Posted on 13 December, 2016

Darwin High School Boys Basketball team win 2016 International High School Championship

Darwin High School Boys Basketball team win 2016 International High School Championship

Darwin High School basketballers have returned from Malaysia as champions of the 4th International High School Basketball Championship. Darwin High School teacher and Coach of the boy's team, Steve McGugan, shares his experience.

Many things went well for our team including the draw where after a late game first up against a secondary school team from Indonesia, we had a day off to recover from an intensely fast-paced game. The boys were on court for one and a half hours in incredibly hot and humid conditions. 

The day off also allowed time to work on team offensive concepts, defensive structures and game tempo in preparation for the games ahead. The remaining pool games were both first up at 8.30 AM in the cooler time of the day which again allowed good recovery and more walk throughs in team practices.

Our first impression of the tournament were that the intensity and standard of the competition was far more competitive than anticipated. We were also surprised that not all teams were school sides despite the tournament name . Some teams were district club teams, while another of the two eventual semi-final teams were representative sides from their countries of Macau and the Philippines.

The students' days were fairly structured and dependent on game times. Breakfast in the hotel, game, recovery session in pool and walk throughs or late breakfast, walk through, late game, pool recovery. The lads also chose to have one day with maths tutoring. The Hotel was an old colonial style construction with large grounds and sizable swimming pool and right next door to the basketball stadium, training courts and club facilities of the local Chinese team. There was an interesting 3 to 5 minute walk across a walk bridge that would often fill with water from the rain and be used by local cars. 

The lads would visit the town and local markets or watch games, and became very popular with both teams and locals. Their celebrity status led one local who became a Facebook friend of the group to do a team caricature type drawing.

A number of the lads “blinged up” with gold chains, watches and earrings and all commented on the different languages spoken, the predominant Muslim population and the stark contrast of living conditions. Cheap taxis allowed visits to local shopping malls and a team dinner out on the other side of town.

We progressed through the pool games undefeated, beating a Malaysian team in our second game and a strong, well organised Singaporean team in our last. This team had a very tall and large centre who proved challenging. The Malaysian team from KL, coached by a national player, became our most loyal and vocal supporters as we progressed to quarter finals.

The Quarter Final saw the team take on local team South Kulim. A 60 – 58 was the closest result of the week and came after being down going into the last quarter. Errors in systems proved costly, but the situation provided belief in fighting back and was invaluable for the final game.

The semi was played against another Kuala Lumpur side who were on a high after their quarter final but they showed nothing after their full court pressure, which DHS handled easily to run out 79-50 victors and off to the Grand Final against Macau who came from 22 points down at the half to defeat the Philippines. Macau were the red hot favourites with twelve players all with high fitness and skill levels and an up tempo game with many changing defensives and very good perimeter shooters.

After our final walk through at 5pm that day I thought we had enough to be in with a chance, and when we walked into the stadium to find it air-conditioned for the first time, I knew we had a chance as this would allow our starters to more comfortably play more minutes.

The atmosphere heading into the Grand Final game was electric.The other 20 teams were in the stadium and chanting for their favoured team of which Darwin had the majority. The news of knowing the game was being “live streamed” gave another lift as parents and supports from back home, Bali and Thailand messenger in. Macau started on fire leading 17- 5 after 6 minutes, but a time out and defensive shift allowed Darwin to gain some momentum, to go into the first quarter break 13-17 down. From there the game became an arm wrestle with the lead switching throughout until Darwin prevailed 75-70

DHS Team Captain, Max Davies,  was outstanding throughout the entire tournament, scoring a game-high 35 points and averaging close to 30 points a game for the tournament. Joel Stevens at the point guard position was also outstanding in leading, scoring and defending and like Max played every minute of the final. Brayden Hateley was tenacious and relentless throughout the championship in defence and capped his week off with 23 points in the final. Malex Laurel and Mitch Miller were the other starters and were both superb in defensive communication, leads and timing in press attacks and half court structures.

The bench were invaluable in their roles and were led by rebounders Noah Borges-Nunes and Axel Saunders. Axle was the team’s biggest player and thrived on marking opponents “big men” and contributed with scoring both at the hoop and from the three point line. Noah, along with Daniel Fuller and James Quinn were the real surprise packages. Neither had played a formal game of basketball prior to the tournament. They hoop at school breaks and after hours with their mates but had never played a formal game and all three were invaluable in their roles and all three along with all others scored points during the championship. All three were excellent in defensive reads and positioning. Noah was superb in seeking rebounds and put backs while Daniel and James were deadly with a couple of 3 point shots. Daniel was particularly cool under pressure in the Final and made great plays in team defence and in looking after the ball in offense.

For me this is an absolute career highlight and an unforgettable experience. For the boys, they are now champions of our school, international basketball and humbled by the whole experience. Lastly I want to recognise the support I and the team received from Principal Trevor Read, Darwin High Staff, the School Board and parents was fantastic and really set the tone of the entire trip. I also need to thank the team manager, DHS Parent, Justyn Hatelely. He was fantastic and provided a high level of support. He really added to the team environment and success.

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