The Moss Vale Magic under-16s achieved champions status at the NSW Country Classic.
After deposing the hometown Newcastle Hunters 85-51 in the semi-final, the Moss Vale Magic division one team went on to claim the title 64-61, in a hard-fought and gritty confrontation with Country Premier League rivals Port Macquarie Dolphins.
Grand final most valuable player, Bailey Benson, had a slow start as the Port Macquarie defence repeatedly sent double and triple-teams in to slow the dominant big man down.
At the same time, Port’s potent running attack caused fits for the Magic’s defence, racking up quick points and causing early foul trouble for a couple of players, leading to a six point half time deficit for Moss Vale.
With renewed vigour in the second half, a tag-team effort by forwards Jack Harlow and Hayden Pine locked in defensively to nullify the Dolphins’ leading scorer.
Dynamic Magic forward Zeke van Kooten began to dominate the defensive rebounding and pushed a fast-break game to bring the Magic roaring back into contention.
Magic guards Jackson Philp and Jai Styles provided strong perimeter offensive support and pressed the Dolphins’ ball-handling corps into multiple turnovers.
Magic under-16s coach Nick Godsell said those plays allowed Spencer Reed and Bailey Benson to start dominating the court.
“Reed swallowed up multiple offensive rebounds and Benson powered to the rim repeatedly whilst both guiding their opposition into increasing foul trouble,” he said.
In the final quarter, a key setback for the Magic occurred with Van Kooten fouling out, threatening to arrest Moss Vale’s momentum in a neck-and-neck game.
“Enter speedy point guard Jeremy Butcher, who took over the running attack and keyway penetration to rack up a few quick points and bamboozle the Dolphins into quick fouls and missed defensive rotations,” Godsell said.
Benson and Reed closed out the match with a couple of quick scores in the final minute to put the result beyond doubt.
Godsell said the grand final games was “arguably the most engaging game of the whole tournament which fell the way of the green and white.”
Six of the eight Moss Vale Magic teams qualified for semi-finals while the under-16 boys and under-12 girls ultimately won the titles.
Pool play scores:
Defeated Maitland Mustangs 83-69
Defeated Bathurst Goldminers 95-41
Defeated Newcastle Hunters 92-61
Defeated by Byron Bay Beez 56-48
Defeated Port Macquarie Dolphins 67-59