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2015 Australian U18’s Nationals – Grand Final Preview
We've had a week of exciting Australian Junior Championship basketball and we're down to the final two teams in each division.
The Men's Championship game will see a rematch of 2013's U16's Australian Junior Championship grand final, with NSW Country taking on NSW Metro. The Women's Championship game will feature a historically dominant VIC Metro squad take on SA Country.
Photo Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photos
NSW Metro vs NSW Country | 7pm
In a rematch of the 2013 U16's Australian Junior Championship grand final, NSW Metro will take on NSW Country in what's expected to be a gruelling interstate affair. NSW Country took down VIC Metro in the semifinal while NSW Metro upset Queensland North to advance to the final game of the tournament.
NSW Country | Photo Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photos
The key matchup to watch heading into this game is the battle of the big-men. NSW Metro's Deng Gak has emerged as one of the most talented big-men in the country and has put on a show in this tournament, using his imposing size, length and athleticism to alter the game on both ends of the floor. He's joined in the front-court by Adam Lulka, whose game is closer to the ground - excelling on the boards and finishing strong through contact.
NSW Country's front-court duo of Myles Cherry and Makuach Maluach has arguably been the most productive in the tournament. Cherry has an impressive inside game, with his footwork and soft touch leading to easy points in the paint, while Maluach is a long and wiry athlete who also possesses an impressive touch around the rim.
The back-court battle may be just as interesting, with NSW Country's Angus Glover and Matthew Kenyon, both of whom are in contention for this year's Australian U19 squad, taking on Ciaron Fitzgerald and Brennan Rymer, who have been extremely consistent throughout this tournament. Fitzgerald, in particular, has been a huge difference maker, leading the extremely efficient NSW Metro offence (leads the tournament in assists with 4 apg) while also being an anchor on the defensive end. He'll likely go up against Angus Glover, who has picked up his game in the latter end of this tournament, shooting impressively from behind the arc while also running the point extremely well.
Ciaron Fitzgerald | Photo Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photos
The x-factor heading into this game will be the play of each team's bench. Louis Stenmark and Grant Anticevich have been key for NSW Metro off the bench, hitting shots and bringing a lot of energy. NSW Country's bench has the ability to come out firing, with Kyle Zunic being their most consistent contributor off the pine.
In the 2013 U16's Grand Final - a game that featured many of the athletes participating in this game - NSW Country came away with an impressive come-from-behind win in overtime. This NSW Metro squad is missing Isaac Humphries, the star of that 2013 U16 team, but has made some key additions, along with the immense improvement of a number of players. This Championship game is sure to be one for the ages, with the interstate battle adding a whole new dimension to the contest.
NSW Metro: Deng Gak (12.5 ppg, 7 rpg), Ciaron Fitzgerald (5.2 ppg, 6.2 rpg, 4 apg), Brennan Rymer (12 ppg, 5 rpg, 2.7 apg)
NSW Country: Myles Cherry (16.8 ppg, 8 rpg), Makuach Maluach (13.8 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Angus Glover (13.3 ppg, 4.8 rpg, 3.4 apg)
VIC Metro vs SA Country | 5pm
Both Victoria and South Australia have had a lot of success in recent years so it's no surprise to see this year's Women's Championship game between VIC Metro and SA Country. VIC Metro cruised through a win over SA Metro, while SA Country's semifinal also saw a blowout win over NSW Metro.
These two teams faced each other earlier in the tournament, with VIC Metro coming away with the 88-66 victory. That game simply came down to shot-making. VIC Metro was able to take advantage of SA Country's turnovers, while SA Country couldn't buy a bucket in the second half.
SA Country | Photo Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photos
Anneli Maley will be the key heading into this game. The Australian U17/U19 representative was quiet to start the tournament but has come up big down the stretch. Her ability to dominate the glass on both ends of the floor will be extremely important against a big SA Country team, along with her ability to push the ball up the floor and get easy baskets in transition.
Like they've been doing all tournament, SA Country will lean on the play of Chelsea Brook. Brook has been impressive scoring inside the paint, shooting with great efficiency. Don't be surprised to see multiple defenders check Brook, with Ezi Magbegor, Monique Andriuolo and Anneli Maley likely to take turns marking her.
The point guard matchup may be the most intriguing one in this game, with VIC Metro's Maddison Rocci and SA Country's Sarah Elsworthy going at each other. Both have a similar style of play, focusing on using their speed and quickness to create for their teammates. Elsworthy is leading the tournament in assists (4.3 apg), doing a great job finding her bigs for easy buckets. Rocci controls the pace of the game extremely well and has focused on being aggressive and getting to the rim throughout this tournament.
Anneli Maley | Photo Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photos
Najvada George has done a great job hitting shots off the bench, playing her role extremely well for VIC Metro. She has the ability to provide energy off the bench hasn't missed a beat so far in this tournament.
The last time these two teams faced each other, SA Country came out of the gates strong but dwindled as the game progressed, something they'll need to prevent throughout this game. This VIC Metro team hasn't looked close to losing, with their ability to score in bunches giving opponents no chance. This game has the potential to be a nail-biter, and in these Championship games, it's always safe to expect the unexpected.
VIC Metro: Anneli Maley (9.1 ppg, 8 rpg, 3.1 apg), Maddison Rocci (9.1 ppg, 3.1 apg), Najvada George (13.6 ppg, 4 rpg, 3 apg)
SA Country: Chelsea Brook (15.4 ppg, 9.4 rpg), Sarah Elsworthy (11.3 ppg, 3 rpg, 4.3 apg), Hannah Stewart (9.4 ppg, 3.4 rpg)
Both games are expected to be live streamed. Make sure to check back in with this page as we provide updated links to live streams and live stats throughout the day.