Australian Basketball Team Comes To Challenge Crockett Bulldogs

By Greg Ritchie

Messenger Reporter

CROCKETT – No one could blame you if you’ve never heard of Ipswich Grammar School near Brisbane, Australia. The all-boys private school is home to 1,100 students who are proud of their academics and proud of their sports. They have been playing basketball at the school since 1985 and have made their town proud, winning several titles over the years. 

This year, Ipswich Head Coach Jason Ralph decided to give the 26 basketball boys some experience in the country that invented the game and loaded them up for a 32-hour flight to the good ole U.S.A. Their first game on the tour? Crockett, Texas. 

Their friendly games against the hometown Bulldogs took place Monday, Nov. 27 as the boys from down under piled into the CISD dome to try their hand at real American basketball against real Americans. Arriving late, the Aussies struggled in – they had been sitting on an airplane for almost two days and had only arrived in Houston the night before, getting to Crockett about five in the afternoon. 

Fans gathered, the Bulldogs practiced their layups and three-pointers and made jokes – ribbing one another with good humor over any shot that didn’t find that net. 

For many of the kids from Ipswich, this was their first time in America and even their first time out of their country. It wasn’t Ralph’s first taste of the US, or his first try at American basketball. 

The Australian Spartans and the Crockett Bulldogs practice on the court before their recent friendly game in Crockett.

“It’s my first time in Texas, although I, along with my assistant coach and my wife – who coaches the freshman team – all played basketball together in college in North Dakota,” Ralph explained. We like what we have seen of Crockett – we love the small town vibe, it’s fantastic.”

Ralph set up an ambitious itinerary for his boys, going from Crockett on to Dallas, then to Washington D.C., before a look at New York and then off to see the L.A. Clippers play before the long flight home. He said basketball has become more popular in Australia, over the years. 

“I wanted the boys to get some different playing experiences and to also have some fun,” Ralph said. “Basketball is very popular and it’s getting more popular as we speak, to be honest. Our Olympic team has done very well in the past few years and the more and more NBA players we get, the more people are coming over to play here in college.”

For tenth-grader Joel Mynott, his first impressions of Crockett were favorable and although jet lagged like the rest, he was anxious about the day’s game. 

“Crockett looks like a beautiful town and, I don’t know, it’s very different from Australia. It looks like there’s a lot to do,” Mynott said. “I want to experience playing against Americans, because I would like to come and play basketball here after high school. They look more athletic, so it will be interesting.”

Mynott said he expected the American players to be more physical and more aggressive. He said his Ipswich Spartans would need to rely on strategy, discipline and good shooting to overcome the American-style of playing and the obvious athleticism of the Bulldogs. 

Both sides had their cheering sections and the Aussies gave as good as they got – the score remained close as the time on the clock began to run down. Behind by a couple of baskets, the Spartans closed the gap and with less than five seconds on the clock and took a time-out to make a plan. The score stood at 71-70, the Bulldogs holding a one-point lead. 

As the ball came back into play, groups of fans yelled – in different accents – but all rooting for their boys to win the game. At the last possible second, one of the Ipswich Spartans snuck in from down under, getting a layup to end the game 72-71. 

The close game was a testament to both teams, as they enjoyed their time in the friendly game and learned from each other. The boys from Australia will see many things on their little trip “to the states,” as they call it, but we hope they enjoyed and will long remember that one day they visited little Crockett and were welcomed with open arms. 

Greg Ritchie can be reached at [email protected]

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