Launceston basketballer Sejr Deans was the last-gasp hero as Australia won the FIBA under-15 Oceania Championships.
The 15-year-old Riverside High student stood tall in a dramatic climax in the Papua New Guinea capital Port Moresby.
Down by three points in the final against New Zealand, Deans sank four free throws in the last minute to give Australia a 59-58 lead with 17.2 seconds left.
Joshua Book's last attempt at the basket missed, and Deans scored as time expired to clinch a thrilling 61-58 victory.
The success was celebrated across the continent, not least by mum Jacqui who was closely following developments back home.
“I’m a bit embarrassed to admit this – I was at a work dinner but watching the stats go up live on the internet,” she said. “We’re extremely proud of his efforts. He was really proud to represent his country and wear the green and gold uniform. I’ve spoken to him on messenger and he is very happy. I’ve since been searching youtube for some highlights.”
The news was also warmly welcomed by Basketball Tasmania which recently heralded the national selections of Deans and Ulverstone’s Zoe Crawford as endorsement of its development programs but spent this week in a public spat with Hobart Chargers president David Bartlett.
BT development manager Mark Radford heaped praise on the combo guard.
“Sejr is a recipient of that gold medal because of all the hard work he has put in,” Radford said.
“The last five minutes of that game came as no surprise to me because he has worn the floor out at Elphin Sports Centre.
“He has a certain amount of talent but his work ethic is above and beyond what is required to become an elite player to the point where sometimes we have to tell him to slow down.
“He has poise above his age. He does not get hurried up whether he is playing senior men’s in the state league or in his junior group.”
Radford said Deans’ development owed much to coaches including Ben Rush, Brad Kann and Darren Best and BT’s decision five years ago to commit to three full-time coaches.
“It takes a village to raise a kid and many different coaches have an impact, no one individual takes credit.”
The national under-15 team is coached by Justin Schueller, formerly basketball coach with the Tasmanian Institute of Sport, but was led in PNG by Nathan Brown.
“We feel blessed to get over the line,” Brown said.
“New Zealand has played fantastic all tournament, and we had two hard-fought games with them. We're proud of what the guys accomplished here.
“One of the things about Australia is we get everybody's game, and this tournament showed it to us. It's a testament to all their hard work this week.”
Deans, who plays for Trojans in the Launceston Senior Basketball League, joint top scored in the final with 15 points as both finalists qualified for next year’s FIBA under-16 Asian champs where the top four will qualify for worlds.
Australia also defeated New Zealand in the under-15 girls’ final, Crawford playing her part in the 110-30 win.
Deans was selected following a standout performance at the under-16 national championships on the Sunshine Coast in July in which Tasmania finished fifth.
He averaged 16.22 points per game that included four games when he broke the 20-point barrier.