CAIRNS, AUSTRALIA - If yesterday’s tournament was any indication, the future of basketball in Far North Queensland is very bright.
Past local heroes took on the stars of the future in the 2018 FNQ NAIDOC Basketball Tournament held at Early Settler Stadium.
Associations Innisfail, Mareeba & Port Douglas all produced quality teams and represented their regions with pride, but it was the Cairns Indigenous team that claimed victory with an undefeated tournament run.
The Cairns Indigenous side, which featured former QBL championship winning players Curt Ahwang, Jacob Pilot & Travis Thorne, made it four wins from four in their clean sweep. In the preliminary rounds Cairns accounted for the Port Douglas Heat (69-52), Mareeba Rock Wallabies (68-62) and Innisfail Reign (66-47) before facing the Heat once again in the grand final. It was all one-way traffic in the decider, with Cairns taking down their northern rivals, 81-41 on the back of some remarkable long-range shooting.
Cairns Indigenous shooting guard Conrad ‘CJ’ Ah Wang was named Most Valuable Player of the tournament following a stellar day that included 104 points, including 20 x 3-pointers across the 4-games.
While the heroes of yesteryear took out the overall prize, it was the younger standouts from across the region that caught the interest of the spectators in attendance and Australian Indigenous Basketball tournament organiser Joel Khalu.
“There were some really impressive young kids out there doing their thing,” Khalu said.
“Innisfail, Mareeba & Port Douglas all travelled with relatively youthful groups and to see them compete in the manner that they did was a great reflection of the positive work those associations are doing to develop players.”
“The Mareeba Rock Wallabies, who was a team made up for the majority with players aged seventeen to twenty almost knocked off Cairns Indigenous, a side filled with really high-level basketball experience.”
“I also thought the fight and tenacity that both Innisfail and Port Douglas showed throughout the day was fantastic too. The match-up between those two teams in the preliminary rounds was fun to watch and went down to the wire.”
Khalu hoped that this tournament would be the start of seeing more games played between associations and clubs from across the region.
“In terms of having a legitimate development pathway, we need to keep generating competitions like this for players. There are some really talented hoopers, both Indigenous and non-Indigenous in F.N.Q that could go on to represent the Cairns Marlins and other QBL sides, or even higher levels if we can continue to provide the opportunities for them to showcase their skills and improve.”
2018 Far North Queensland NAIDOC Basketball Tournament Results:
*Cairns Indigenous 69 def. Port Douglas Heat 52
*Innisfail Reign 41 def. Mareeba Rock Wallabies 32
*Port Douglas Heat 51 def. Innisfail Reign 44
*Cairns Indigenous 68 def. Mareeba Rock Wallabies 62
*Cairns Indigenous 66 def. Innisfail Reign 47
*Port Douglas Heat 41 def. Mareeba Rock Wallabies 39
*Cairns Indigenous 81 def. Port Douglas Heat 41 (Grand Final)