BULLEEN and Eltham have expertly run the Under-14 #ClubChamps gauntlet, surging home on Saturday night to claim both titles for Victorian clubs.
AUSTRALIAN UNDER-14 CLUB CHAMPIONSHIPS – GRAND FINAL REVIEW
With deafening crowds and incredible on-court action, it was the perfect way to wind up another national championship in the best way possible.
With Ballarat’s win of the Girls Shield title as well, it puts three out of the four trophies into Victorian cabinets… and I’ll have to admit we’re pretty happy with that.
BULLEEN v DANDENONG – GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND FINAL
It was fairly fitting that the Michele Timms Trophy would be contested by Bulleen and Dandenong. And with this clash… it is the up-tempo, hard fought kind of match-up she would definitely admire. In the end a 36-33 score-line, favouring the Boomers, doesn’t do an incredible battle like this justice as the match was more than just its final score.
This was fast. The ball rocketed from end to end, leaving the girls to chase more often than not with the slightest lapse in concentration.
Dallas Loughridge (10 points) proved a massive headache for the Bulleen defence as she found gaps in the defensive net seemingly at will. She’d dart to the basket with the utmost consistency and zoom back down the court to pick up her guard at the other end. It was a sublime performance from Loughridge, supplemented well by Nyadiew Puoch (six points), Abbey-Lee Wood (five points) and Myah Healey (five points).
The Rangers started to build a handy buffer through the likes of Loughridge and Puoch; setting the stage for potential back-to-back triumphs at the U14 #ClubChamps.
But potential and reality aren’t always destined to meet.
Dandenong’s foul count became a worrisome factor and eventually it forced two starters to sit. At 28-20 entering the final term the Rangers’ lead started getting eaten away by the likes of Tess Heal (11 points), Ella Mcintyre (five points) and Ally Marshall (eight points). The Boomers’ most reliable gave it one last combined effort to help surge back into contention. The final seconds were a blur as bodies flew everywhere, but in the end Bulleen had achieved an extraordinary comeback.
It was this group’s second major accolade in 2017 after winning the Medibank National Junior Classic.
The Boomers’ girls sure know how to win on the national stage, with the club winning five U14 Club Championships since 2000.
ELTHAM v SYDNEY – BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP GRAND FINAL
They did it. The Ken Watson trophy is has returned to Victoria. Mullets have returned to the podium at the National Championships… all is right in the world following Eltham’s extraordinary 52-43 win over Sydney Comets. They were underestimated throughout the tournament, but no one can question the Eltham resolve, its toughness and the ability of its entire community to get around the enigmatic under-14 boys group.
1999 was the last time Eltham won the boys’ tournament as the mullets from that generation will have certainly greyed and thinned dramatically ever since. It took an almighty team effort to grant the Wildcats their second Club Championship.
Sydney Comets didn’t give it up easily; they had earned it last year in Newcastle and wanted to defend their title in style.
It would bend and flex throughout the first term. Finding space to breathe – let alone put up a decent shot – was tricky at the best of times for the Wildcats’ forwards. But they started to grind out some major results – putbacks, strong defensive rebounds and almighty jostling through the key. While slightly smaller than their northern adversaries, this middleweight team through punches like a star heavyweight.
The game turned on its head when Anton Stratov (14 points) started unleashing fire from his favourite wing. He was afforded too much space and made the Comets pay with back-to-back three point bombs that definitely ignited the crowd. In a frenzied sea of mullets, red and black pom poms and a dozen or so signs (most of which we’re still trying to understand), the Wildcat shooting guard’s effort had certainly impressed.
Coupled with the mighty of Kristian Ferronato (12 points) and Harrison Stones (eight points), Eltham started to chart course towards the championship triumph. Despite the lead ballooning out over double digits through the third, the Comets held on and made one last tilt at the Wildcats. Anthony Mundine (yes, the Anthony Mundine’s son), hit back-to-back clutch baskets to slash the gap to eight. That would be the last threat to the Eltham triumph though as Stones, Ferronato, Josh Weddle and Stratov closed the door in the last few minutes.
