THE Mount Gambier Lakers Senior Men returned a perfect score in Division 1 of the 2024 SA Country Basketball Senior Championships last weekend to reclaim the title after bowing out in the semi-final in 2023.
The 2024 Senior Country Championships have a special place in history, with all seven divisions played at the new six-court State Basketball Centre for the first time.
The top-class facility further added to the atmosphere and success of this popular country event.
The Lakers men have been regular Country Championship finalists and the 2024 win adds to their swag of Division 1 titles since the birth of the SA Country Championships way back in the 1970’s.
This success was a special achievement for several reasons.
Firstly, the line-up was a blend of youth and experience, led by the ever-green Simon Berkefeld and supported by Chris Mason and team-mates.
Secondly, the players focused on team work, with core players Toby deWit, Ben Young and Teagan Brown, along with hard working Josh McGregor, playing consistently well.
Thirdly young guns Teangi Stephens and Addi Noble improved with each opportunity presented.
The Lakers progressively improved in each of their three pool games of the eight-team competition.
Their first outing against Great Southern White resulted in an eight-point win 56-48.
Trio Young, Berkefeld and deWit finished off efficiently.
The Lakers started Day 2 with a strong win over arch rival Port Augusta, 63-40.
Five Lakers’ players had double figure tallies, highlighting the team theme of their plans.
The best win of the day for the Lakers came at the expense of 2023 champion, Strathalbyn.
A blistering first half saw the scoreline read 40-13 with the Lakers in control.
Young and Berkefeld headed the scoring to record an impressive 68-38 win.
The Lakers moved through the quarter-finals round on a forfeit because of the last-minute withdrawal of Port Pirie.
Their rematch against Strathalbyn in the semi-final was a scrappy affair in which the Lakers salvaged a 10-point win and a place in the grand final against a physically tall and strong Yorke Valley.
The title game started as a close, low-scoring contest until mid-way through the second quarter when the Lakers surged to a 9-2 break, which appeared to spark the team into overdrive, on the back of a composed and stand-out performance from deWit.
The final score of 67-52 reflects the control the Lakers exerted as the game unfolded to secure the 2024 Division 1 flag.
The icing on the cake came for the Lakers during presentations when deWit was named MVP of the grand final, followed by Simon Berkefeld being named Division 1 MVP of the championships.
The award for Berkefeld continues his unbelievable run of individual achievements in country basketball.
Limestone Coast Basketball Associations, Millicent, Naracoorte, Bordertown and Keith competed in the Country Championships.
Keith women finished Division 2 champion, defeating Strathalbyn 51-32, with Holly Huges named MVP of the grand final.
Keith men were defeated by SYP in the Division 4 grand final, 26-48.