Unbeatable: Penrith basketball team’s incredible winning run

Penrith's Waratah 2 Youth League Men's team.
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One of the hottest teams in local sport will face their toughest test of the season on Saturday.

The Penrith Panthers basketball team are currently on an undefeated run of 15 games in the Waratah 2 Youth League Men competition.

However, on Saturday afternoon at Penrith Regional Valley Sports Centre they will come up against a team who have just lost one game themselves, for the first time.

“We haven’t versed Manly yet,” Panthers coach Matt Porter told the Weekender ahead of Saturday’s clash.

“We’ve seen a few videos of them. We are quite even for points scored but defensively we are stronger than them and I think that’s where we are going to get them.”

It’s certainly been a season of surprise for Porter and his coaching staff, who didn’t expect this team of mostly 18 and 19-year-olds to perform to such a high standard week in, week out.

“I only started coaching the boys this year but I used to coach them in U12’s and now I’m back coaching them again after many years,” Porter said.

“Penrith’s Youth League team last season only won one game all year, so we were using this year as a building year.

“My assistant Adam and I sat down and said, ‘let’s crack down and work them hard at training’. Our focus was defence and playing for each other, which has really shown in a lot of games.”

With four players returning from last year’s one-win team, the rest of the 15-man squad were from Penrith’s talented crop of under 18s.

After being undefeated in the trials, the Panthers started the 2024 season in March with a 112-62 win over Hornsby Ku Ring Gai and haven’t looked back since.

They then went on to notch up 15 in a row, with the average margin of victory a whopping 41 points.

Asked whether his side were too good for Waratah 2, Porter was confident his troops would be tough to beat in the top division as well.

“I think they are good enough for Waratah 1,” he declared.

“The ruling is, if you finish in the bottom two in Division 1, you drop down a grade and that’s what happened to us last year.

“On paper, this team wasn’t supposed to be this good, but we’ve got them working really hard and they’ve got a good attitude and mindset. They are a good bunch of boys and their results have come from their effort.”

With several of their players, including Jett Hickson and Nathan Bietola, topping the league’s stats, Porter believes his side can go all the way when the whips start cracking in August.

“I think they can,” Porter said.

“At the moment, we have a couple of injuries but the beauty of this team is the depth. Our depth is what’s helping and our attitude to play for one another.”

This Saturday afternoon’s match between the Panthers and the Sea Eagles will be played at the Penrith Valley Regional Sports Centre, tipping off at 3pm.

Meantime, Penrith’s Waratah 1 Youth Women’s side will also play Manly this Saturday. A massive upset would be needed for the Panthers to get the chocolates. They’re currently running 11th.

Nathan Taylor

Nathan Taylor is the Weekender's Deputy Editor and Senior Sports Writer. He also compiles the weekly Chatter on the Box TV column. Nathan is an award-winning journalist, who has worked at the Weekender for a decade.

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