Hawthorn Magic took the contest right up to their more fancied opponents, fighting back to lose by just 7 points on Saturday afternoon, against US College basketball powerhouse, the University of Wisconsin Badgers.
The Badgers, who are in Australia as part of a 12 day Pre-Season Training Camp, lead by as much as 15 points half way through the 3rd quarter, before Magic fought their way back to get within 4 points late in the 4th quarter, until the Badgers were able to settle the ship and ice the game from the free-throw line.
In front of a sold-out crowd of over 1,100 at Trinity Grammar Peter McIntrye Sports Centre, the Badgers lead at every break and at times looked like they were going to blow their opponents away, before staying the calmer of the two teams done the final stretch.
The Badgers lead by just four points after a tight first half, mainly thanks to their big man who dominated the rebound count and created multiple second chance points on the offensive end.
There was several occasions the Badgers opened up a 10 point margin, before the shooting of Magic duo, Jack Barry and Dillion Stith were able to cut the margin back and regain some momentum.
However, it was in the third quarter where the Badgers did most of the damage, putting up a strong defensive effort to keep the home side to just 8 points for the quarter, to take a 14 point buffer into the final break.
With nothing to lose, Magic took the game right up to the Badgers in the last quarter, as they made a concerted effort to put greater pressure on their young opponents by increasing the tempo of the game. In doing so, Magic were able to get some easy baskets in transition, to eventually win the fast-break points tally 12 to 2, and when Stith knocked down two 3 pointers in the last 3 minutes, Magic were within 4 points and coming hard. However, as it was throughout the entire game, fouls were an issue, and the Badgers were able to make some key free-throws in the last few minutes to win the game.
US Import, Dillion Stith was outstanding for the Magic to lead all scorers with 23 points, which included 2 from 3 from behind the arc, and he was well supported by local Hawthorn Basketball star, Jack Barry who finished with 16 points, after shooting 13 points in the first half, that included two big three pointers.
Whilst Nelson Kirksey played a great all-round game for the home side, finishing with a double-double. Kirksey finished with 13 points, 10 rebounds, 2 assists, 3 steals, and 2 massive blocks on the defensive end.
Whilst the Badgers showed their depth and class, with contributions from the whole team, including 32 points from the bench, compared to 4 points from the Magic bench, and it was freshman shooting guard Kobe King, who led their scoring with 18 points, that included 6 from 7 at the charity stripe.
With the game live streamed and watched by over 8,000 people in the US, the home side were able to play some tough quality basketball that showcased and representing Hawthorn Basketball and basketball in Australia on the world stage.
It is not every day you have world class athletes, and potential future NBA players, competing in the heart of Boroondara.
The Wisconsin Badgers will now ahead back to the US, to prepare for the 2017/18 NCCA campaign, as they look to take the next step in College basketball and claim the National title. The Badgers have come close in recent times, finishing runners-up in 2015, whilst last year they defeated Number 1 seed, Villanova, before being knocked out in the final 16.
Hawthorn Magic will now turn their attention to the 2018 Big V season, which kicks off in March next year, with the team again to be lead by Peter Godfrey, who will return for his second season as Head Coach.
For further information, please contact Hawthorn Basketball Association, General Manager, Brock Rogers on 0418 995 105 or firstname.lastname@example.org.