WHEN you bring together the best of Australian junior basketball talent, the cream that rises to the top is truly elite.
AUSTRALIA’S best junior teams had earned the right to compete in the 2017 Medibank National Junior Classic.
Squaring off in the nation’s peak elite junior tournament, held 10-12 June over the Queen’s Birthday long weekend, the best junior teams in each age group from Victoria, South Australia, New South Wales, New Zealand and the ACT fought it out in a bid to become a Classic champion team.
State championship winning and high ranking sides from South Australia (28 teams) and New South Wales (20 teams) have earned their places while Basketball ACT (seven teams) and New Zealand have also selected representative teams to join the Classic ranks.
Winners from the Basketball Victoria Country (BVC) Junior Championships – Sale Under 12 Girls and Wodonga Under 12 Boys – not competing in the MUVJBL secured their spots in the Classic.
Bendigo Under 16 girls and Bellarine Under 18 Girls completed the impressive double of winning their BVC Junior Championship and qualifying through the MUVJBL VC process.
Three other country teams – Bendigo under-14 girls as well as Southern Peninsula under-14 boys and under-16 girls – also earned their places through MUVJBL qualification.
Getting there is one thing… winning it another altogether.
Our 128 sides were whittled down to the 16 finest on Monday as sides from Victoria and South Australia set their sights on national title triumphs.
MEDIBANK NATIONAL JUNIOR CLASSIC – GRAND FINAL REVIEW
HAWTHORN V KNOX
An enthralling battle between the Magic and Raiders kicked off the four grand finals at Dandenong Basketball Stadium. A Watched on by her Australian-representative parents – Jacinta and Josh Kennedy – Hawthorn’s Jada Kennedy in league with powerhouse forward Erinn Mcalary and G Mcbean stole the show. Their efforts put Knox to the wall early, forcing the lead out over 20 through the second term. But Knox made Hawthorn earn the victory the hard way. The lead was whittled back down to 36-31 through the third as Knox’s Erica Cid and Mia Carmona fought tooth and nail for every shot. In the end Hawthorn had too much power for Knox to overcome in the 49-35 win for the Magic.
Frankston girls surged to take a 47-36 triumph over Nunawading in the bronze medal match.
Country champion Sale finished the tournament on a high note, taking fifth place after a 43-25 win over Bulleen.
HAWTHORN V ELTHAM
Taking it down to the wire, Hawthorn swept the under-12 Classic division after its boys claimed a thrilling 42-37 win over Eltham. Advantage swung like a pendulum as neither side could really put the other away. Hamish Hudson, Omar Morsi and Jagga Smith shone for the Magic while Ethan Reytomas, Che Brogan and Ayden Ridler did the same for the Wildcats. It all boiled down to the last two minutes as Hawthorn held a slender 38-37 advantage, with Morsi drawing the foul and hitting his frees alongside Smith to hold off Eltham in the most thrilling of fashions.
Kilsyth claimed bronze after a gutsy 63-59 win over Dandenong.
BULLEEN V NUNAWADING
Few matches could ever match up to the intensity and passion shown between Bulleen and Nunawading in Bulleen’s 33-31 triumph. It was a heated battle and led to an amazing finish – as Tess Heal laying up the winning shot just as the clock ticked down. With 11 seconds left to go, Bulleen got the ball back at the half-court following an incredible run of play from the Spectres as Madison Sinclair knocked down the leveller.
It looked destined to go to overtime, but the Boomers found a way through as a missed jumper was rebounded by Heal, who drove through the Spectres defence to make the national championship winning lay-up.
Nunawading to its credit was gallant in the grand final, having lost multiple players to injury throughout the weekend. Neave Hancock-Wolfe started the game in a sling on the bench, but pushed herself to get out on court and contest the grand final.
Dandenong girls picked up bronze with a 52-29 triumph over Melbourne.
DANDENONG V HAWTHORN
From the get-go Dandenong had this one under control. The Rangers kept the pressure up all afternoon to claim an emphatic 64-44 triumph over Hawthorn.
The best efforts of Hawthorn guard Denzel Timmons wasn’t enough to overcome the one-five combination of Dandenong’s Dennis Ameti and Jerome Pierre. The tandem proved too mighty for Hawthorn to handle as the guard-centre combination ran riot. Ameti fed the scoring beast in Pierre all afternoon as the points piled up for the Rangers’ centre. In the end his performance left little recourse for a Hawthorn comeback as Pierre proved just as powerful under the defensive ring to box out and defend strongly.
Eltham rounded out the medallists with a comfortable 68-32 win over Werribee.
BULLEEN V FORESTVILLE
Bulleen entered the tournament with high hopes and delivered upon them expertly. The Boomers – full to the brim with Victoria Metropolitan talent – was too mighty for the visiting Forestville Eagles to handle in the 54-42 victory. Gemma Potter, Alexandra Keating and Erin Riley had it on a string early – knocking them in from everywhere. The three-ball proved particularly promising for Bulleen as it shared around the long-range duties to great effect. But the Eagles never fell from grace as the visitors fought back time and time again. Slashing the gap to five approaching the final term, Forestville could’t muster one last hoorah to put Bulleen on the back foot. In the end Potter rattled off eight last term points alongside Chelsea Suemai and Riley to finish the job in style.
In the under-16 girls bronze medal match, Knox defeated Nunawading 66-58.
STURT V MELBOURNE
Sturt brushed aside Melbourne 71-52 to take the first title of the afternoon back across interstate lines. The Sabres rattled the Tigers’ defence through the likes of Tyson Dyer, Joel Dyer and Taine Mitchell. Joshua Giddey’s long-range efforts alongside Vic Metro powerhouse Paul Tsapatolis kept the Tigers ticking, but in the end the Sabres had too much firepower for the Victorians to handle. Sebastian Griffin and Benjamin Griscti finished the job to take out the 19-point triumph.
Dandenong defeated Bulleen 62-40 to take out the third-placed honours.
FORESTVILLE V STURT
In a battle of the South Australians – Forestville emerged triumphant following a 54-44 victory over Sturt. After knocking out power-packed Victorian sides like Bellarine and Knox, Forestville surged ahead one last time to put Sturt to the wall when it mattered most. Sturt started strongly through Zoe Walker-Roberts, Elissa Brett and Elizabeth Williamson, but Forestville thrived in the trenches to fight back. From 16-30 down through the second, the hard yards were put in by Ambah Kowcun, Ella Sawyer, Lauren Marshall and Darcy Rees to take out the 10-point triumph.
Dandenong claimed bronze with a 54-46 win over Knox.
MELBOURNE V BULLEEN
Bulleen far too strong for Melbourne to round out the day’s action with a 78-50 triumph. Going undefeated across the weekend, the Boomers lived up to their moniker going six-for-six in an exceptional weekend’s work.
Victorian representatives – fresh off a national championship triumph – Keli Leaupepe and Joel Capetola proved too powerful in league with an almighty Boomers line-up, leaving Melbourne to just miss out on a title at the 2017 Medibank National Junior Classic. Liam Allison and Austin Bradtke were the best of the Tigers’ brigade across the weekend.
Diamond Valley knocked over Ringwood 59-43 to take bronze.