Wildcats welcome South Australia as part of Aussies international trip

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Brogden Hall has seen its fair share of basketball over the years, but the historic arena on the campus of New Hanover High School got a taste of international flare on Monday as the Wildcats welcomed teams from South Australia for an early season matchup.

“It was great to see them here and fun to watch them play,” said New Hanover Girls Coach Vertha Dixon-Wright. “They rebound, play fundamental basketball and stretched us. We wouldn’t compete with many teams the way we played tonight, but give them all the credit. They played as a unit.”

South Australia defeated the New Hanover girls. Photos courtesy- Rodney Williams
South Australia defeated the New Hanover girls. Photos courtesy- Rodney Williams

South Australia used good ball movement and a strong effort on both sides of the floor to grab a 65-49 win over New Hanover in the girls’ game.

Azariah Fields hit four treys and finished with 15 points for the Wildcats, while Ayonna Cotton had a team-high 20 points.

South Australia jumped out to a 22-15 lead after the first quarter and took a double-digit advantage into the break. After holding New Hanover to eight points in the third quarter, South Australia put the game away in the final eight minutes of action. They enjoyed a balanced scoring attack with four players in double figures.

Tenrile Gray had a team-high 14 points. Brenna McKay, Chelsea Masaet and Abi Madar finished with 10 points apiece.

“I was really impressed with them tonight,” said South Australia Girls Coach Jamie Petty. “Biggest thing we wanted to do was to compete for 32 minutes. The Wildcats pushed us and thankfully they raised our standard of play.”

In the boys’ game, New Hanover went on a 14-1 run to start the game and cruised to a 74-47 victory.

Blake Smith hit a pair of early treys, while buckets from Acchaeus Fields, Ramello Williams and Malique Jacobs helped stretch the early lead. Smith hit four three-balls in the opening frame and Williams scored eight in the first quarter as the Wildcats jumped out to a 26-8 advantage after eight minutes.

New Hanover played lock down defense in the first quarter.
New Hanover played lock down defense in the first quarter.

New Hanover’s relentless defense caused turnovers problems for South Australia as the Aussies were never able to get in sync offensively.

The Wildcats improved to 2-0 on the young season and play host to Jackonsville-Northside on Thursday, Dec. 3.

As far as the journey from down under, the two varsity and two junior varsity teams made it safely to Raleigh on November 20 after a 24-hour travel day for the start of a three-week voyage to the United States. Since then, they’ve made several stops across the Tar Heel State, Florida and will finish the excursion with games in Texas.

“We’re representing the state of South Australia to play basketball and to get some life experiences along the way,” said South Australia Boys Coach Matthew Markiewicz. “We’re down to Texas next week, but have really enjoyed the trip so far. We’ve played against some college-aged athletes down in Miami and get to play against some high school teams here in North Carolina.”

While the pace of play, officiating and new opponents are all things the teams have had to adjust to over the last few weeks, coaches for South Australia have been impressed with their team’s poise during this memorable journey. As part of the 18-day tour, the group will finish its schedule before heading home on December 8.

“I think Australians are much more stiff in their body movements and try to do everything right,” Markiewicz added. “Americans are much more free flowing in the way they play the game and it’s much more up and down the floor. It’s been tough, but the kids have adjusted really well. Our defensive principles have been great so far.”

As the teams compete against American high school teams, playing the game is not the only part of the visit they’ll remember. They recently made a stop at Duke University, enjoyed a day at Disney’s Magic Kingdom and Universal Studios in Orlando, attended a Miami Heat versus New York Knicks game and are scheduled to see the Dallas Mavericks and Houston Rockets face off during their time in Texas.

South Australia and New Hanover take a group shot after the game.
South Australia and New Hanover take a group shot after the game.

“There are some difficult times during the trip, but our kids and the group has dealt with it well,” said Markiewicz. “Seeing some of the sights across American has been fun and most of our athletes have been away for weeks at a time representing the state before so it’s been really beneficial to come away for a longer period of time and see the kids develop those life skills as they continue to grow.”