It all started back in September. After another competitive Sunday scrimmage I started thinking.. we were doing pretty good for a bunch of old fellas. A quick Google and I found that 35 was the starting age for Basketball at the Masters Games. Even better was the fact that the next Masters games was in Whanganui in February 2019. The timing and location couldn't have been more perfect. I convinced a couple of the other guys that we had to do this and then we went about trying to recruit anybody else who was in the right age range. While we recruited we continued going to the Hoop Club scrimmages every Wednesday night and Sunday afternoon. Before we knew it we were off to Whanganui.
We had heard rumours of some of the competition we'd be up against. But we were still pretty shocked when we got to Springvale Stadium and spotted Phil Jones milling around the court. I grew up idolising Phil Jones. He's a two time Olympian, a member of the 2002 Tall Blacks who finished 4th in the World Championships and an NBL legend. Our first game was against his team. We were shell-shocked to say the least but did a reasonable job of hanging tough. Our second game of Day 1 was a much closer affair but again we were matched against a number of former NBL players. We had a good first half and were almost even at the break but eventually lost by 20 after a tough second half. After checking out the other teams on Day 1 it was apparent we'd been handed a tough draw. Our first two losses had come at the hands of the Gold and Silver medal favourites. The other teams looked more on our level.
Our third and final pool game on the morning of Day 2 was against a team called the Lakers Young Guns. It was a close one but we managed to grind out a win to finish third place in our pool. With a new found swagger we spent the afternoon of Day 2 checking out the sights of Whanganui. The city really comes alive for the Masters Games and the organisers should take a bow for doing an amazing job. We finished the day with a BBQ in the park and a team viewing of the 1992 classic basketball film "White Men Can't Jump".
On the third and final day of competition we had our 5th/6th playoff game against the team who finished 3rd in the other pool - the Pacers. The Pacers didn't have the star-power of some of the other teams we had played but they had a deep bench and good ball movement. At this point we were down to 6 players as one of our guys had to go home after Day 2. The game was close but we eventually went down by 4 points. The loss gave us an overall finish of 6th out of 8 teams.
Overall the tournament was a raging success. We got to play against some true legends of New Zealand Basketball and had some really competitive games. But best of all we had a great time on and off the court.
Article By Shanan Gough – Member of the Hoop Club Kapiti Men’s Masters Team 2019