Victoria have once again dominated proceedings at the Under 20 National Championships in Canberra last week, picking up gold in both the men’s and women’s tournaments after both teams rolled through their respective schedules undefeated. However the Ivor Burge tournaments for athletes with an intellectual disability saw South Australia end Victoria’s 15-year run of gold in the men’s competition, while NSW Country avenged a 31-point defeat in the pool stage to defeat Victoria in the women’s gold medal game in an astounding upset.
Under 20 Men
The NBA Global Academy returned to the men’s tournament after finishing fifth in 2018, whilst all eight Australian states and territories, including two Victorian sides, rounded out the lineup for the ten-team tournament. It quickly became apparent that Western Australia, Victoria, and New South Wales were a cut above the rest, with the WA and Victorian sides rolling through the pool stage undefeated and New South Wales’ only defeat coming in the form of a 1-point loss in a thriller against their rivals south of the Murray.
Tasmania provided one of the comebacks of the tournament to secure third spot in their pool and a more favourable draw for the knockout rounds. Down 43-23 to South Australia at halftime, a 31-16 third quarter gave the team in green all the momentum heading into the final term, and slowly but surely, they ran over the top of their opponents to secure an 80-69 victory, and a quarter-final against NBA Global Academy, which they would win 92-79.
The three favourites all successfully fended off their challengers in the quarter-finals as Western Australia demolished South Australia 115-65, Victoria defeated ACT 85-65, and New South Wales held off Victoria A for a 98-91 victory to see the big names join the high-flying underdogs from the Apple Isle in the last four.
With Victoria rolling to an 84-58 victory over Tasmania in one semi-final, New South Wales may well wonder what could have been if they had been able to close out that game against Victoria in the pool stage as they faced a star-studded Western Australian side in the other semi-final. The team in sky blue kept things close in the early stages, but a 29-15 second quarter saw Western Australia pull away, and a 16 point, 16 rebound, 10 assist triple-double for Kyle Bowen alongside 28 points from Matthew Leary and 21 from Alexander Ducas saw Western Australia move into the gold medal game with a 95-79 win, leaving New South Wales to duke it out with Tasmania for bronze.
New South Wales had edged out Tasmania 82-68 in the pool round, and once again eked out a win to secure bronze, turning a 3-point third quarter advantage into a 79-69 victory with a 23-16 fourth quarter despite a game-high 25 points from Tasmania’s scoring leader Jacob Richards. Three New South Wales players finished in double figures, led by Hunter Goodrick’s 17 points alongside 10 rebounds as the boys in sky blue secured a medal.
All the results against common opponents suggested that Western Australia would be favourites for the final, but that’s a dangerous way to pick a favourite, and as the game played out, those results proved to mean little. Despite the Western Australian star quartet of Bowen, Ducas, Luke Travers, and Wani Swaka Lo Buluk all finishing in double figures, a 23-9 second quarter deficit proved to be terminal to their team’s hopes as they were left with just too much to do in the final stages as Victoria maintained a healthy advantage throughout to post a 76-69 victory and secure the gold medal with Tyler Robertson, Keli Leaupepe, Kobe Williamson, and Joshua Bannan all tallying in double figures, with Bannan picking up a double-double with 11 rebounds.
Despite that loss at the hands of Tasmania’s comeback making their path far harder than it would otherwise have been, South Australia rebounded to finish fifth with a 91-67 victory over ACT in their classification game. Riley Meldrum led the way with 20 points, 7 assists, and 6 rebounds, with Christian Artacho adding 18 points and 10 rebounds, whilst ACT’s Will Mayfield kept up an outstanding tournament in which he averaged a double-double by tallying 15 points and 9 rebounds in his final game of the tournament.
Victoria A enacted revenge on NBA Global Academy in the playoff for 7th spot, avenging a 79-73 defeat in the pool stage by securing an 82-75 victory as Ryan Rapp’s 23 points was backed up by 19 apiece from Daniel Foster and Athiaan Manyiel. The Global Academy side shared the scoring almost equally among their five starters, but those nine extra shots that they allowed the Victoria A side came back to haunt them in a game where most of the other statistics were fairly close.
The battle for ninth spot between Queensland and Northern Territory was dominated by the team in maroon, who rolled to a 112-59 victory courtesy of Callum Dalton’s 25 points and 11 rebounds as the Queensland captain rounded out the week averaging 23.6 points to lead all players, as well as tallying 8 rebounds per game.
Kyle Bowen picked up the Bob Staunton Medal for Player of the Tournament. The Western Australian topped both the assists and rebounding charts, and also finished fifth for scoring, averaging 17.4 points, 12.3 rebounds, and 5.8 assists for the tournament. In fact, all five of the top scorers finished in the top 5 in another major category, with Callum Dalton, Will Mayfield, and Hunter Goodrick also sitting in the top five for rebounding, whilst Tasmania’s Jacob Richards was third in both scoring and assists.
