The Byron Beez U/14 girls and U/16 boys were crowned Northern Junior League champions, while the U/14 boys came away from the early August tournament in Port Macquarie as runners-up.
The U/14 girl Beez finished on top of the ladder after the four regular rounds of NJL competition and faced Tamworth in their first game of the tournament, which they won 51–27.
The U/14 girls dominated the grandfinal against the Coffs Harbour Suns and won 56–28, after establishing a 24-point lead by halftime.
‘It was a fantastic team effort and so great to watch them play. Opposition parents were quick to congratulate our team on their superior performance and manner in which they play the game, a testament to their competitive but friendly personalities and attitudes on the court, coach Matt Ogle said.
Beez player Isis Crawford was named Most Valuable Player for the grandfinal
The team will travel to Newcastle on August 25 to compete in the State Cup that includes teams from North Sydney, Hills District, Albury, and Cootamundra.
‘This will be an amazing experience for the young Byron team and we can’t wait to get there and have a go at the teams from the Metropolitan League,’ Ogle said.
The U/16 boy Beez defeated Tamworth 102–53 and Port Macquarie 86–73 on their way to the grandfinal against Bellinger.
The Beez lost to Bellinger in their last encounter and took no chances coming out firing, according to coach Nash Campbell.
‘Despite some deadly three-point shooting which saw the Braves take the lead, the Beez held their nerve going on to win 83–75,’ he said.
In their win against Tamworth the team showed ‘relentless determination’ and played ‘the game of the year’, he said.
Beez player Panha Doung was named grandfinal MVP.
The U/14 Beez boys were minor premiers but had to fight hard for a grandfinal place after going down by five points to Bellinger in their first game of the tournament.
They went on to beat Coffs Harbour to give them a place in the grandfinal and a rematch against ‘friendly rivals’ Bellinger, coach Alvin Caoyonan said.
‘There were multiple lead changes in the first quarter. The second quarter saw Bellinger capitalise on a few uncharacteristic handling errors on our part and opened up a 16-point lead,’ he said.
‘The third and fourth quarters saw our boys valiantly battle back. And with one minute remaining we found ourselves down by five.
‘A last push saw a huge three-pointer sunk by Luke Smith to bring us back to within one point, but it was not to be, as we had the rug pulled out from underneath us and Bellinger held on for a narrow victory taking the NJL title.
‘As a coach, I can’t be prouder of how the boys showed great resilience in battling back from a large point deficit. And the poise they showed under such great pressure was second to none’.
Despite the loss the U/14 boys will be going to the State Cup after receiving a Wildcard Nomination.
U/16 girls Beez team qualified fourth for the NJL finals in Port Macquarie.
Their sudden-death final against third-placed Coffs Harbour was always going to be a close contest. The Beez were keen to get off to a good start against the Suns and control the tempo of the game early. The team was obviously very motivated as they surged to an 18–6 first quarter lead on the back of fantastic defence and great teamwork in offence, moving the ball and taking open shots. By half time, the Suns had closed the gap and hit a shot on the buzzer to give them the lead 28–26, coach Matt Ogle said.
The second half was a back-and-forth struggle between two teams that were both desperate to win. The Beez stopped the Suns repeatedly but turnovers allowed the Suns to stay in the game up until the final seconds. Unlucky, the Beez went down by one basket and were eliminated from the finals.