159 spots in the Victorian Championship (VC) had been decided… and it was up to Sunbury and Pakenham’s under-14 boys to determine who would punch ticket number 160.
Earning a spot in Melbourne United Victorian Junior Basketball League’s (MUVJBL) premier division was the dream of 1290 teams that entered this season.
Moving into the upper echelons and showing your skills on the biggest stage.
Both sides had booked two teams into VC up to now across the under-12, under-14, under-16 and under-18 divisions and the last chance was on offer to make it three.
Attaining VC status isn’t the be-all and end-all of a junior basketball season, but it shows a lot.
Winning your way through also puts you in the crucible of premier junior action week-in, week-out.
So to boil all that down to one must-win match at the State Basketball Centre, the Warriors and Jets lit up court four to make it a match worthy of the spoils.
Pakenham’s height versus Sunbury’s nimble guards…. fly above or speed around… it was a unique clash that highlighted the best elements of MUVJBL.
Never more than a handful of points separated the sides as the ball sped up and down the court.
Sunbury’s Jacob Poyser and David Angove made sensational plays throughout the evening and set the tempo for Pakenham to catch… or risk falling behind.
With plenty of steals, blocks and huge rebounds, the match was decided in the trenches by Pakenham’s late shooting.
At one stage in the fourth term the Warriors fell behind 35-41, but the hard work of Bradley Pitts, Kynan Auhl and Zachary Mclean pushed the side right back into it.
Sunbury toiled to stay alive – as Angove’s steal and full-court attack put Sunbury back in front.
Jarred Small seized his moment, flying to the rack and making the points stick as the scoreboard once again flipped over.
It boiled down to one last Sunbury shot as the clock ticked down… but an unfortunate travel left the door ajar for Pakenham to ice the game.
Pitts made two huge rebounds in the dying seconds as he got up the court, received the foul and nailed his two free throws.
Pakenham under-14 boys MUVJBL boys coach Brett Small was overjoyed, had lost his voice and most of all… stood amazed seeing his Warriors’ legion shine when it mattered most.
“This group of kids, they’re amazing – I lost my voice trying to keep encouraging them to work hard,” Small said. “We were down, we were up… and these kids just dug deep, never gave up and that’s been the story for us throughout the grading phase.
“We started low – we wanted to get challenged early – and we were winning the games fairly comfortably but we wanted to be tested and this was what we got.
“We got this challenge game and we’re just so rapt for the boys to get to experience this and for a smallish club to get an under-14 group into VC, it’s a really good platform for our club moving forward.”
There are only 180 teams that qualify for the Victorian Championship each season – with Pakenham’s under-18 girls and under-18 boys previously qualifying throughout the grading phase.
Making the Victorian Championship also enables sides a chance to qualify for the 2017 Medibank National Junior Classic tournament, held over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend at Dandenong Basketball Stadium.
The under-20 women and men will square off over the next fortnight to determine their VC sides with the last 20 spots up for grabs.
But this is only one story from one court, at one venue in the #MUVJBL17 season. If you want your side’s story told, email Jarrod Potter – firstname.lastname@example.org.