EXTRAORDINARY highs and heartbreaking lows, you’d expect nothing less of grand final day at the Australian Junior Championships.
Victoria continued its impressive history at the Under-20 and Ivor Burge tournament, bringing home five medals including three national championships.
Facing a dynamic Queensland team featuring fellow NBA Global Academy rising stars Tamuri Wigness and Blake Jones, Victoria had a battle on their hands.
Despite building an early lead through Josh Giddey (27 points, 10 rebounds, eight assists), Kobe Williamson (24 points, 11 rebounds) and Zac Triplett (19 points with five threes), Queensland never gave in. They rallied to close the gap, push past the U20 Men and force Victoria to dig even deeper.
Zac Triplett nailed a match-defining trey and coupled with Williamson and Wil Tattersall (eight points) making crucial shots as the clock ticked down, Victoria snuck ahead once again.
Blake Jones hit the match-tying three-pointer to light up the stadium as the Victorians took one last possession.
90-90 with only 14 seconds left in the @BasketballAus #AusChamps Under-20 Men's Grand Final. @Basketball_Vic's Josh Giddey seals the deal to take the title. Incredible finish to an incredible week! pic.twitter.com/HsfV5YqiWR
— Basketball Victoria (@Basketball_Vic) February 9, 2020
In a play that will be shared for years to come, Josh Giddey took the ball in the dying moments of a 90-90 tied game and made history. Rebounding his own missed attempt with seconds remaining on the clock, Giddey hit the jumper that blew up the arena into raucous applause.
Head Coach Chris Anstey said the calibre of the side’s performance this week – especially with two called up emergencies – was indicative of Victoria’s strength in the sport.
“The boys were able to apply the skills demonstrated through the selection process at the highest level our country has to offer,” Anstey said. “Victoria has the best depth of talent in the country and we depended on each of our players to get the result we did.
“It’s a fantastic reflection on that depth that two of the boys who were selected as emergencies, and included in the team late, but provided great contributions throughout the week.”
Giddey’s performance, a near triple-double in a grand final, rounded off an impressive week for the NBA Global Academy representative in his second appearance in the Victorian state colours.
It was Victoria U20 Men’s third consecutive title at the event and 30th overall since the tournament began in 1974.
An emphatic week with a powerhouse team came to an end in the best possible way on Sunday, as Victoria Under-20 Women notched their fourth consecutive national championship with a 69-56 win over Queensland.
From the get-go Victoria pressed Queensland, locked down defensively and made every avenue to the basket as difficult as it could be. With speed to burn and 10-deep arsenal of shooting options, it made for a difficult challenge to match Victoria.
Gemma Potter (20 points, eight rebounds, five assists) took charge of the game early in league with Agnes Emma-Nnopu (10 points, 11 rebounds), Lily Scanlon (eight points, four assists, four steals), Jade Melbourne (seven points, eight assists) and Olivia Pollerd (seven points, seven rebounds). But such was the power of this group was that at any time there could be up to five Centre of Excellence players sitting on the bench. Everyone shone across the week and took their chances when called upon.
For head coach Hannah Lowe, coaching a team of this calibre was a reward in of itself, let alone bringing home a national title with them.
“It’s a fantastic group – I feel really privileged to coach a group of girls who are that talented,” Lowe said. “We had a really short preparation, which makes it hard for us to put together an extensive playbook, but I think with that limited preparation, the girls did really well – they executed on the day, under pressure and all-in-all it was an excellent week.
“They were impressive on and off the court; every team faces adversity throughout a tournament week, but we as the week wore on, we found ways to grow as a group.
“I’ve been an assistant coach a few times and this was my first as head coach and I’ve really been looking forward to this opportunity – it’s an amazing feeling to be a head coach of a team like this.”
Capping off her incredible tournament career in Victorian teams, Gemma Potter was named the Bob Staunton Medal recipient as the Under-20 Women’s tournament MVP. The team’s success yesterday was Gemma’s fifth consecutive national championship victory, making her one of the most successful players in Victorian history at the Australian Junior Championships.