Under 20 Women
Seven teams contested the Under 20 Women’s tournament in a full round-robin fixture, with the only change from last year’s tournament being Victoria A’s entry in place of Tasmania. On paper it appeared that a Victorian side brimming with national team experience looked set to dominate, and the team in navy didn’t disappoint, winning their first five round-robin games by more than 30 points. A desperate South Australian side looking to upset the apple-cart and sneak into the gold medal game at New South Wales’ expense kept things close in the final game of the main round, but the Victorians would close out a 13-point victory to go through to the gold medal game undefeated. Only the sharing of minutes across the roster preventing any one player from putting up truly spectacular numbers, although Chelsea D’Angelo did put up 15.5 points per game, 6 more than any other player on the roster.
Meanwhile, the Victoria A team gave the fans four absolute barnburners, even if the results didn’t all go their way. Forced to replace three players after the elevation of Georgia Amoore to the top Victorian team and the withdrawal of Abbey Ellis and Lucy Cochrane, they may have been 0-3 through three games but had the third-best points differential of the seven teams, having lost those three games by a combined margin of 8 points after going down in thrillers to Western Australia, South Australia, and New South Wales. The expected rout at the hands of Victoria came and went, but it was then their turn to enjoy a thrilling victory. Tied at 69-69 against a Queensland team that still harboured slim medal aspirations, Last-Tear Poa, who had been shooting fairly inconsistently throughout the tournament to this point, stepped up when it mattered to bury a deep two from the corner as time expired, lifting her team out of the doldrums and, following an 11-point win over ACT, into the playoff for fifth place against the team from the nation’s capital.
New South Wales, led by national team representative Isabel Palmer, perhaps let a couple of games get closer than they really had to be, but shook off an opening night loss to Victoria to win their five remaining games and progress to the gold medal game, guaranteeing a medal even before they arrived at the court on Sunday. South Australia looked as though they might launch an upset bid against Victoria and steal that spot in the gold medal game late on Saturday evening, but the Victorians prevailed, relegating a very solid SA team led by Clemson commit Hannah Hank, Bowling Green’s Elissa Brett, and Adelaide Lightning squad member to the bronze medal playoff with a 4-2 record.
Western Australia would finish fourth after tying with Victoria A on two wins but holding the head-to-head advantage. Suzi-Rose Deegan was electric throughout the tournament, finishing as the competition’s top scorer, and with solid scoring support coming from Samantha Ashby, Idaho commit, Caitlyn Jones, and CSU Northridge signee Carla Drennan, the team from the west looked far better than their record suggested and would be a dangerous proposition against South Australia in the bronze medal match, particularly after going down to the same opponent by just 7 points earlier in the week.
Ironically, one of the week’s first games ended up deciding which team would finish bottom of the standings and miss out on a playoff game. Both ACT and Queensland finished on just a single win, but with ACT’s victory coming against Queensland themselves in a 77-73 thriller on Tuesday evening, it would be the hosts who played off against Victoria A for fifth place, whilst a Queensland side that had its chances to grab two or even three wins saw their tournament conclude a day earlier than they had hoped. An injury to Alex Fowler that saw the Townsville Fire player miss two days of competition hardly helped the situation, but nonetheless Davidson commit Adelaide Fuller stepped up to finish as the competition’s top rebounder and secure a double-double average.
The final day saw the gold medal game tip off prior to the other classification games in an interesting piece of scheduling, but also one that had occurred in prior years. Victoria controlled the game against New South Wales throughout the first three quarters to establish an insurmountable lead, even without Lily Scanlon who had suffered a facial injury in the previous night’s game against South Australia.
A 23-11 final quarter meant New South Wales outscored Victoria in the second half 41-36, but with the halftime score reading 41-23 the other way, it was the team in navy blue that rolled to a 10th consecutive title with a 77-64 victory, with D’Angelo’s 17 points leading five players in double figures, with Agnes Emma-Nnopu, WNBL Rookie of the Year Jazmin Shelley, Georgia Amoore, and Eliza Hollingsworth all eclipsing the 10-point mark. Palmer finished with a game-high 20 points as well as 9 rebounds, and whilst Matilda Flood and Josie Pinkerton also hit double-figures, 24 turnovers was always going to be too many against a ruthless Victorian outfit.
