TWO of the Shoalhaven’s brightest young basketball prospects have played starring roles for their Illawarra Hawks team, which recently finished fourth at the Australian Under 14 Boys Club Championships in Kilsyth.
Heading into the week long tournament in Victoria, Bomaderry’s Joshua Costain, Nowra’s Seth Pearman and their Illawarra side had gone 33-0 during their season – winning the Southern Junior League title, NSW John Martin Country Tournament crown and Country Champions League trophy.
The pair’s team stretched their unbeaten streak to 34, when they defeated the Willetton Tigers 56-49, with Pearman scoring eight points.
But in their second pool game, the undefeated season came to a crashing halt, falling by just two points (70-68) to the Warrnambool Seahawks.
This loss didn't faze the Hawks, who rebound 75-58 against the Cairns Marlins, to book their spot in the top 12 teams in the country.
Wins against the Blacktown Storm (59-47) and the Werribee Devils (61-59) saw the Hawks progress to the quarter-finals, where they were matched up against fellow New South Wales Country side, the Newcastle Hunters.
Just as they have done all season against NSW opponents, the Hawks again won, edging the Hunters 43-33 – seeing them make the top four sides in Australia.
The team, coached by Simon Dent, was then pitted against the tough Nunawading Spectres in the semi.
Despite their best efforts, the Hawks were no match for their Victorian opponents, falling 66-39.
But not all was lost, as the Hawks still had a chance to come home with a bronze medal.
Standing in their was was the Sydney Comets, who they’d beaten 57-51 last month in the state final at the Maitland Federation Centre.
But this was a much bigger stage.
The Hawks and Comets traded blows in the first quarter, with the Hawks only trailing by one point at the first break.
The second quarter belonged to the Hawks, who out scored their Sydney opponents 10-6, to go into half-time up 25-22.
But the Hawks fell away in the third quarter, as the Comets started hitting their shots, to lead 39-34 going into the final quarter of their season.
The Comets continued their strong play in the fourth, stretching the lead out to as many as 10 points, before the Hawks mounted a late comeback.
A free throw by Benjamin Lu and back-to-back triples by Tobias Delaney saw the Hawks go on a 7-0 run, to reduce the margin to just three points with 47 seconds remaining.
But after securing a crucial stop in the final minute, the Hawks couldn’t muster another basket in the dying seconds, as the Comets won 52-49, to secure the nationals bronze medal – leaving the Hawks with a very commendable fourth place finish.
This loss left the Hawks with an amazing 38-3 season record.