Country Championships 2019 began on February 9. With so many teams, two stadiums were required and long days of fixtures ensued in sweltering conditions. Collie U16 boys had an extremely successful weekend winning the grand final Sunday afternoon.
Game one was an early start at 7.30am Saturday against Narrogin. Collie’s score bench had a difficult start to the game when the computer crashed and paper scoring had to be used. Well done Terri! Meanwhile the boys played on unawares, working hard in defence and limiting Narrogin’s scoring options, while driving hard at the basket on the offensive end drawing the foul and converting from the free throw line. Half-time scores of 15–3 left Narrogin with a big job for the second half. The Collie boys continued to shut them down with a final score of 31–11, giving them the confident start they needed.
Katanning was next; much closer than game 1. Both teams worked hard in defence and every point was earned. Only 1 point in it at half-time gave the boys little breathing room to start the next half (16-15). Katanning came out firing scoring the first 3 goals. After that Collie fought back and drew even from set shots at 27-all with 2 minutes to go. Neither team could manage to score again with great defence applied by both, resulting in our first draw of the comp.
Karratha was a hard game for us with a couple of injuries during the game. With the weather heating up all players were starting to feel the effects. A knock to the head, unfortunately caused by a fellow team member while rebounding meant Reeve missed most of this game and the next as well. The boys all pulled together to get the win 29–18.
The last game on Saturday was against Margaret River. This was a very physical game resulting in many free throws taken by Collie, with the boys that drove to the basket spending a fair amount of time on the boards. At half-time Collie was up by 6 points,14–8. Margaret River started the second half taking advantage of Collie’s slow return to the court earning them an easy two points, and they continued to work away at our lead pulling out in front. A mistake by Margaret River breaking while Collie was taking free shots gave us the chance we needed and Bevan Stone was able to capitalise with a three-point play to draw even again. Strong rebounding was needed in the dying minutes to keep Margaret River from the outright win and Daniel Bentley performed brilliantly in that time to make it the second draw at 20-all.
Sunday morning started even earlier at 7am. First up was Dongara who had all wins so far. This was amazing for them as last year at Country Championships they were unable to win a game. At half-time Collie was up by four points. Reeve Gooch was able to return to playing, however we were only able to use six players as another was not feeling well. Collie showed how they have matured as a team and played a controlled game with smart defence in the second half seeing Collie run out winners 22–16, for Dongara’s first loss. Luke Watts worked really hard in the last couple of minutes of this game with some smart play helping gain a bigger lead.
The last fixture round was against Bridgetown; a win in this one would guarantee a grand final spot. In the first half the boys played tight defence limiting scoring opportunities for Bridgetown. Great team play enabled us to score easily with half-time seeing Collie having a good lead of 20–7. In the second half a 3–2 defence paid off working beautifully with a good win 39–17, earning a place in the grand final against Dongara who finished on top of the ladder.
The grand final was an extremely tight affair from the first whistle. New umpires saw both teams struggling with defensive calls leaving both in foul trouble early on. With such a tight contest it was fairly low scoring and at half-time Collie had the smallest of margins, 11–10. Reece Pilatti (grand final MVP) worked tirelessly in defence all weekend and this game was no different; together with Ben Henderson along the baseline their defensive work left Dongara hard pressed to penetrate. In the second half Collie scored the first 2 points pushing us to a 3-point lead, the biggest to that point. With 7 minutes to go Dongara hit the lead for the first time with a 20–19 score line. More hard work continued and with the last 3 minutes fully timed both teams had a lot to play for. With 1-minute-30 left in the game the score was even at 22-all. Both teams were so tired they were struggling to keep creating moves offensively, seeing the game end in a draw. Another 3 fully timed minutes pushed the boys even more, with Collie running out eventual winners 28-25. Laurence Wood and Reeve Gooch were new members to this year's team, with Daniel Bentley, Reece Pilatti, Ben Henderson, Bevan Stone and Luke Watts who were all members of the U14 Country Champs premiership team, as well as their great coach Connor Watts.