FOUR teams. Four wins. Four one seeds from the pool stage.
It was an emphatic Tuesday that our four Victorian Country and Metropolitan teams put together at the Sunshine Coast, leading to an impressive clean-sweep of the four pools ahead of today’s quarter final clashes.
VICTORIA COUNTRY BOYS
Epitomising the Victorian spirit yesterday, the Country boys fought back from the brink of defeat to claim an incredible 69-67 triumph over South Australia Metro. In the process , they took out the pool with an undefeated record and move on to the quarter finals in the strongest position for a Country boys team since the silver medal winning 2016 team.
It was no walk in the park though as SA Metro had eyes on a big scalp and potentially spring boarding its way to top of the pool. The tempo seesawed through the first term as the stellar work of Charlie Molan (24 points, seven rebounds) and Hamish Carey (11 points, six rebounds) was met by SA Metro star Keanu Rasmussen and more. SA Metro kept the pressure up as it left the Country boys reeling through the early stages of the third term. The margin blew out to 38-49 and threatened to boil over as Country struggled to hit the scoreboard. Thankfully it was only a small phase and the Country stars emerged with a bang as Ben Hobbs (six points), Charlie Molan and Christian D’Angelo (12 points, eight rebounds) lit the fuse.
They went ballistic to slash the 11-point gap to a three-point margin at the final break and entered the term with fervent energy. They were tested again early in the last term, but there was always a Country response. Drop to seven down? Jordan Michel (five points) ensured that would be slashed in half with an incredible three-ball. Rasmussen goes on the warpath, including a monster dunk? That’s alright, Charlie Molan and Christian D’Angelo returned fire with a pair of treys to light up the room. With Tonga Matapule Otutaha (six points) started to cause problems for SA Metro’s dwindling defence, it was a matter of the Country boys holding their nerve and waiting for the opportunities to arise. SA Metro never gave up as Rasmussen brought it back to a two-point game with 26 seconds left in the game, but Country ground down the clock and took home their best win to date in the tournament.
It sets the stage for an incredible quarter final clash against Queensland South and coach Joel Anderson was thrilled with the team’s effort across the board.
“It’s a pretty good feeling to go undefeated through the pool, we came in to the tournament thinking we could probably beat anyone that came up against us and so far we’ve just proved ourselves correct,” Anderson said. “I think there’s only about 30 minutes total difference between any of the players throughout the tournament from our least played to most played player so that’s fantastic and everyone is chipping in through different games, which makes us really difficult to scout.”
VICTORIA COUNTRY GIRLS
There was a lot that had to go Country’s way for them to advance as the one seed. Despite having already secured their place in the quarter finals, the Country girls wanted more. There are no dead rubbers in a tournament scenario – you’re always hunting the next win, seeking greater improvement or forcing yourself to stand taller than you did the day before.
The girls had their hardest challenge yet in South Australia Metro and as all great sides do, they met the pressure head on. They needed to win by seven points to advance as the number one seed and against the odds, they managed to emerge victorious 68-60… in overtime.
Paige Price (14 points, 10 rebounds) and Piper Dunlop (10 points, 13 rebounds) were dominant aerially as they forced SA Metro and in league with Meg McCarthy (13 points, seven rebounds) and Georgia Koopmans (10 points), they started winding back the 10 point margin from early in the fourth term. Koopmans relished her chances from beyond the arc as she nailed two treys that got the crowd on its feet. Charlie Dobson was the next to deliver, raining down a long bomb of her own to keep the game level as SA Metro kept its pressure up. SA Metro found some clear air once more to push the gap to three approaching the final siren but Gemma Simon had other ideas. She found an inch of space and nailed the clutch three when it mattered most – levelling it 58-apiece with a handful of seconds left. From there the match was ours for the taking as we rampaged through overtime and built up enough of a lead to take the win, take the pool and emphatically announce themselves as a title contender heading into today’s quarter finals.
They will face WA Metro from 12pm at USC Stadium.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN BOYS
Strong across the board, Victoria Metropolitan boys ensured top spot remained their own with a 80-59 win over WA Metro. It was a day for our big bodies as Jyelin Moli (25 points, six rebounds), Jeffrey Ofoedu (17 points, eight rebounds) and Ben Fischer (13 points, seven rebounds) had free reign over the WA Metro defence. In league with Marcus Windhager (seven points) and Broden Andrews (six points), it was another emphatic team-wide performance that will set the stage for our finals performances to come. The Metro boys will face Tasmania from 2pm today at USC Stadium.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN GIRLS
Maintaining an unbeaten streak through the pool stage, Victoria Metropolitan sealed its spot atop Pool A with a potent 83-35 win over SA Country. The Metro girls didn’t let the occasion waltz by them though; this was no walk in the park. They pushed themselves at every turn to ramp up preparations. With a 15-0 score line half-way through the first term, there was no second guessing the Metro intent and the margin continued to grow from there with the likes of Charlise Dunn (22 points, nine rebounds, five steals), Tess Heal (17 points, seven steals), Luisa Fakalata (15 points, nine rebounds) and Georgia Booth (14 points, seven rebounds) on top of their game. It was a game played with an eye on the future but fuelled by the right mindset. This was a finals-calibre performance from a side determined to make the most of the rest of this week and that sort of effort, teamwork and toil separates the wheat from the chaff in a tournament setting.
The girls will now battle NSW Country from 4pm at USC Stadium.
Basketball Victoria will be at the championships from Sunday afternoon, bringing you all the pictures, videos, interviews and match reports from the final Australian Junior Championships event of the year.