THE Orange Eagles have taken out the 2014 Under 14s Boys’ Waratahs Junior State Shield, defeating the Blacktown West Storm 48-40 in a thrilling final on Sunday at Sutherland’s Waratahs Park.
Heading into the final game on the back of wins against Manly Warringah Sea Eagles (56-47), Norths Bears (63-62) and the Goulburn Bears (67-32), the Eagles overcame an extremely parochial Blacktown supporters group to come from behind and secure the eight-point triumph.
Led by the league’s most valuable player Zac Simons’ 24 points, the Eagles soared to a 31-18 half-time lead before eventually claiming the shield 48-40.
Orange coach Grant Cole said his boys were made to work for every point against a physical Blacktown outfit.
“It was very intense. It was probably the toughest game the boys have ever played,” Cole said.
“I’d seen them play a couple of games earlier in the tournament and they were very aggressive, pressed hard and had some good shooters.”
The Eagles were forced to play catch-up throughout the early stages of the final and, following a time-out call from Cole, re-grouped to take the lead mid-way through the second quarter of the deciding game in the under 14s boys’ shield.
That period, however, was the only time throughout the entire tournament Orange trailed its opponent.
Once in the lead against Blacktown, Orange were never headed.
Cole did say, however, there were a few heart-stopping moments during the final quarter.
“The spectators were going ballistic. It was like a mini-NBA game. It put the boys off but we still led. I called another time out to settle things,” he said.
“We probably led by five with two minutes to go and Blacktown stalled things. It amazed me. Why in the world would they want to do that.
“I just told my boys to back off and let them dribble it out.
“We nailed a three on the buzzer to win by eight. It was a great game.”
Simons starred for the Eagles, leading all scorers throughout the tournament with 25.5 points per game while Cody Wright was another to light it up, with a touch under 13 points per game.
The Orange under 14s girls also participated in the Waratah Junior State Shield competition, narrowly missing out on the final after a round three 75-31 loss to the Batemans Bay Breakers.
In their two other games, Orange defeated the Springwood Scorchers (56-49) and lost to the Sutherland Sharks (49-40).
Annie Miller was second on the leading point scorers stakes with 18.3 points per game while Kate Mastronardi was sixth (13ppg).