In a phenomenal day for Victorian basketball, the four Under-20 and Ivor Burge state representative teams claimed gold.
The clean sweep of the Australian Under-20 and Ivor Burge Championships, held in Gosford NSW, was spearheaded by an exceptional group of Victorian athletes, staff members and coaches across our four sides.
It was one for the record books as the Under-20 Men, Under-20 Women, Ivor Burge Men and Ivor Burge Women put forward the best examples of exceptional Victorian basketball.
VICTORIA UNDER 20 MEN
Last on the schedule, the Victorian Under 20 Men delivered a power-packed performance against South Australia to finally eke out a 72-59.
We trailed at the half after a dogged pair of terms could scarcely split the teams. Our best efforts were derived early from Keli Leaupepe (16 points 10 rebounds), who started strongly with his baseline work against SA’s talls, Josh Kunen (eight points, 12 rebounds) and Puoch Puoch (six points). We threw all our size and strength at the South Australians early to ask questions of the South Australian depth.
While they responded early, the South Australians couldn’t match us inside and out throughout the clash. The three-ball became the nail in the second seed’s coffin as Sean Macdonald (nine points), Tyler Robertson (nine points) and Mitch Barry (eight points) savoured their shots.
Victorian Under-20 Men’s head coach Chris Anstey believed the grand final win was the best performance of the week and highlighted how well the team worked together and united.
“We got better as the week went on – we gelled, there were some guys who hadn’t played much together and we hadn’t coached together and we felt we were able to put game plans in place that suited the boys and they executed exactly what we wanted them to do.
“I’m really, really proud of all of them for what they were able to do on the court but also what they were able to get done off the court as well.
I think any time you put a Victorian singlet on it means a lot – I’ve never coached a Victorian team, I was an assistant with Darren Perry and I learned a lot about how to handle tournament play as a head coach and I’m very thankful for the two assistant coaches that I had.
“It does mean a lot – I wasn’t a Victorian junior so it was a part of my basketball career I didn’t have, so to have it in my early 40s with fantastic young men is really special.”
VICTORIA UNDER 20 WOMEN
The best sides, the biggest stage – the only fitting finale for the Under-20 Women. A loss earlier in the week to the Queenslanders had speared the Victorian efforts throughout this week. Developing the scout, understanding the proper tactics… generally ensuring we were ready for whatever came from the other side.
It wasn’t easy but in the end Victoria surged to take the 72-62 triumph. Squaring off against Queensland’s size and some talented guards, in the end Victoria had to play smart to overcome the size and length of Jessica McDowell-White and the high-calibre guards in Hayley Andrews and Meila Goodchild.
After some early post-up success on McDowell-White, the Victorians went even shorter as the likes of Kiera Rowe (15 points), Steph Gorman (six points) savoured the demands of the strategy.
The three ball continued to play well into Victoria’s tactics as Kara Tessari (nine points) capped off her junior representative journey with a few more signature treys falling in from the outer edge. Meanwhile Gorman and Jaz Shelley (nine points, 10 rebounds, seven assists) also savoured their shots from outside the arc to keep the pressure on the Queenslanders.
The grind was real from both sides as the ball just wouldn’t fall in the basket. At one stage in the dying minutes of the fourth term the total tally from both sides was eight. In the end Victoria was able to out-grind the Queenslanders to successful defend the championship.
Victorian bottom-ager Jaz Shelley was awarded the Bob Staunton Medal as the most valuable player of the Under 20 Women’s competition.
For Victorian Under 20 Women’s coach Katrina Hibbert, it was an incredible feat to take the title and ensure a great group of players received the ultimate team accolade.
“We scouted our butts off last night – felt like we had some good footage,” Hibbert said. We knew that when we faced them last time we were fatigued, so a lot of the defensive errors that we made we adjusted so after that game we got a little bit more time to look at ourselves and see where we could fix some of our problems.
“They were great from the ACT game we got better, to the SA game and on to today – we knew they were going to come hard and we would have to build a wall for 40 minutes and just be relentless and the girls were brilliant.
“As were the whole staff – the team manager she’s been unbelievable, Adriana to get Pizzey back on the floor and the assistant coaches were great on the opposition scout – a team effort for sure.
“We are kind of blessed with Victoria that we have a lot of depth and so post-wise we still have depth even if we were a little bit smaller – Kiera Rowe played out of her skin, Steph Gorman played the four and she’s really a three – so we had girls playing out of position but we wanted the game to suit them. Defensively they’re so physically tough and strong so they were able to get it done as well.
