The U14 Cootamundra Cougars have written their name into basketball folklore after recording their second undefeated title campaign of the year in Gosford last weekend.
Competing in Division 1 of the NSW Country Tournament at Niagara Park Stadium, the Cougars notched five consecutive wins to claim the U14 NSW Country crown in emphatic fashion.
The side’s campaign got off to a flyer on Saturday after putting the Coffs Harbour Suns to the sword 72-16, with Amelia Hasset and Ruby Watterson leading the way on the scoresheet.
A late Byron Bay withdrawal saw the Cougars cruise through to the third round without breaking a sweat, however the girls faced a different beast on Sunday against home-town heroes Gosford City Rebels.
In what was easily their toughest game to date, the Cougars held the lead at every change but could not shake a determined GC outfit, who outscored Cootamundra in the second half (despite team-first long-shot bucket from Halle Derrick) to end the game in a 41-all deadlock.
It seemed the Rebels would carry their momentum into overtime, however inspiring words from coach Paddy Ballard sparked a 14-point resurgence to see the Cougars home 55-42.
The win saw the side top their pool and book a quarter final date with the Canberra Capitals, who were promptly dispatched 56-30 thanks to strong games from Amelia Chambers, Sammy Graham and Odessa Tregear.
Monday saw the Cougars pitched against Moss Vale for a place in the grand final and the girls did not disappoint, smashing the Magic 66-25 in a strong team performance led by powerful showings from Abbey Reinhold and Jamie Lee Kerrison.
The afternoon came quickly and the Cougars soon found themselves facing an unfamiliar Taree Tornadoes side fresh from thumping Gosford City in the semi final.
It was tough start for the girls with Amelia Haslett and Ruby Watterson receiving early fouls, however a second quarter resurgence saw the Cougars overcome a 3-point deficit at quarter-time to hold a slender 29-28 lead at the main break.
Finals experience then shot to the forefront and a strong third-quarter showing saw the Cougars extend their lead to 44-39, before a fourth quarter blitz (including an Alex Oliver half-court shot) sealed the result 62-48, sending Cougars fans into raptures.
Coach Paddy Ballard said many umpires and spectators commented on the way the girls played in the spirit of the game and praised their high levels of sportsmanship and camaraderie.
The club issued its thanks to the parents for their support and also to Inica Kerrison for acting as the team’s referee throughout the tournament.
The win qualifies the side for the State Championships in Newcastle this August.