THERE are some days you must to see to believe.
Six grand finals, eight grand finalists and from those already impressive efforts, we forged five Country Cup titles following an extraordinary Saturday in Albury. Our sides surged when it mattered most, including two sensation all-Victorian grand finals between our Under-18 Girls and Under-14 Girls. It was hard to split our girls throughout these two thrilling battles, but in the end the biggest winner was Victorian Country basketball.
It wasn’t just our gold medallists who shone though. All of our sides proved their mettle on the big stage and helped Victoria Country also take a number of high-ranking finishes across the competition.
We had a number of Victorian referee appointments to gold medal matches, highlighting the strength of Victorian basketball across the board and a select group of players and referees will be off to represent Australia Country in upcoming months. Also these players and coaches will be part of our Under-16 and Under-18 Victoria Country teams set to head off to Darwin and Townsville respectively this year for the Australian Junior Championships.
But that’s the future… let’s take a bit of a look back at a phenomenal past 24 hours.
It’s fairly tricky to put this grand final into words. The Bushrangers and Goldminers went blow for blow across an incredible four quarters of basketball. The Goldminers flourished at stages, eking out a slight lead, but in the end the spoils belonged to the Bushrangers, with their consistency, toughness and grit taking the 59-52 triumph.
The rubber band never broke for either side as the clash waved back and forth.
The Goldminers stood strong as the game ebbed throughout the first three terms. Any small advantage would be picked apart by the opposition just as quickly, leading to a brilliant clash of attrition. A Jade Melbourne (18 points) “and-one” and a trey approaching the third term buzzer pushed the Goldies ahead in spite of most the play going the Bushrangers’ way.
Tess Barnes (12 points), Carly Remmos (12 points) and Piper Dunlop (12 points) provided the bedrock for the Bushies’ success while Meg McCarthy (four points) was almightily impressive clamping down on Melbourne and any other guard who crossed her path.
When the game was there to be won, the Bushrangers had just that little bit more in the tank. Remmos nailing her late shots, Dunlop reeling in the rebounds in a great battle against Victoria Ikenasio (nine points) and Paige Price (nine points), it was one of those games that the replay footage will be well worth returning to see in future years.
If this incredible standard is what our Country girls can achieve battling each other, imagine how strong the united side will be when April’s Australian Junior Championships roll around. Now that will be a sight to behold.
It was a tough day at the office for the Goldminers, who were gallant against the odds facing an almighty NSW line-up. The 65-89 score-line highlighted the NSW Kookaburras’ potency, but it wasn’t all one-way traffic as the Goldminers’ quartet of Liam Porter (13 points), Ben Hobbs (10 points), William Smythe (10 points) and Hamish Carey (10 points) toiled.
Our Bushrangers surged to take third with a 60-55 win over the NSW Waratahs. Taking the victory with aplomb were Dyson Daniels (15 points), Keith Robinson (14 points) and Christian D’Angelo (10 points).
In yet another thrilling grand final clash, the Goldminers impressed in an 81-73 victory over the NSW Kookaburras. When the game was on the line, the champions stood tallest. The Goldminers were impressively led by Bella Breen (18 points) and Dallas Loughridge (17 points), with Loughridge burdening much of the late-stage grind-out as the seconds ticked down and the Kookaburras started fouling out of necessity. Caitlin Richardson (12 points) and Jada Skennerton (11 points) provided an equally potent one-two punch through the middle terms to help reinforce the slight lead. In the end it was a fitting result for the power-packed line-up, with the powerhouse Goldminers taking the cup.
The under-16 Bushrangers defeated NSW Waratahs 54-50 in a thriller to take out third spot. Erin Condron (14 points) and the ultra-consistent pair of Georgia Koopmans (11 points) and Myah Healey (11 points were most impressive.
Exploding out of the blocks, the under-16 boys proved themselves far too powerful for the SA Magpies, taking a 69-43 gold medal match victory. The boys shone from the first tip as the likes of Coby Burgiel (19 points), Jamie Bottrell (18 points) and Macey Eaton (17 points) stole the show. The Magpies could scarcely keep pace with the potent barrage as the Bushrangers finished an impressive undefeated weekend.
The Goldminers finished the tournament on a high note, taking fifth place with a 66-41 victory over Tasmania Tigers. In the impressive all-round performance, the standouts on the scoreboard were Tom Gorman (12 points) and Toby Cossor (10 points).
Our other all-Victorian gold medal game delivered in spades as well. The Under-14s were thoroughly impressive as neither Bushranger or Goldminer would back down. It took all four terms to split these teams, but not after a good back and forth. Both trailed, both lead, but most importantly, both fought back. It was a brilliant display of tenacity from the under-14 group as a whole as the girls showcased Victorian country basketball and all of its brilliant properties on the elite level. But there always has to be a winner and in this clash the Goldminers timed their run to perfection. Elley Donelan (three points) and Jacaila Dettmann (11 points) made some monster treys in the fourth to back up the powerhouse performance of Macey Bowie (12 points) from all parts of the floor. Despite the best work of Mia Puntoriero (14 points) and Sienna Wynd (eight points), the Bushrangers couldn’t mount one last fightback. It was a day for the Goldminers but there’s going to be a lot more impressive battles ahead for this group.
The Bushrangers were far too strong for the SA Magpies in the finale, stealing away any hope of a South Australian title in the 81-67 victory. When the game was on the line, the likes of William Brent (22 points), Amon Radley (16 points) and Zac Mabilia (16 points) flourished, but it was the team-wide defensive effort that stood out as they clamped down on any Magpies’ attempt.
The Goldminers boys finished fourth in the tournament following a 64-68 loss to Tasmania Tigers. Jett Garnham (20 points) and Oliver Eaton (15 points) and Will Rantall (11 points) were the best of the brigade.