Top of their game

Tasmanian Junior Club Champions, Smithton Saints U/18 Boys: (back left) assistant coach Keith Hammond, Jarod Elphinstone, Zaniel Clark, Kyle Clark, Thomas Quilliam, coach Keith Bragg, (front) Bzuayehu Heres, Danyon Saville, Jordan Williams and Daniel Bransden. Absent: team manager David Williams and Bradlee Hardy.

Tournament. Smithton Basketball Club’s U/18 Boys proved they are the state’s best over the weekend, taking out the Division 1 Tasmanian Junior Club Championship in Launceston.

After beating NWBU champions Burnie and City of Launceston to top their group on Saturday, the Saints then brushed past Somerset to face Pheonix Hobart in the Grand Final, consequently running away in the decider and earning trophy honours.

Saints Senior coach Keith Bragg, who stepped in due to the absence of regular coach Matt Elliott, said the result was particularly satisfying for him having coached many of the players through the NWBU season.

“It was a really fantastic weekend – you can see the benefits of our junior program coming through,” Bragg said.

“In their age group, they’re a fairly talented bunch of kids. It was really rewarding to see them shine.”

The championship-winning team comprised of Jarod Elphinstone, Zaniel Clark, Kyle Clark, Thomas Quilliam, Danyon Saville, Jordan Williams and Daniel Bransden, along with U/16 players Bzuayehu Heres and Bradlee Hardy.

While the club welcomed the addition to the team of 17-year-old Kyle as a FIBA silver medallist, Bragg said all players contributed to the performances, adding “good things happen” the harder they work as a team.

“We didn’t lose a game for the weekend; we just played some great basketball,” Bragg said.

“You’re playing against other state players . . . it’s not like the teams were just thrown together. Yes, we have Kyle, but they all played their part. There wasn’t anybody being carried.”

The achievement comes off the back of a fairly successful NWBU U/18 season for the Saints, having won 10 of 12 regular matches before narrowly losing to eventual champions Burnie 59-72 in the Preliminary Final.

Bragg believes Smithton has “a really bright future” when it comes to basketball, with a prime example of strong junior development in four players – Daniel, Danyon, Thomas and Jordan – who have played together since U/10s.

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