TWO of the Shoalhaven’s brightest basketball stars have proved to the Kiwis that Australia can shoot hoops just as well as their neighbour.
Gavin Costain and Trent Hilaire returned with bronze from a school holidays tour of New Zealand, where they took on some of the country’s top young players as a part of the Australian Country under 15 and under 16 teams in the Pacific Rim Championships.
Hilaire said he believed his under 17s team was in with a good chance of taking gold.
“We had pretty much nine state players, so a pretty good team, and everyone knew what they were doing,” he said.
However during their five pool games Australia Country lost two, which cost them a shot at the gold medal final.
However Hilaire’s team was keen to come home with some silver ware.
One of Australia Country’s players was seriously injured with a dislocated knee cap the first time their team played their final opponents, host team Tauranga, so Hillaire said his team was even more motivated to win bronze.
Tauranga turned out to be no challenge for the boys in green and gold, with Australia Country taking the win by 55 points.
“We were all fired up, so we went in and smoked them,” Hilaire said.
The 14-year-old said it was a good solid week of basketball.
“It was a great experience to see what playing at the next level is like,” he said.
“And it was Easter, so we all had a joke and a pretty good time.”
Costain usually plays in the under 14s division, but with New Zealand playing the odd age, he had to play up an age group.
“There were some very big boys,” he said.
Despite this, Costain’s team got off to a great start in game one with a huge 100-35 victory over Tauranga.
Two losses in the next two games saw them struggle slightly against their opponents, size and physicality, but the Aussies were back on track in the next game, defeating Hibiscus Coast, and then Waikato in the final pool round.
The pool rounds saw Costain’s team finish in equal second spot with Waitakere, but as they lost to that side in the pool games, Waitakere went to the gold medal match, while the Australia Country played off for bronze against Waikato.
Costain saved his best game of the tournament for the medal game posting a game high 33 points in his team’s 103-87 victory.
Costain said he was grateful for his selection and also to all the people along the way that have helped to get him this far.
“Thanks to my parents, all my coaches over the past three years and also to those local businesses that supported me with sponsorship for the New Zealand tour,” he said.
Costain was straight off the plane and back into action with a school tournament in Sydney, and then training with the Illawarra Hawks under 14 side in preparation for round three of the Country Premier League.
Hilaire will now continue his season with the Shoalhaven Tigers, and looks forward to NITP selection in August.