BASKETBALL Victoria is celebrating two national championships triumphs after Victoria Country Women and Victoria Metropolitan Men claimed their respective under-18 titles.
Two back-and-forth thrillers capped off the tournament, held in Townsville, Queensland, with Victorian teams claiming the two under-18 championships to follow on from its two bronze medal victories in earlier matches.
Victoria Metropolitan Men were down for most of the evening against Queensland North, but rallied in the dying minutes to create the upset 79-77 victory. Facing dual northern headaches in Sam Froling and Kody Stattman, Vic Metro had its hands full early. It took 10 Victorians to knock over the QLD North barrage – there wasn’t anyone holding back or
But even with complete buy-in to pressure defence and defensive attack in general… Vic Metro had quite a mountain to climb. Up, down, up down – the scoreline reflected the emotion and intensity of the weekend for the Metro men and it got harder as time whittled further down.
They were six points down within the last three minutes. From there to claiming the national championship was nothing short of almighty.
Darren Perry’s side created one of the ultimate turnarounds in tournament history, led by the likes of Sean Macdonald (20 points), Tyler Robertson (16 points, five rebounds) and Keli Leaupepe (15 points, eight rebounds).
Macdonald unleashed two of the most important shots of his career – a pair of sublime threes – to slash the gap to one.
Four defensive rebounds in the dying stages reeled the Victorians closer. Oliver Hayes-Brown, Deng Dut, Austin Bradtke, Sean Macdonald and Tyler Robertson… the final five on the show-court in the final minute of the tournament.
After Hayes-Brown rode the foul and hit one of his frees… Victoria Metro had a 78-77 lead. It set the stage for an unfathomable final 10 seconds. Yep. This one really did come down to the last seconds.
In the end it came down to defensive pressure and some amazing long-range shooting… which Victoria Metropolitan delivered on when it mattered most. Bradtke swatted the last ditch effort from Froling away before advancing the ball and leaving Macdonald to take the final frees to put the championship back on the Victorian mantle.
“For us it’s making plays at the right time and we had several at the right time,” Perry said. “We had shots made, defensive plays, we had blocked shots we had a board that we had to get and got possession, then the free throw that we needed to be there.
“When you trail in the fourth quarter and you trail late in the game you just have to keep with it and we did – you could say we did these things right, but all the things we did late were tough, we did them at the right times and the bunch that started the week are a much bigger bunch of men at the end of the week.
“We didn’t have as much experience as we may have – we had guys this week do things they probably didn’t think they could do. We gelled after our losses, we fixed some of the things that weren’t going well and the guys to their credit started to really believe they were in this with a shot and we definitely played like that last night. We blew New South Wales Country away and tonight Queensland North – unbelievable talents on the other team.
“The statistics of Froling and Stattman speak for themselves but at the end of the day if we had more spread among our contributors… that’s what has got us home.”
It was the second year in a row the Merv Emms Trophy will return to Victoria.
If one extraordinary, nail-biting final wasn’t enough – Victoria Country Women went to the wire and back as well.
To fight their way back from a late charge off South Australia Metropolitan. To surge one final time after being challenged time and time again… showed the application of the country crew.
Vic Country had brushed aside its competition in earlier finals with ease… but it wasn’t so easy on Saturday afternoon.
South Australia dug in and outscored the Country crew in the second half.
It took all their resolve to fire back and stop the onslaught. Seasoned campaigners – our elite Victorian talent – found the way through to the title. Chelsea D’Angelo (12 points, six rebounds), Jazmin Shelley (13 points, five rebounds) and Steph Gorman (six points, eight rebounds) led all week-long and Saturday night was not going to be any different.
The South Australians surged in the second half to force Gerard Hillier’s charges to battle their hardest in the last 20 minutes of their tournament.
Innika Hodgson (six points) was monumental early in the fourth, making a pair of field goals, before Agnes Emma-Nnopu (six points) and Ahlise Hurst (two points) started making their mark.
