The Nayland College basketball team will head to nationals as the lowest ranked side, but are embracing the underdog tag. Photo: Todd Seelen.

Nayland off to basketball nationals

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After causing an upset by finishing sixth in the South Island, the Nayand College basketball team is now preparing to take on the best in the country.

Nayland qualified for nationals for the first time in five years after topping its pool at the South Island competition held in Nelson last week.

The side is now faced with the tall task of raising $10,000 in less than three weeks for the unexpected trip to Palmerston North.

Few gave Nayland much chance of progressing past the South Island leg, having drawn a pool which included Nelson College, who had beaten them four times previously this season.

However, the team defied predictions and rankings, winning four of its six games to book its spot.

Coach Sam Dempster says it was an incredible effort from his side.

“It was a huge week; the boys have been working really hard and training every morning for the past few weeks, so it’s a compliment to the work they do.”

Sam says to win such a competitive pool was hugely satisfying.

“Everyone looked at our pool and saw it as the toughest, so to come out on top was huge.”

Though they will head to the national tournament ranked 24th out of 24 teams, they are thriving on the underdog status.

“We showed we can compete with anyone, I think we can upset some teams.”

The team has a Givealittle page for those wanting to help: https://givealittle.co.nz/cause/nayland-college-basketball-help-get-us?fbclid=IwAR0_U6wvhP2aFwdTffeaOmdaLvTteEUf-r8668VtjnOkon5flv–LyUS61w

At of the time of publication, the team had raised half of the targeted amount.