IVOR BURGE WOMEN
Completing a clean sweep at the 2020 Ivor Burge tournament, Victoria’s Ivor Burge Women took out the gold medal with an emphatic 76-53 win over New South Wales.
Returning to the top of the podium after last year finishing in second behind NSW, there was plenty to play for and Victoria was ready from the tip-off. The Ivor Burge Women dialled in early to its set-pieces as Montana Haag-Witherden (15 points) and Katie Leckenby (six points, seven rebounds, four assists) drove the offence alongside double-double powerhouses Jessica McCulloch (13 points, 10 rebounds), Kate Zonneveld (13 points, 11 rebounds), Kaitlyn Papworth (10 points, 14 rebounds).
Head Coach Simon Robinson was excited to see the group rise to the occasion and bring the gold medal back to Victoria.
“We’re very happy to obvious avenge last year where we felt that we didn’t play as well as we possibly could,” Robinson said. “New South Wales is a very strong team and they always test us – they tested us on Friday morning in the rounds and that was quite a close one, so it was good to control things early, get to an early lead and then consolidate and build on it.
“Victoria is a very strong and very deep team and generally we feel that if we can keep doing what we do best over four quarters, eventually we’ll be able to wear anyone down and get the win.
“The ladies are fantastic – with the Ivor Burge competition there’s no age limit, so a lot of the girls are coming back for multiple tournaments so you get a chance to build some fairly strong relationships with them.
“It’s delightful to coach this group; last year they were very disappointed obviously, so to win this one it’s quite a good feeling.
IVOR BURGE MEN
An impressive week in Canberra couldn’t be capped off with the ultimate accolade for Victoria’s Ivor Burge Men as the Victorians fell 90-98 to South Australia in an overtime heartbreaker.
Victoria and South Australia exchanged the lead and went blow-for-blow throughout a captivating grand final. Victoria built a handy buffer late in the clash, taking a 10-point lead at one stage, but South Australia dug its heels in to force overtime and run over the top in overtime.
Jake De La Motte (47 points, four rebounds) toiled for Victoria offensively as he forced the tempo and helped establish the lead throughout the third quarter. Defensively, Frazer Dawber (seven points, 11 rebounds) and James Debetta (10 rebounds) battled manfully off the boards against the tall and powerful South Australian roster.
For Victorian Ivor Burge Men’s head coach Ryan Holloway, it was pleasing to see his side play in the best spirit and go toe-to-toe with the best in the nation.
“They gave it their all throughout the week,” Holloway said. “From game one our goal was to play the most respectful basketball that we could, play fairly throughout the tournament and I think these guys did that excellently.
“They worked hard and became a team together – unfortunately the guys didn’t get over the line in the end, but it’s been a pleasure to coach them no matter the result.”
Jake De La Motte was named the men’s tournament MVP and received the Ivor Burge Medal.
UNDER-20 A WOMEN
Knocking over an impressive New South Wales side to bring home bronze, the Victoria U20 A Women thoroughly impressed in their 85-58 triumph.
Making the most of their opportunity to represent the state, the Victorians shone throughout the bronze medal clash as they blew past NSW and set an imposing lead.
Even more impressively for the U20 A Women, it was a shared effort across the board as Keeley Evans (15 points, seven rebounds), Casey Valenti-Paea (15 points, five assists) and Ally Knights (11 points, five rebounds) led an even spread of scorers.
Head coach Zoe Carr said the group worked hard throughout the campaign and deservedly earned a spot on the podium.
“I could not be more proud of these girls,” Carr said. “They worked so hard and the improvement and growth we have seen over the week is a credit to each and every one of them.
“I would like to thank the staff, in particular Katrina Barry, the girls and the parents for all of their effort and support.”
UNDER-20 A MEN
Victoria’s Under-20 A Men finished the tournament in fifth place, having won both its classification games on Saturday against Western Australia and Tasmania respectively.