Shelley nailed her third triple of the game in the dying stages to help the lead balloon out to eight – but SA Metro had one last push to go. With two minutes left… it was 60-59. Both teams dived on the ball at will, flung themselves into steals, blocks and rebounds and fought it out in a spectacular deserving of a national tournament.
Vic Country had its chances to balloon the lead and similarly SA Metro had its chance to level or pull ahead – but in the end Vic Country just found a way. Gritted teeth, battered and bruised bodies… and champions to boot.
“Just so excited for the players, the staff and a lot of the Country Vic people who have come through the program and winning gold is a bit of a rarity in that program,” Hillier said. “It’s something we want to change in coming years so it’s excitement and relief.
“We keep saying as a team that they’re country tough – there’s a lot of adversity going against them already, just to trainings and games and participate in these events and it certainly toughens them up.
“They’ve shown that this week at this event and it’s a credit to them.
“For us it was stick together – there was a very small patch where we looked for individual brilliance, but we needed all five on the court to stay together, trust our process and trust each other as they’re 10 really talented girls and no one has to go out on their own to try and do it. Once they came back and stuck together, we proved a lot more successful.
“We’re so happy for the players, managers and coaches from Country Vic who weren’t lucky enough to medal and this is for them as well – Country Vic is a great program and I’m really happy for all of them.”
It was the first under-18 championship Victoria Country had won since 2000.
Victoria Metropolitan Women saw off a dogged Queensland North revival to run out 84-79 victors. After an amazing first half – building a 47-26 lead at the main break – the hometown crowd helped revive QLD North, slashing the gap at one stage in the fourth term to two points. But the cooler heads of Victoria Metropolitan – dogged guarding by Isis Lopes, Last-Tear Poa and Cassidy Gould in particular – helped our women claim the bronze medal
Captain Cassidy Gould (18 points) was exceptional in league with Isis Lopes (13 points, nine rebounds, five steals) and Maddi Puli (10 points) while Emma Nankervis (seven points, seven rebounds) proved incredible from her 14 minutes on-court.
For Paul Flynn this may well be his last championships – at least for a little while yet – as head coach and we thank him for the four years of amazing diligence, professionalism and guidance he has given the program.
“Obviously the entire group was disappointed with the way yesterday’s game panned out and that’s not to discredit Vic Country – they’re an incredible team – I think the girls just felt like they were much better than the margin that we had,” Flynn said. “So for them to regroup and bounce back today with a great performance I feel is a massive testament to their character – not just as basketball players, but also as people.
“It takes a lot of resilience to come back from disappointment like that and come out and play in the bronze medal game.”
Kevin Coombs Cup rounded out their week with the bronze medal, knocking over New South Wales comfortably in the Victorian wheelchair team’s final game of the tournament. The likes of Jontee Brown (20 points), Brian Carminati (18 points, 10 rebounds) and Jeremy Tyndall (10 points, 10 rebounds) continued their superb form while Will Crooks (seven rebounds, eight assists) fed the high-scoring trio with quality passing.
“Yesterday (Friday) we unfortunately didn’t play Victorian basketball but today we got that for 40 minutes – they played for a team, were positive, and even though they could’ve easily dropped their heads they came back and did what we knew we were capable of and got the bronze,” Campbell said.
“The communication improved over the week and the ability of some of our leaders – who will be future Australian players – got up and led from the front and also helped our other players improve their games as well.
“We’ve got all these players, except Jamie Villalon, coming back in 2018 and we’ve got some other exciting players coming into the team for next year’s campaign, so it’s very positive for the future of Victorian wheelchair basketball.”
Basketball Victoria would like to thank Basketball Australia for conducting an exceptionally run tournament as well as our coaches, referees, team staff and families for their support of our five teams throughout the Under 18 Championships and Kevin Coombs Cup tournament.
Basketball Victoria will next send state teams to Perth in July for the Helloworld Basketball Australia Under 16 Championships.