"We are the best in Australia. I'm still in shock."
So said an "emotional and very proud" Illawarra Hawks U14 girls head coach Cindy Bonham after her team claimed the under-14 girls national club championships with a thrilling 45-41 victory over Kilsyth.
Illawarra won six straight games during the national championships in Melbourne to progress to the final on Friday afternoon, where the Hawks took revenge on a Kilsyth side which had beaten them handsomely just three months earlier.
When the two sides met at the National Junior Classic in June, the Hawks were on the wrong end of a lopsided result, going down by over 40 points.
Though the Hawks weren't to be denied at the national championships, much to the pleasure of Bonham.
"They hadn't lost a game all year and had given us a touch up the last time we met but we were ready for them this time around," she said.
"We knew what we had to work on and how hard we had to work after the Classic and then we just came back and just trained extremely hard for the nationals.
"The girls just stepped up to the next level all week.
"We really focused on our mental and emotional focus for the week more than anything really, and they just kept it together, I couldn't be prouder.
"I think it's the first time an Illawarra girls basketball team has won a gold medal and we are actually the first New South Wales country team to win a gold medal for girls.
"It's a special achievement and one we should be very proud of. We are the best team in the country."
I think it's the first time an Illawarra girls basketball team has won a gold medal and we are actually the first New South Wales country team to win a gold medal for girls. It's a special achievement and one we should be very proud of. We are the best team in the country.- Illawarra Hawks U14 girls head coach Cindy Bonham
Bonham said Illawarra's success was down to valuable contributions from all the players as well as the coaching and support staff.
She however reserved special praise for star trio Addison Bonham, Zara Suka and Taylah Curtis.
"Addison Bonham was the top scorer for the whole tournament. Zara Suka was immense for us, especially her rebounding and defence, while our point-guard Taylah Curtis shot the ball extremely well and just controlled the game brilliantly.
"We couldn't have won without those three.
"But it really was a team effort and I think the potential is there for this team of players to continue to enjoy success for years to come.
"I hope everyone back home is as excited as we are. I also hope this success encourages more girls in the Illawarra to take up basketball.
"We'd love to see more girls take up this great sport."
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