“It’s a special group and I think it’s a credit to their parents for the way they handle themselves as they’re so professional. The girls are a credit to Basketball Victoria, through both programs in Country and Metro, for the way they approach tournaments and the attitude and efforts and the pride they take in playing for Victoria – so I think for their clubs as well. They’re really well-adjusted young ladies who were great representatives of Victoria.”
VICTORIA IVOR BURGE MEN
There was no ticket-tape parade or cakewalk today. Those who looked at the scorecards throughout the week would be misled. Our Victorian Ivor Burge Men would not walk to the top of the podium without merit… this was a battle.
In the end our team-wide effort put the South Australians away 90-63 but it wasn’t without its inherent struggles.
The match had twists and turns throughout the proceedings as Victoria dealt with its trump card – Jake De La Motte (28 points) encountering severe foul trouble.
Seating their tournament star for most of the game, including the vast amount of the third term, may have rattled lesser teams but the Victorian side had planned for the worst.
It was a complete team performance to take today’s win. When called upon, the next link in the chain held firm and did his part. Cameron Slacik (10 points, 16 rebounds), Matthew Tuddenham (seven points, 11 rebounds) and Frazer Dawber (14 points, 10 rebounds) went to work under the basket to negate South Australia’s interior strengths while the speed and baseline brilliance of Daniel Bell (13 points, nine rebounds), Ryan Briggs (nine points, five rebounds) and James Myers (six points, four rebounds) kept the offence ticking.
For those brief moments we had him on as well after the initial term, De La Motte was extraordinary. He rattled off 14 points in the first five minutes of the third term… Shots from all parts of the arc as he made his limited time on court matter most. It was a sensational cameo from him that only added further resilience to a championship-calibre side.
Piece by piece the squad-wide strategy seized control to enable Victoria to claim its second championship of the day by a fairly comfortable margin.
Victorian Ivor Burge head coach Glen Jordan was thrilled with his side grinding out the win under trying circumstances.
“Absolutely – we got the depth, we believed in the depth and it’s been like that all week. Come to the crunch we had to go deep and use our whole bench and they stood up as they have done all week.
We tried to keep even minutes with everyone throughout the week so we were prepared for today.
“That’s what it’s about – we had a NITP program last year that we held and Michael and Daniel came through that and before then they could hardly dribble a basketball or pass the ball at the start – so it’s a huge achievement for them and Basketball Victoria with the Ivor Burge program.
“It’s well deserved without seeming cocky – we all worked hard.”
VICTORIA IVOR BURGE WOMEN
Size, Might, Heart.
The Victorians had vanquished all other Australian teams but one last challenge remained. The championship was ours already but pride was on the line in the grand final against the visiting Japanese team.
While we beat them previously, winning was no certainty today as the side had to grind its way through some obstacles to seize the 88-71 victory.
Jessica McCulloch (36 points, 15 rebounds), Kate Zonneveld (26 points, 18 rebounds) and Dani Phillips (10 points, nine rebounds) were the three pillars of Japan’s defeat. Their height, their wingspans, their general ability to power through the key and make that crucial shot or flick around that much needed assist… it was just too much for the smaller, nimbler Japanese guards to handle.
A 50-14 rebound count – including 21 offensive boards – showcases the tactical advantage the Victorian talls possessed. It wasn’t all smooth sailing those as the Victorians had grind it out inside while the Japanese just resorted to a very effective three-point strategy – nailing 14 from long range.
But in the end there was more than enough in the Victorian tank to take the triumph and return the Ivor Burge Women’s perpetual trophy back to Victoria.
Head coach Simon Robinson said the side played to its strengths perfectly and had worked hard to ensure this result could happen.
“Obviously size is our advantage – we can match them for speed but that’s something they’re probably better at than we are,” Ivor Burge Women’s coach Simon Robinson said. “We tried to take that away as much as we could and play to our strengths. They shot the ball well, so we needed to make a few adjustments to counter that.
“Kate’s length is tremendous, especially in passing lanes and as a shot blocker. She’s been a great presence all tournament for us – this year and last year.
“Jess’ finishing ability to day was tremendous – she was shooting exceptionally and don’t remember her missing all that many which was important because make or miss they’re running at you… but at least with makes it gives you a little bit of time to get back.
“This is a nice group of young ladies – nine of them played this tournament last year so they’ve made some great steps and are starting to play together a lot more.
“They’ve developed some fantastic chemistry and are adopting the systems and understanding just what they’re required to do, which is pleasing to see.
“It’s really pleasing to see them playing well and enjoying playing together.”