SURGING to a pair of remarkable comeback victories, both Victorian Metropolitan sides shone when it mattered to claim Australian Junior Championships.
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN MEN
In a match for the ages, Victoria Metropolitan regained the Under-18 Men’s title with a 74-64 triumph over South Australia Metropolitan.
Unearthing one of the Championships’ greatest comebacks in a grand final, Victoria Metropolitan turned a 17-point deficit late in the second term as
South Australia Metro dictated terms early in the clash as their inside-outside game caused headaches for Vic Metro. The early shooting of Zac Taylor (10 points) and Paul Tsapatolis (nine points, eight rebounds) kept it from getting completely out of hand, but it was a quarter-and-a-half played solely on South Australian terms. Bombarding us with three-pointers from everywhere, it was an uphill slog early without much respite for Metro, but the retaliation was never out of the question.
Vic Metro went back to drawing board, clamped down with the 2-1-2 press, and began to sway the match back in our favour.
Savouring the spotlight, Riley Simmons (two points, five rebounds, two steals) saved his best game for last, as he proved a full court terror against the South Australians. Coupled with Marcus Windhager (nine points, three assists, two steals), the spark off the bench helped the siege against South Australia advancing the ball with anywhere near the fluency they once had.
But the starring role was taken up by Josh Giddey (31 points, nine rebounds, five steals), who put on a masterclass. In one sublime passage alone, a Giddey steal, poked out from behind, led to a dunk, another steal and an assist to Windhager to start really eating into the South Australian lead. He would hit some audacious shots from across the court – including back-to-back threes in the fourth term – throughout the second half as momentum completely shifted.
Vic Metro finished the third term on a 16-6 run and went 16-2 to start the fourth and all but seal the deal. South Australia pressured Vic Metro to the end, cutting the gap to five at one stage, but the cooler heads well and truly prevailed as the Victorians saw off the best of their final stand to hoist the Championship.
“We just talked about at half time that we weren’t playing hard enough, we weren’t backing each other and didn’t play our defence,” Vic Metro coach Darren Perry said. “We just asked for effort and whatever happened was going to happen.
“We found some success in the 2-1-2 and we just stuck with it – we had some great individual plays and some great defence and you don’t expect to run over teams in the second half like that… but it was a great win.
“The group was fantastic all week and it’s always special to get in these games and win one with my son – I did one with Jack in 2016 and one now with Mason in 2019 – it feels really special.
“I’ll really miss these guys.”
VICTORIA METROPOLITAN WOMEN
It was a hard slog as Vic Metro Women had to fight their way back into the clash against Queensland South in a thrilling 72-51 turn around victory. They had trailed early 4-17 as the home state side leapt out of the blocks, but Metro wasn’t fazed by the scoreboard pressure mounting.
When the chips were down Metro savoured the small successes and structured their revival around its leaders. Leia Hanafin (nine points, five rebounds, six assists) and Gemma Potter (14 points, nine rebounds) started to shift the scoreboard back in Metro’s favour. Short, sharp rotations started to add up as QLD South struggled to match the fresh legs of Vic Metro. It was a defining characteristic of Vic Metro’s strategy all week as they found avenues to the basket from across the entirety of the line-up. Casey Valenti-Paea (13 points, eight rebounds) and Luisa Fakalata (six points) kept the tempo up while Emily Sewell (10 points) and Charlise Dunn (five points, 12 bounds) kept the barrage going inside the key.
Alannah Chatfield (six points) nailed a pair of clutch three-pointers to slash the gap to five at the main break and from there it was all Vic Metro all the way to the final buzzer.
“They really challenged us early but we came out a little bit tired and they made some tough plays early but we made some adjustments – particularly on defence – and I think the girls upped the ante there,” Vic Metro head coach Reece Potter said. “They had a really big time second half – I thought Leia Hanafin was unbelievable, with deflections, blocked shots and made some really big plays. Gemma Potter made some big plays as well and I think everyone followed.
“That’s what we kept preaching to the girls – we run deeper than them. They’ve had some players play 40 minutes but we’ve barely had any who played over 30, so we’ve really rotated well. We go 10-deep and that’s the great strength of Vic Metro.
“I thought the girls really bought into that and played their short spurts and were gritty and found a way to win.
“At this time I feel a bit of relief and happiness for the girls – there’s a lot of pressure on them to do really well, both individually and collectively, and now they’re able to enjoy a moment like this with their family.”
VICTORIA COUNTRY WOMEN
Putting disappointment from last night behind them emphatically, the Victoria Country Women shone to take the bronze medal 68-67 in overtime against NSW Metro.
Bouncing back from last night’s semi-final defeat, the Vic Country Women flourished early. The tall towers of Paige Price (20 points, 10 rebounds) and Piper Dunlop (eight points, four rebounds) created problems in the key for NSW Metro to address while Price was also potent outside – hitting four treys – alongside Jade Melbourne (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) and Olivia Pollerd (11 points, six rebounds, five assists).
Once again though it was the ironclad defence and ability to clamp down on the opposition that set the tone for the clash. It boiled down to an incredible final term as both sides traded blows and threatened to take match away from the other. A Paige Price three, followed by a floating jumper helped take the lead back early in the fourth before New South Wales Metro blazed their way to the front.
Olivia Pollerd caught fire in the start of the overtime period, nailing three field goals on the trot to keep the Country contingent chugging along. A Carly Remmos hook shot nearly iced the game, but NSW Metro continued to surge.
With Jade Melbourne nailing two clutch free throws, it was down to one possession to decide the bronze… and in the end we held firm. Olivia Pollerd made the match-defining block to help Vic Country eke out the thrilling one-point triumph.
“It feels good now – we’ve had a few ups and downs throughout the week, but the girls really came together in the last game and it was amazing,” Vic Country Women head coach Sharon Denham said. “They played with each other and for each other and just worked it out on the floor.
“We had five bottom age girls and I think they did a great job this week and hopefully setting them up for the future.
“This group is really talented and they were fantastic with the way they came back today – it was disappointing to have the loss last night but today they were all for each other and played really hard.”
KEVIN COOMBS CUP
It was an extraordinary effort from Victoria’s young Kevin Coombs Cup stars, but in the end they couldn’t finish off the week on a high note. Despite a thrilling battle against New South Wales, taking in a double-overtime clash for the bronze medal, it wasn’t meant to be as our side fell 75-82 in the end.
Jaylen Brown (30 points, 16 rebounds, 10 assists) and Teisha Shadwell (20 points, 17 rebounds, 10 assists) continued their exceptional tournaments with a triple-double each while Mitch Bond (nine points, 10 rebounds) also starred.
Some dogged efforts from our offence kept the clash alive as we dragged our way back into the clash to force the second overtime. By then though New South Wales was able to gain some ascendency and chalk up the victory.
There was plenty to be pleased with from this Kevin Coombs Cup campaign as a number of new players joined the side as well as familiar faces excelling in more advanced leadership roles in 2019. It puts the program in a very strong position heading towards 2020 and beyond.
VICTORIA COUNTRY MEN
Even battling out the week three men down, the Country Men were able to put up a strong fight against Queensland South, pushing the home staters all the way in an 82-84 defeat.
Vic Country Men were led by Austin McKenzie (21 points, seven rebounds), Dyson Daniels (17 points, 12 rebounds) and Christian D’Angelo (15 points, six rebounds) to cap off the week on a high note. Victoria Country Men finished sixth in the tournament following today’s result.