All told, if you told me at the start of the week a group of mullet kids would become national champions I’d have given it a good chuckle. But there’s no denying there’s a great team dynamic and camaraderie in this Wildcats group. It’s safe to say no one will underestimate them ever again.
DANDENONG v HAWTHORN – BOYS CHAMPIONSHIP BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
It just wasn’t the day for the Rangers’ faithful on the home court. A match that many though would be the grand final turned out to be an incredibly interesting bronze medal decider. Hawthorn earned that right in a 53-50 triumph over Dandenong. You couldn’t jam a piece of paper between these sides all day as the scoreboard stayed tight as can be. Jordan Lin (eight points) was given the monumental task of going toe-to-toe with Jerome Pierre (19 points) in a gripping battle under the ring.
Along with Guy Chalfon (eight points), the Magic defence did what they could to halt the Rangers centre. Up the other end, Denzel Timmons (20 points) weaved his magic from wherever. Guard him close? That’s fine, he’ll slash straight pass you. Give him some room? That’s ok too – he’ll drop the three-ball.
In a closely-fought game like this, that dual-aspect to Timmons’ game made a lot of impact on the final result. Beau Tranter (13 points) and Ky Taylor (nine points) also pushed the game along. In the end it fell to the brave as Max Lefroy cut the right path, earned the foul and dropped the jumper. It turned a three-point gap with a minute left into level pegging once again and got the Hawthorn crowd up on its feet. Fouls and free throws defined the outcome as Timmons nailed his two to ice the game and give the Magic the medal.
ELTHAM v GOLD COAST – GIRLS CHAMPIONSHIP BRONZE MEDAL MATCH
Bringing a second medal back to Wildcat Nation, the Eltham girls fought off the long and the short of the Gold Coast Waves roster to claim a 55-48 victory. Earning their spot on the dais, the Wildcats had to work to see off the Waves – with the interstate side putting in a last ditch surge to force the issue.
With the Eltham trumpeter belting out the tunes throughout the game, it was upbeat from the stands all the way down to the action on the floor. The game was mostly played on Eltham’s terms as the scoreboard ticked along favourably.
Sophie Burrows (19 points) was the leading driver of the stats, as she smashed through the Waves around the basket and capitalised on her attacking nature. Genevieve Broadbent (nine points), Jessica Del Brocco (seven points), Dyani Ananiev (seven points) and Zarah Prendergast (seven points) ensured it wasn’t all on Burrows’ shoulders heading into the final important minutes.
Gold Coast had found a nice run to the shore, lighting up through Shorna Preston and Lilly Rotunno, as the gap was completely eaten away. It went to Burrows and she delivered. A monstrous three lit up the crowd before Burrows and Broadbent finished the job to deliver the medal to the girls in red, white and black.
BALLARAT v NEWCASTLE – GIRLS SHIELD GRAND FINAL
The Rush tore shreds out of Newcastle to deliver a 58-25 triumph on the showcourt and claim the Rachael Sporn Trophy. Nailing the coffin shut early, Ballarat found too many avenues to the basket as the Hunters became the Hunted. Sharing the spread around, Ballarat was ably served by Jada Skennerton (16 points), Bella Clark (11 points), Laura O’Connor (10 points) and Rosie Todd (seven points).
Capping off the week, Bulleen put on a bit of a show in the boys playoffs, knocking over North Adelaide 80-62. Daniel Poelsma (19 points), Trent Harris (13 points) and Marcel Haj (nine points) led from the front in the victory.
It wasn’t meant to be for Geelong, with a testing campaign brought to a difficult end with a 52-53 loss to Darwin Cyclones in the Boys Shield bronze medal match. Xavier Muhor (24 points) was monumental for the Supercats once again alongside Billy Dawson (seven points) and Harry Den Dryver (six points).
Diamond Valley ended the campaign on a high note with a 31-24 win over Nunawading. In the hotly contested clash, the Eagles’ surged on the back of Hayley Sparks (nine points), Allie Newton (five points) and Teah Reichert (five points). Nunawading was led by guard Yasmin Spargo (six points), Neave Hancock-Wolfe (four points) and Isabella Kilsby (four points).