Michael Turton admits he didn't head into last weekend's Country Basketball Championships with lofty goals.
After watching the Illawarra Under 12 boys team that he coaches finish third at the recent Southern Junior League finals, he was simply hoping to see the boys try their hardest and implement some of the skills they had learnt at training in recent weeks.
So it's fair to say he was rather shocked when the boys moved through the tournament undefeated before claiming a comfortable 57-45 victory over Canberra in the final.
"It was a really pleasant surprise," Turton said. "We had a very new bunch of athletes within the program, as under 12s often are, and they improved right across the season.
"To go through the Country Championships undefeated, after we finished third in the Southern Junior League only a few weeks ago, now we've improved up to number one in country, it's a big achievement. Canberra were a tough team to beat in the final, we were beaten by them by 30 only four weeks ago."
As a coach of an under 12 basketball team, Turton is in a tough position. He's forced to balance the desire to win games with the necessity to develop the skills of his players to set them up for future success.
For Turton, that means wins and losses take a backwards step. But he also recognises that if everything comes together, and the athletes are able to develop their skills, results such as this past weekend are likely to follow.
"I want kids to enjoy the game of basketball and I want them to ensure their skill development is a priority. The other big thing is trying to develop them as young men.
"The skill level of this team is increasing all the time. The boys really like being around each other and hanging out. The big thing for us is we don't have a superstar, we have 10 athletes that go to work for each other and have a desire to improve and play together."
The under 12 boys victory came as Illawarra's juniors contested Country Championships across the state.
The under 16 boys defeated Byron 84-55 to claim the Country Championship, while the under 12 girls, under 14 boys and under 18 girls all suffered grand final defeats.
The under 18 boys fell in the semi-final, with the under 16 girls making it to the quarter-finals and the under 14 girls finishing their group in sixth position.
The boys and girls don't have much time to rest, with many of these teams now turning their attention to August's State Championships where they will face the best of the metro teams.
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