St John's junior boys' basketball team are country champions after a stunning victory over basketball heavyweights St Edmunds College Gosford in the State Basketball Championship quarter-finals in Penrith.
St John's put in a terrific second-half performance to post a 48 - 33 victory.
Saints went through undefeated in its pool matches against Patrician Brothers Blacktown, O'Connor College Armidale and De La Salle Brothers Caringbah, and Coach Mark Barnes was confident the team could maintain its winning form going into the semi-final against a very talented Mt Carmel Catholic College Varroville team.
However, the semi-final proved to be heartbreaking for the side.
After going basket for basket in the closing minutes of the semi-final, Varroville narrowly defeated the St John's boys by two points.
The end result means that St John's finished the tournament as country champions and state semi-finalists.
Barnes said despite the semi-final loss the tournament was a success.
"Our results are an incredible achievement by an outstanding group of young men," Barnes said.
"Varroville had swept everyone before them so we knew they'd be a hot side and we knew we had a fair challenge to beat them, but we were pretty confident we could do well.
"We played well in our quarter-final, in the second half we switched things up a bit and moved Josh Bywater to do a shutdown job which opened up the boards for us. We got a lot of fast breaks, and we won convincingly.
"In the semi-final, the boys were down by two points at half time after being down by as much as 11 points in the first three minutes of play.
"Varroville came out strongly in the second half, and our boys were filthy we were not in front at the half time break.
"Unfortunately for us, Varroville took the lead with seconds to play, the last seconds of the game were a mad scramble to score. It was a great game of basketball, and both sides played out of their skin; it was played in front of a massive crowd with a great atmosphere."
Barnes said every team member played their hearts out and did a fantastic job representing the school, and themselves.
"We were disappointed to lose the semi, but now we've had a chance to reflect we are very proud of our achievements," he said.
"We haven't been country champions as well as state semi-final in at least 25 years, so this team have broken some new ground.
"We think Jonah Radaiveta and our captain Jack Fuller were outstanding in their leadership of the team. We are a big squad of ten players, and every single player can be proud of their efforts.
"We defeated the eventual champion in the pool rounds, so it just goes to show how close our boys came to being state champions."
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