Yamba Trawlers secure win on buzzer
THE Yamba Trawlers dug deep to salvage a spectacular victory in the North Coast Basketball Shield Under-12 boys' grand final.
Raymond Laurie Sports Centre hosted the series finals across six boys and girls' divisons, with the under-12 boys' decider providing the highlight.
Yamba advanced through the rounds having defeated all teams except powerhouse Byron Bay, who awaited in the last match of the tournament. And what a memorable finale spectators witnessed.
Both sides played with the intensity of a State of Origin game from the early '80s. The high level of desperation and commitment to give their team the slightest advantage was unexpected given the age of the players.
Having gone through the season undefeated and beating Yamba in the earlier rounds, Byron Bay had every right to think the grand final win was in the bag. However, the young Yamba team saw some weaknesses in the opposition during their earlier loss and looked to exploit those in the grand final.
Some major defensive match-ups were sorted and all players remained composed on the offensive end which gave Yamba the start they wanted, skipping out to an early lead.
The intensity of Yamba's defence rattled the confident Byron side whose main weapons had no answers as the smaller Yamba team kept to the game plan.
As Byron Bay could see its grip on the trophy slipping, their desperation increased and an intense second half saw players spending time on the bench recovering from fatigure and injuries sustained throughout the game.
Bayden Toyer, Tully Andrewzski, Preston McGill and Mallik Ellabassi controlled the middle of the key, pulling down rebound after rebound. Matthew Taylor, Thomas Russo and Hudson Daly-Hadi forced more pressure, shutting down all Byron Bay players who tried to put the ball on the floor.
Ahead by three, Jack Leary controlled the game for Yamba with a knowledge beyond his years of when to run a break and when to slow his team down.
In the last quarter Yamba was up by four 16-12, and in full control when Leary was fouled hard on his way to the basket, coming off with a suspected fractured right arm. This could have seen the end for any other side but this Yamba team gelled closer together and tried to step it up another gear.
Byron hit back with a two-pointer and for the first time Yamba started looking tired and confidence fading. In pain, Jack Leary asked to get subbed in and again took control of the game, dribbling with one arm through the whole team to score a lay-up.
The local crowd went berserk with the fight they were witnessing. Yamba's defence rallied and Jack Leary put himself in a position to take an offensive foul which brought the little champ down again. This time it was the end for Jack and with three minutes on the clock and Yamba still up by four.
Yamba held Byron Bay out until one minute to go when Byron hit a two pointer. Yamba had a couple of winning attempts that just rimmed out, Byron managed to grab the rebound and desperately get to the other end of the court. With eight seconds to go a Byron Bay shooter was fouled and had the opportunity to tie the game with two free throws.
He hit the the first, and Yamba could see the possibility of a draw or else the need to pick up the rebound from their much taller opponents.
The shot rimmed out and a fight for the ball began with Yamba gaining control and the sweet sound of the final hooter sent the crowd and players into a frenzy with tears of joy from many parents.