Hockinson High hosts visitors from the land down under in exhibition basketball games


While both the Hockinson High School boys and girls basketball teams lost to the Tenison Woods Titans of Mount Gambier, Australia, Thursday, Nov. 30, the international experience was more about forming friendships and a shared love for basketball rather than the score.

The girls varsity game ended with Tenison Woods College beating the young Hockinson team, 77-23, while the Titan boys defeated the Hawks, 82-63. Tenison Woods College, a Catholic co-educational secondary school in Mount Gambier, Australia, is the equivalent of an American K-12 private school.

The night featured more than just basketball games though. The Hockinson High School band played the Australian National Anthem, “Advance Australia Fair,” which received high praise from the Australians. A couple of girls from Tenison Woods told Damon Roche, the Hockinson girls head coach, that the Hockinson band played the anthem perfectly.

“We’re blown away by everyone [being] so friendly, and to do things like the anthem, it makes it even more special for us,” Tenison Woods College head coach Matt Sutton said. “We really appreciate everything they’ve done for us.”

In honor of the special occasion, Hockinson students made welcome signs they placed above the visitors bench as well as the front entrance into the gymnasium.

The Titans created a running blog to document their visit to the United States.

After playing Glacier Peak High School in Snohomish, the blog stated, “Today was our first experience of all the hoopla that goes with the game over here in the states – and it was all we had imagined. The band, the cheerleaders, the announcing, they certainly know how to build the game atmosphere.”

Hockinson offered a similar experience, and the Australian players visibly enjoyed the Hawks band, and the Tenison Woods girls basketball team smiled and took videos of the Hawks’ cheer squad performance during the halftime of the boys varsity game.

“We’re really glad to be here, and we’re lucky we got a program and a school that puts in a lot of effort into fundraising to give our kids the opportunity,” Sutton said. “We’re just happy to be here ‘hoopin.’ ”

Adding to the special occasion, the players and coaches exchanged gifts after the games. Sutton, who has made it a priority to award a gift to an opposing team’s player he felt played the best, presented Dannika Grant with some Titan team swag.

“It’s our way of saying thank you,” Sutton added. “We can’t bring too much because we’ve got to go through customs and get all this stuff there, but it’s just our small way of saying thank you.”

Roche, who has built contacts with Australian coaches from his years of being a club team coach, has arranged for Australian teams to play in America every three years as that’s what the state of Washington allows, he said. He said he wishes his teams could play them more often, just for the experience, friendships and memories.

First-year Hockinson boys basketball coach Dalton Rausch appreciated that Roche arranged for his team to play in an international competition as well.

“It was just a great opportunity for our guys to experience people from across the globe,” Rausch said. “Our mindset going in was just, ‘Let’s get better.’ It’s early in the season, first year coach, they’re getting to know me, I’m getting to know them. So at this point we’re really trying to emphasize just building the game.”

Roche said, as a culture, the Australians are very “flexible, chill and polite.” From a basketball perspective he believes they are very polished and precise.

“Whether they beat us badly or not, is not really the point. It’s a good experience both to see a really good team, especially with a young team like we have now,” Roche said. “Then also [to] experience the interaction, I think it’s important because there’s more to the world than sports, right?”

After the games, girls from both Hockinson and Tenison Woods teams mingled and promised to stay in contact.

“”It’s a great experience, and that’s what high school sports is about for me. It’s an experience that they’ll remember forever,” Roche added.

To follow the Titans’ journey in America, visit tenison.catholic.edu.au/blogs/titans-usa-tour-2023.

The Hockinson girls varsity team played Battle Ground at home on Monday, Dec. 4, but results were unavailable at time of print. The Hawks play at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Dec. 6 at home against R. A. Long High School.

The Hockinson boys varsity team traveled to R. A. Long High School on Tuesday, but results were unavailable at time of print. They play at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7 at Hudson’s Bay High School in Vancouver.