Victoria A decided that an 11-point win over ACT the previous day wasn’t good enough and put the hosts to the sword with an 87-45 demolition despite missing Clemson signee Isis Lopes due to a minor knock and giving up double-doubles to ACT’s twin towers in Nebraska signee Isabelle Bourne and Texas commit Ashlee Hannan. However, the bronze medal game produced perhaps the finish of the tournament. Western Australia had led by 7 with under 3 minutes remaining when Samantha Ashby knocked down a three, but Hannah Hank went on a solo 6-1 run to pull South Australia within two before Zali Grosser tied things up at 76-76 with 52 seconds to play. The ever-confident Suzi-Rose Deegan hit a three in response and South Australia called a timeout, but from there…chaos. Gabi Vidmar misses a three, Cian Parsons grabs the rebound and is fouled. Miss. Miss. A held ball ensues on the rebound and the arrow favours South Australia. Unbelievably, Ruby Porter is fouled shooting from a range that even Steph Curry might have second thoughts about with six seconds to play. She makes the first but misses the second and third, and Grosser is fouled rebounding the final miss. She does drain both, tying the game and leaving Western Australia with five seconds to find a winner. It was always going to be Deegan to have the final shot, and it was. Drennan drove, found her star teammate just inside the arc, and the shot could not have been sweeter if it was dipped in honey, putting Western Australia up 81-79. A prayer from South Australia as time expired fell short, and the Western Australian players and supporters descended into raptures. Although it wasn’t the gold medal game, in a tournament where a quarter of the games finished with margins of 5 points or fewer, it was a fitting way for things to end. Deegan finished the game with 32 points, with Ashby tallying 21 and Caitlyn Jones adding 17, whilst Hannah Hank and Ruby Porter combined for 49 of South Australia’s 79 points, scoring 29 and 20 respectively.
New South Wales star Isabel Palmer was awarded the Bob Staunton Medal for Player of the Tournament. Far and away the biggest offensive threat for the team in sky blue, Palmer averaged 18.4 points per contest, almost double the next best New South Wales player, whilst also collecting 6.7 rebounds and dishing 3.4 assists per contest, and also shot 96.4% at the free throw line, missing just one of her 28 attempts. Whilst she may not have finished top of any one category, Palmer’s importance to her team was unmatched by all except possibly Deegan, who must have been in the conversation for the award.
Ivor Burge Men
South Australia had never won an Ivor Burge title in either the men’s or women’s competition, and no team from outside Victoria had won the men’s title since New South Wales Metro in 2004, but that changed on Sunday as the team in red and blue got over the top of the defending champions, with fast starts to each half setting them up for an 85-76 victory. Save for a tight 94-85 win over Japan for Victoria, both teams had ridden roughshod over the competition, regularly racking up winning margins of 50 or even, in some cases, over 100 points. Player of the Tournament Jake De La Motte tallied 30 points for Victoria to finish with a tournament average of 29.8 points, but with Daniel Bell the only other player in double figures, there was not enough scoring support to overhaul the South Australians. Jordan Palmer and Zachary Georg-Dent both eclipsed 20 points for the victorious SA team, whilst Keenan Georg-Dent and Bradley Kinross added 11 apiece, with Keenan Georg-Dent and Palmer both finishing with double-doubles.
Japan defeated Tasmania 117-64 in the bronze medal game on the back of 43 points from Kento Suenaga and 32 from Namio Yanagisawa, but it was the Tasmanian side, featuring Jordan Cleary, who tallied 31 points and 29 rebounds, that was awarded the medals as Japan, like NBA Global Academy in the Under 20 Men’s, cannot be awarded a medal for placing in the top 3. Daniel Johnston led ACT to an 84-65 victory over Victoria A in the playoff for 5th place with 19 points and 29 rebounds, whilst New South Wales snuck home in the playoff for 7th, defeating Western Australia 67-60 on the back of 27 points and 20 rebounds from Keelan Crawford.
Ivor Burge Women
Victoria looked all but assured of a 10th title in 11 years after dominating the six-team round-robin competition to cruise into the gold medal game, but New South Wales Country had other ideas as they looked to make amends for an 80-49 defeat earlier in the week. A low-scoring start meant neither team pushed out to anything resembling a secure lead, and at halftime the score was 33-30 in the sky blue side’s favour, which, considering the score a few days earlier, bordered on miraculous. But Zora Hines-Coffey turned up the wick with 11 points in the third quarter as New South Wales Country put together a 19-9 term and build a lead that proved insurmountable as the team completed a 41-point turnaround for a 65-55 boilover victory to take home the gold, with Hines-Coffey finishing with 26 points and 12 rebounds. Kate Zonneveld led Victoria in both categories, finishing with 16 points and 12 rebounds, as well as five blocks.
ACT denied NSW Metro the opportunity to join their country counterparts on the podium with an 81-34 demolition as the hosts secured the bronze medal, building on a 61-45 victory over the same opponents on the opening day of competition. However, one player on the Metro team did finish with a medal around her neck as Lisa Mackie won the Player of the Tournament award. Western Australia secured fifth place with an 88-35 win over South Australia as Kristy Carter poured in SIXTY of her team’s points, shooting 24 of 44 in the process, compounding a tough week for the South Australian side, who finished without a win.
The next national championships for 2019 will be the Under 18s, which will be hosted by Townsville. The Kevin Coombs Cup for wheelchair basketball will run alongside the Under 18s tournament, with the event returning to the city for the second time in just three years, and will be held from April 13 to 20.