VICTORIA’S junior basketball talent continued to excel on the national stage with Victoria Metropolitan winning both national championships.
Our Victoria Metropolitan and Victoria Country Under-16 sides have excelled throughout the week in Darwin, Northern Territory, with all four sides finishing within the top three of the country’s best junior teams.
Both of our Victoria Metropolitan Under-16 teams claimed national championships to continue their sustained success in this age group.
Victoria Country continued its purple patch at the championships in recent years as well – as the Victoria Country Men claimed silver in their grand final against Victoria Metropolitan and our Victoria Country Women won their bronze medal playoff against NSW Metropolitan.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN WOMEN
Earning their fourth consecutive national under-16 championship, our Victoria Metropolitan Women showcased their strength in an 89-71 triumph over South Australia Metropolitan.
Maintaining their unbeaten record this week in Darwin, the Vic Metro Women were a cut above as they relished the task at hand one last time on Saturday night.
Sending the message early, Vic Metro soared out of the blocks – knocking down everything in sight in a 33-18 opening quarter. It was a phenomenal grand final performance across the board as Vic Metro turned to Nyadiew Puoch (31 points, 12 rebounds, five assists) to step up on the big stage.
She was superb in her inaugural Australian Junior Championships campaign and Saturday night was her best performance of them all. Puoch’s duality as an offensive threat – knocking down threes or attacking the key – proved too difficult for SA Metro to defend and she was joined in that rampage by the guard brigade Tess Heal (13 points, five assists), Abbey-Lee Wood (12 points, five rebounds).
Vic Metro bombarded the South Australians at every turn and had options abound as they started piling on the pressure. The scoreline wavered – as SA Metro fought their way back into the clash – but the result was never in doubt as Heal and Puoch took the game by the scruff of the neck and sealed the deal.
It was as complete of a performance as you would ever hope for at a national championships as the roster diligently stuck to their assignments… but also did it with great excitement.
Victoria Metropolitan Women’s head coach Kennedy Kereama said the victory was the culmination of an incredible team campaign – not just here in Darwin, but throughout the year.
“I’m really, really happy for the team – especially the ladies as it’s been a really long process,” Kereama said. “Seven months from ECC (East Coast Challenge) all the way through tryouts to this point here – the girls have been an absolute pleasure to work with and there’s some really exciting talent coming through in Victoria.
“I’m just really proud the team played the way they wanted to play today and got a favourable result.
“The team just seemed to with every team they played and you’ve got to give this group credit – they’re young but their basketball IQ is really high and for a coach it makes it really easy to work with such a talented group of kids.
“They’re hard-working, extremely coachable and I can’t be more proud of their effort they have put on the floor today.”
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN MEN AND VICTORIA COUNTRY MEN
Going head-to-head for the second time in a row, following last year’s grand final clash between our two sides in Maroochydore,
Victoria Metropolitan took the 90-63 win, with Victoria Country toiling gallantly to keep up throughout the clash.
Victoria Country started strongly – flying out of the blocks to hit the scoreboard quickly – but soon thereafter Victoria Metropolitan started to dictate terms.
Stretching Vic Country for size, Vic Metro used its height to set the tempo of the game as David Amum (20 points, 11 rebounds), Jerome Pierre (15 points, 11 rebounds) and AJ Magbegor (seven points, four rebounds, four assists) cashed in.
Vic Metro pushed the margin out further through sharpshooters Blake Shankland (15 points) and Beau Tranter (11 points) knocking in seven treys between them to cap off their fine tournaments collectively. It was a tournament to relish for Vic Metro as they had the all put together all the necessary pieces to run out 2019 champions.
It left Country trailing by 30 approaching the last term, but the Country brigade never gave in. Vic Country made the most of its outside shooting and agility attacking the ring. They would win the final term to take some consolation from the clash as Coby Burgiel (20 points), Darcy Jones (16 points) and Macey Eaton (11 points) were the preferred offensive options.
Victoria Metropolitan Men’s head coach Dom Linossier said it was exciting to see his charges build to this moment and take out the national championship.
“It’s been a massive week – the boys have done a sensational job and the grand final, the championship game, was them building all week and getting better as the week progressed,” Linossier said. “Full credit to Joel Anderson and the Vic Country team – the score-line doesn’t reflect how tough they’ve been and how well they’ve done to make it to the grand final.
“I’m really proud of how much the boys have come together and worked for each other this week – they’ve sacrificed the me for the we.
“One of our big core values this week was joy – we wanted to bring joy to everything we did and I think they embodied it tonight.
“They love the game and the game gave them something back which was fantastic.
“They’re a pretty special bunch of athletes – they’re basketballers through and through which is great.
“They’re a unique bunch with their unique quirks and feats they do – but it’s pretty special to have a group that came together like they’ve done and put together a performance like they have achieved this week.”
Earning a spot in the championship showdown and making the most of their time in Darwin, Victoria Country U16 Men’s head coach Joel Anderson said he was pleased with his side’s performance.
“We were aiming to have our best game in the last game of the week and just keep getting better the whole time,” Anderson said. “When you start off with a loss that’s not hard to think we’re going to get better, but if you had have told me after the first day we’dcome second I’d be really happy with it.
“The boys have really committed to getting better every day – 10 per cent better every possession – so I’m really proud of their commitment. It would’ve been really easy to pack it in after day one, but they just kept working and working.
“They’re a fantastic team – they’re the most well-mannered kids we’ve had around, they get around each other and get on together the whole time and they’re great to have around off the court as they listen well and always do their best.”
VICTORIA COUNTRY WOMEN
Starring in their final outing as a team, the Under-16 Victoria Country Women claimed an emphatic 85-48 win over New South Wales Metro to take bronze.
After Friday night’s agonising 62-66 loss to South Australia Metro, the Victoria Country Women picked themselves up and set about bringing home the bronze medal.
They set the tempo early as Vic Country flew up the court and hitting their shots at 45 per cent – with seven threes thrown in as well. NSW Metro couldn’t keep up as the Vic Country Women charged ahead.
Dallas Loughridge (23 points, six assists) flourished in her final Vic Country under-16 clash as she led from the front and dictated the play on offence and defence. Backed up by Georgia Koopmans (12 points, five rebounds, four assists) and Myah Healey (six points, 14 rebounds), the Dandenong-based trio made the most of their time in the Vic Country colours as they excelled across the week.
The roster excelled across the board throughout the championships and the final was no exception as Sienna Privitera (seven points, four assists), Erin Condron (six points, five rebounds), Rosie Todd (six points, six rebounds) and Millie Sharp (six points) made their mark.
Victoria Country head coach Mat Holmes said the bronze medal playoff victory was a great way for the side to wrap up the championships, following the heartbreak of their semi-final defeat.
“They wanted to have that game, that one game where they put their offensive game and their defensive game together and this was it,” Holmes said. “We implored them to do it and we knew they could – they really deserved it for all the hard work they’ve put in.
“The girls had some amazing games where they’ve just been really unlucky – couldn’t get the rub in the semi-final game.
“I’m just rapt that they brought that game and it was so good to see them get that reward as a team.
“They’re an amazing group – they’re so receptive to everything you say and they just want to win and want to please everyone and just want to enjoy their basketball the whole time.
“It’s just a fantastic group to work with.”