been doing this role for seven years now and this is probably our strongest contingent yet,” he said.
“It should be a good weekend.”
Development and fundamentals will be the motto for Horsham’s under-12 teams.
Sleep is coaching the boys and stressed the need for effective development while the youngsters are still learning the game.
“My philosophy is to teach the skills and let the success take care of itself,” Sleep said.
“I just hope for our under-12s division one side that they continue to progress, play aggressive basketball and further their knowledge and expertise of the game.”
Cassandra Haskett will coach the under-12s girls teams.
Coach of the under-14s girls Bec McIntyre said it was going to be a tough weekend of competition.
“We’ve moved up to division one now so it’s going to be a step up,” McIntyre said.
“But we’re just looking to play well and have some fun.
“We’ve got some really good girls in the team and they’ve been training well, so it should be a fun weekend.”
Horsham basketball legend Owen Hughan will coach the under-14 boys, who look set to also have a great tournament.
Coach Nicole Lakin didn’t want to put the pressure on the under-16s girls team, but couldn’t hold back in a glowing assessment of the team’s quality.
“We’re still trying to develop our starting line-up, our best five,” Lakin said.
“I know we have the talent, we just have to click, believe in each other and believe in ourselves.
“There will be some great competition and we’ve got a lot of bottom age girls, but they made the semi-finals in Warnambool so they’re definitely capable of making the grand final on the weekend.”
Boys coach Damien Kilpatrick said it was a crucial weekend for the team ahead of state championships.
“The boys are looking okay, we’ve got a lot of new players in the team that are continually getting better,” he said.
“It’s do or die for them, they have to win their games in this tournament to secure a spot in division one or two at the state championships.
“The pressure is on a bit but they’ll do what they have to do – they’re very competitive.”
Nicole Lakin is also coach of the under-18s girls, and said it was a great chance for the girls to achieve some success before other sports take precedence.
“We’ve got a couple of girls who play state football after Christmas and some move towards netball so they have to split their time away from basketball,” Lakin said.
“We’ve got most in for this weekend so this is a really good chance to show what we can do. I said to the girls that we’ve got to try and win a Horsham title, that’s what we’re all out to do.”
Damien Kilpatrick is hoping for similar success for his boys team on their home court.
“You always want to win your own tournament naturally, but there’s some good competition coming here,” he said.
“Our boys look good, they’ve had a very good season and I expect them to win more games than they lose this weekend. As long as the boys continue to do what they do and continue to work hard on their defence, they’re looking alright.”