Focusing on the end prize meant Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills was ready for whatever came its way at the World School Basketball Championships.
To finish 2019 on a high, DIA did not lose game on its way to the under-17s title at New York University Abu Dhabi.
In a tense contest DIA narrowly defeated Greenfield International School in the final and coach Mihail Kouzev said the team had clear targets to reach at the event.
“That was the game that we were preparing for from the very beginning, the final game,” he said.
“It did not matter with whom we would play this game and we had to prepare for it at training, physically and mentally.
“Our physical and mental stamina was really needed during the game and in particularly in last quarter where the players had to chase in the score versus the very strong team of Greenfield and we set a defence that makes it almost impossible for them to score.
“Teamwork makes the dream work. We aimed to stay stable throughout the tournament and particularly at the last quarters where it is very important to be mentally steady.
“We anticipated that all the teams have worked hard to prepare for this tournament, and we knew the differentiator will be the mind set for each game and in particularly the last quarters.”
Kouzev said the team had high aims since it began training in September.
“As the WSG (World School Games) was the first event of its kind we set a goal to show our best on the court without compromising on our sportsmanship. We knew that if we win, we will make history,” he said.
“As a school, we knew that we have strong basketball programme and a chance to do well at the event, therefore we have combined our top basketball players from the under-16 team and the eligible under-17 athletes from our under-19 team in one WSG team.
“The team had a dedicated programme that they followed in addition to the already existing under-16 and under-19 teams’ practice for the DASSA league.”
After all the effort put in Kouzev said it was success the whole school could revel in.
“I would like to take this opportunity and thank everyone that have supported the sports programmes at DIA over the years and to dedicate this milestone achievement to the entire Dubai International Academy Emirates Hills community,” he said.
“Last but not least thank you WSG Team for organising such professional and enjoyable sporting events for the youth.”
The majority of the squad has been together for three years, with the under-16 DASSA Division one team finishing runner up in the 2018-19 season.
“Having coached some of the boys for three years now, I can say this was the culmination of their hard work and dedication,” Kouzev said.
“For two consecutive seasons, the under-16 boys are finishing second at DASSA and finally, they had the chance to shine at the WSG.
“I must also mention Coach John Aboaja, the coach of DIA’s under-16 boys basketball team and coach Michel Mboma, the coach of the under-19 team. Without a doubt they have also contributed to this success.
“Taking the extra step and playing on international level provides the students with the experience and the opportunity to perform in a different, more competitive environment.
“In addition, this is not only a tournament but a cultural experience in meeting other players from around the globe that have the same mind set enjoying basketball and making friends.”