Basketball players from two different countries hung out together, learned about each other, and then played a game and left it all on the court.
The Mount Si boys varsity team came away with a lopsided win on the scoreboard last Friday afternoon, Jan. 3. But points weren’t really the point in the Wildcats’ exhibition match against NPire, an Australian team that drew boys together from cities down under, mainly Melbourne and Canberra.
Npire is made up of boys ages 14 to 18, some finished with high-school-level play, coached by Adonis Jordan.
Until the journey, all but a couple hadn’t played together before.
“We met each other at the airport,” said 16-year-old Nick Gabsch, following Friday’s game. “This is our fourth game.”
“We’re still learning how each individual plays,” said Nicholas Bird.
The boys are currently on their summer break. The seasons are flipped, Christmas is in the warm time of year, and it’s about 70 degrees in Melbourne this week.
In the Valley, the touring team stayed with host families, many of them parents of Mount Si players. Hosts took them in, then took them to Snoqualmie Pass for a sledding trip.
“We saw snow for the first time,” said NPire player Jordan Hurley. It was great!”
The Australian boys and their Wildcat hosts were reluctant at first, but it took about 10 minutes before they were learning about how both countries operate, money, summer versus winter, “all the crazy things,” said host dad Dave Thompson. “They really got to know each other, and at the end, they were good friends.” The visitors made an impression.
“These guys are awesome,” said host mom Shirley Shattenkerk, mom of varsity player Connor. “They’re so polite, well-mannered, I wish I could keep ‘em.”
The Australians were impressed by Wildcat athleticism.
“In Australia, it’s slower, more set plays,” said NPire player Jordan Hurley. “The U.S. (style) is more athletic and quick.”
The visitors had to adapt to the different plays and extra running involved in American ball against Mount Si, whose starters rushed to a strong lead, 33-23, by halftime. Mount Si’s Jack Nelson was in shooting form, and led the Wildcats with 18 points. Mount Si’s Parker Dumas and Colton Swain added 11 points, sophomore Isaac Benedict added eight points, sophomore forward Colton Swain added 11, sophomore Matt Myers battled under the net for six and junior guard Ryan Stewart contributed four points.
As Mount Si transitioned in its younger players, the Australians pushed for the hoop, worked around the outside, and dropped some threes in the second half.
Npire’s Breadan Sands had nine points, Nick Gabsch added eight, Hurley and Douglas Page had nine. Mount Si won, 69-33.
The game “is a lot more challenging,” said Bird. “I put a lot more work in it, because it’s so big here.”
“They’re just getting used to American ball,” said Swain. “We’re a lot bigger, stronger, faster. It’s a different style of play.”
“They were here to have fun,” said Mount Si coach Kyle Clearman, “more for the experience. They competed with us. We were able to get all of our guys in.”
“Coach likes to get as many people as he can into the game,” said Swain. “You’ve definitely got to utilize as much play time as you get.”
• Mount Si hosts Sammamish at 8 p.m. this Friday, Jan. 10.
• Learn more about NPire at http://www.npire.com.au/.
Mount Si players mix with the Australian touring team following their game.
Jordan Hurley goes for the basket, with Mount Si’s Parker Dumas defending.
Jack Nelson charges for the hoop. He led Mount Si for points against the touring team.
NPire players Nick Gabsch and Nicholas Bird try to stop Mount Si’s Matt Myers from making a shot attempt in their exhibition game, Jan. 3.
Isaac Benedict is about to put the ball in.
Matt Myers battles through the press, with Dylan Harrison guarding.
Danny Tomson and Nick Bird are all eyes up for a rebound. Breadan Sands of NPire and Matt Myers watch in the background.
MPire's Nick Gabsch tries to break past Colton Swain of Mount Si.
Colton Swain tries to break through NPire's defense.
Nicholas Bird and Jordan Hurley spar for a rebound.
Mount Si's Danny Tomson looks for an opening.