Friday 13 July will go down famously for Victorian basketball as all four of our under-16 teams battle it out for AusChamps success in a pair of electrifying grand finals.
Not since the Australian Under-18 Junior Championships in 2001 have we seen all four representative teams square off in the grand finals. It is a rare and extraordinary achievement and no matter the result, we’re thrilled with the performances from our four #TeamVic squads across this weekend.
But there are two exhilarating grand finals left to go and we can’t wait to see our Country and Metro sides battle it out on the biggest stage for the gold.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN GIRLS
Determination and grit.
In the closest of the four semi finals across Thursday afternoon, the Vic Metro girls had to dig deep to knock over a gallant NSW Metro to earn a spot in the big showdown against Vic Country.
NSW Metro lit it up and forced our best to knock them off. This was an epic for the ages and in many years, this would’ve a clash you’d expect from the grand final, not a semi. Our girls toiled to make the most of their slender opportunities against the rock-solid NSW defence. Our usual suspects Tess Heal (23 points, seven rebounds) and Charlise Dunn (16 points, 15 rebounds) remained as extraordinary as always but it wasn’t just on them. Georgia Kitchell (eight points, seven rebounds) battled all night in the paint at both ends and impressed with her dogged determination. Georgia Booth (16 points, five rebounds) had her best outing of the tournament as she truly upset the NSW defence and forced them to guard her on beyond the arc after she nailed a pair of sublime treys. Meg Robinson (10 points, three rebounds) was the anchor of the defence and was knocked about all night but kept getting up. The charge she took late in the game showcased her willingness to fight for her team and more importantly, get back out there after taking one of the bigger hits of the tournament.
The match was still up for grabs through the dying stages but the calmness of Heal, Dunn and Booth down the stretch was almighty. Heal was making plays from everywhere on court and probably in the stands as well, such was her impact on the contest. She would cut and slash through the key, spin her way to the rack and in one incredible instance made a step-back catch-and-release three as the shot clock went out on her… so much so that she did it twice in the last three minutes of the game. These instances and many more started to wear down the NSW Metro endeavour and in the end a fitting three-ball from Meg Robinson snared the win for Victoria Metropolitan and earned them a chance at the three-peat.
The girls will battle Victoria Country from 4pm with the match livestreamed on the Basketball Australia Facebook page.
VICTORIA COUNTRY GIRLS
Threes and defence.
It might seem strange to boil down a performance to two areas, but for the Victoria Country girls their exceptional work in these two areas ensured a 66-47 win over Queensland North.
After the Queenslanders got the early jump, the Vic Country girls charged back into action as they clamped down defensively and shone beyond the arc up the other end. Like a gatling gun, Vic Country rattled off three-after-three as Gemma Simon (12 points), Emirson Devenie (eight points) and Paige Price (seven points, seven rebounds, five assists) loaded up and delivered some crucial shots.
After Queensland North jumped out to a 11-3 lead, Vic Country settled into its rhythm and began to clamp down. There would be no repeats of the pool stage loss as the Vic Country defence sorted itself and negated any chances of Indiah Bowyer and Shaneice Swain getting open looks. Coupled with another extraordinary outing from Piper Dunlop (20 points, 22 rebounds) – who snared 18 defensive boards in a colossal performance – it showed the brilliant intent of the Country girls as they started to take control.
Country shone with the three-ball, but just as crucial was creating space and disorienting the defence with Meg McCarthy (two points, seven assists), Paige Price and Dallas Loughridge (eight points, three rebounds, three assists) all creating big opportunities for the shooters.
It will be back-to-back showdowns at the under-16s for our Victoria Country and Metropolitan girls in the grand final following last year’s overtime epic which Metro won. All told it’s a brilliant showcase for the entire state’s basketball talent and there’s no excuse to miss out on the action – with the match livestreamed at the Basketball Australia Facebook page.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN BOYS
Returning to the gold medal game, after a one-year hiatus, the Victoria Metropolitan boys stormed past NSW Metro 76-61 to earn the right to fight for the championship.
It was an emphatic performance across the board, led by the likes of Jyelin Moli (21 points, five rebounds) and Jack Dammers (14 points, six rebounds).
It was an even split once again for the Metro boys, who continue to find firepower from the right individual and the right moment. This tailored strategy has shone throughout the week as 10 men have dialled in and taken on board the work they’ve needed to do. With Moli, Jerome Pierre (five points, seven rebounds), Jeffrey Ofoedu (nine points, eight rebounds) and Josh Duach (six points, six rebounds) sharing the work under the rack, Metro had a litany of talent pooled for the same purpose. The incredible stat-line of captain Marcus Windhager (zero points, 10 rebounds, six assists) highlights the selflessness of the group and the desire to seek the best opportunity for the team, not just for the individual. It has been the hallmark of their gameplay all week and it will need to continue to knock over their next-door neighbours Vic Country.
The match will tip at 6pm and will be livestreamed on the Basketball Australia Facebook page.
VICTORIA COUNTRY BOYS
From fighting back to charging forward, it was an extraordinary swing that earned the Victoria Country under-16 boys a return to the grand final for the first time since 2016 in Kilsyth.
Early opportunities for SA Country were soon clamped shut by Vic Country. A slender lead approaching the half was soon demolished as the likes of Christian D’Angelo (18 points), Tonga Matapule Otutaha (13 points, 12 rebounds) and Ben Hobbs (13 points, 11 rebounds) started seizing control. Coupled with Hamish Carey’s (eight points, seven rebounds) work under the ring and the defensive nous of Patrick Burgoyne (five points) and Charlie Molan (four points, seven rebounds, three assists) and you could see the victory start to come into focus. It was an exhilarating second half for the Country boys as they racked up 42-point second half to storm home and earn a 50/50 shot at the national championship.
They will battle Victoria Metropolitan boys from 6pm with the match livestreamed on the Basketball Australia Facebook page.