Australian U20 Nationals: Tournament Recap

Victoria has shown that they’re the best basketball state in the country right now. Not only do top prospects Dante Exum and Ben Simmons both hail from Melbourne, but now Victoria has completed a sweep of the 2014 U20 & Ivor Burge Australian Junior Championships. Both the men’s and women’s Victorian U20’s teams finished the tournament undefeated, an amazing feat considering the overall talent that has been showcased this week. Here’s a rundown of the U20’s action from this week and how it all unfolded.

Men’s Basketball

There was a lot of hype heading into the championship game of the U20 men’s division, with five players that have represented Australia on the court for the final game of the tournament. What also made this game a much anticipated one was the differing styles of the two teams. Victoria is team-focused squad with an emphasis on defense and rebounding, whereas Queensland is a team that relied on the individual brilliance of Jack McVeigh through their progression the tournament, with different role players stepping up each game.

Credit: Basketball Australia

The championship game certainly didn’t disappoint.

Victoria opened up the game strong and had a 12-point lead heading into the half, Auburn University commit Jack Purchase leading the way for Victoria with 14 points and 4 rebounds.

Victoria’s ability to execute their inside-out game efficiently was the difference maker as they extended their lead even further – eventually winning the game, and the Championship, 88-64. Geremy McKay was the high-man with 19 points for Victoria; Michael Luxford added an impressive 11 points, 8 rebounds and 9 assists. Queensland’s Jack McVeigh struggled offensively – shooting 39% for the game – however he did contribute a very respectable 21 points and 8 rebounds in a losing effort.

Victoria was the best team all tournament, they were undefeated for the week and won all of their games quite convincingly. Credit should also go to Queensland – they didn’t only put up a good fight in the championship game – but they managed to eliminate an undefeated NSW team in a convincing semifinal victory.

A team that was disappointing this tournament was Tasmania. With a host of Australian representative players and some extremely capable additional role players, one would assume that the Tasmania squad would be able to impress and be a dark horse in the competition – that just wasn’t the case. They went just 1-5 in the tournament.

The surprise of the tournament was the South Australia squad. I didn’t expect much from them coming in, but they pleasantly surprised us all with their play – eventually coming 2nd in their pool. Their success can be attributed to the solid play of Hamish Burns and Sam McDaniel.

All-Tournament Team

Michael Luxford (VIC) – 9.7 ppg, 4.5 rpg, 5.8 apg, 51.2% FG - Luxford was easily the best point guard in the tournament. He led the tournament in assists while also leading his team to a 6-0 record and the championship. For what may be his last basketball tournament before he transitions to the AFL, he’s been phenomenal.

Tad Dufelmeier (ACT) – 20.2 ppg, 5.7 rpg, 3.3 apg – Dufelmeier had an impressive tournament, highlighted by his 36-point performance against WA. Although his FG% was quite low (39%), he still did a great job leading a relatively weak ACT squad.

Jack McVeigh (QLD) – 27.5 ppg, 9.3 rpg, 55% FG – McVeigh shouldered the load for Queensland, leading them all the way to the championship game. He was the leading scorer in the tournament and 3rd leading rebounder. One of the best talents in the country and my pick for tournament MVP.

Geremy McKay (VIC) – 17.8 ppg, 5.0 rpg, 76.2% FG – McKay was the heart and soul of the Victoria squad, competing on both ends of the floor. The Australian U19 rep was unstoppable in the paint this tournament, shooting an unbelievable 76.2% from the floor.

Sam McDaniel (SA) – 18.5 ppg, 12.7 rpg, 55.4% FG – McDaniel was the surprise of the tournament. His first performance of the week was an amazing 17 points and 20 rebounds, and he didn’t look back. His consistent numbers throughout the tournament were impressive, so he rounds out the All-Tournament team.

Credit: Kangaroo Photos

Tournament MVP – Jack McVeigh (QLD)

Women’s Basketball

Two undefeated teams went into the U20 Women’s Championship game – Victoria and NSW. Victoria had created a defensive culture within their team as they progressed through the tournament, and that carried over to the championship game. Victoria made it incredibly difficult for NSW to score in the paint, holding them to just 31% shooting. Victoria was even able to keep NSW off the glass, outrebounding them 55-33.

It was a 35-17 run by Victoria in the 3rd quarter that was the difference in the game. Lauren Scherf had 16 of her 33 points in the quarter to all but seal the game, and championship, for Victoria.

Scherf finished with 33 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks for Victoria, with Alex Delaney being the top-scorer for NSW with 22 points.

Queensland were a very fun team to watch this tournament. With the scoring prowess of Alicia Froling and terrific play of Kristy Wallace, every game they were a part of was a thriller. Queensland was one quarter away from being a part of the Championship game after leading Victoria by 12 heading into the 4th quarter of the semifinals – Victoria clawed their way back into the game and would eventually come away with the win, shattering the hopes of Championship glory for Queensland.

All-Tournament Team

Mariah Payne (TAS) – 24 ppg, 7.5 rpg, 2.3 apg – The top scorer in the tournament, Payne impressed with her 45 point effort against New Zealand, draining 7 three-pointers and grabbing 10 offensive rebounds in the game. One of the most efficient guards in the tournament.

Kristy Wallace (QLD) – 18.2 ppg, 6.5 rpg, 5.2 apg, 3.2 spg – Coming off her first Opals Camp, Wallace was the most consistent performer for Queensland. She seemed to step up her game in more significant games, drastically improving her numbers in Queensland’s final two games.

Alicia Froling (QLD) – 21 ppg, 14.2 rpg – Without her twin sister, Alicia took it upon herself to carry this Queensland team. She was extremely aggressive offensively, attempting 71 free throws for the tournament - 29 more than the next highest. Her inefficiency was suspect but she made up for it with her effort on the glass and on the defensive end.

Alliyah Fareo (NSW) – 11.8 ppg, 8.2 rpg, 50.9% FG – Fareo was the most reliable player on the silver-medal winning NSW squad. Her inside presence was vital for her squad as she ranked 5th in rebounding for the tournament. Fareo get’s the nod in the all-tournament team over fellow NSW girl Alex Delaney because of her impressive efficiency.

Lauren Scherf (VIC) – 20 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 3.5 bpg, 51.6% FG – Scherf has impressed over the last few months – coming up big for the Australian U19 team, receiving an invite to an Opals Camp, and now domination U20 Nationals. Her impressive line in the Championship game was most impressive - with 33 points, 16 rebounds and 5 blocks. Scherf finished the tournament ranked 2nd in scoring, 2nd in rebounding and 1st in blocks. One of the best female prospects we’ve seen in a while, and my pick for tournament MVP.

Credit: Kangaroo Photos

Tournament MVP – Lauren Scherf (VIC)

Congratulations to all of the staff involved in putting on another successful Junior Championship, and to all of the players for their efforts. A big thanks to Basketball Australia and Kangaroo Photos for generously allowing us to use their photos from the tournament. Don't forget to check out all of the photos from the tournament at the Kangaroo Photos website.

It’s been a great tournament and hopefully you’ve been following along with all of the action. We’ll see you at U18 National’s in April!