Grand Final Preview | 2014 U16 Australian Junior Championships
After 7 days of basketball and a number of close matchups, we're finally down to our Grand Final games. NSW Country is looking to repeat as champions in the men's division, they'll be up against an undefeated VIC Metro squad. In women's basketball, SA Metro did the seemingly impossible by defeating VIC Metro in their quarterfinal matchup, they'll face Queensland South who got the best of NSW Country in yet another game that went down to the wire. Here's a preview of both the men's and women's Championship games.
Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photo's
NSW Country vs VIC Metro
NSW Country has the chance to repeat as U16 Australian Junior Men's Champions. They defeated their Metro counterparts 72-47 behind 17 pts & 8 rbs from point guard Lachlan Dent. This U16 VIC Metro men's squad will be looking to join their U18 and U20 squads as Australian Junior Champions this year after their 70-64 semifinal win over New Zealand.
It looks like VIC Metro will have to do it without star forward Aidan O'Carroll, who has been out for the last 2 games with a torn calf. He had a great start to the tournament and was one of the most highly touted prospects coming in - it's a pity we won't get to see him in action on the biggest stage.
NSW Country's Lachlan Dent has been on a tear in the latter half of this tournament and will look to carry his fine form into this grand final game. He's done an extremely impressive job staying composed within the pace of the game and is seemingly running the NSW Country offence to perfection. VIC Metro's guard combo of Matthew Day and Mitchell Barry will look to keep Dent at bay. Barry is a very adept spot-up 3-point shooter but struggled to start this tournement - missing his first 15 3-point attempts. Barry snapped out of his cold streak last game, shooting 4-of-6 from beyond the arc en route to 12 pts.
VIC Metro's most productive player is also their team captain, Patrick Bines. Bines has been off and on throughout this tournament but, with the sudden absence of O'Carroll, has stepped it up. Bines had an impressive 24 pts & 7 rbs in VIC Metro's semifinal matchup, including 5-of-9 form 3-point range. VIC Metro will need Bines to be on point on both ends for their best chance to win this game.
Patrick Bines - VIC Metro | Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photo's
NSW Country will look to take advantage of their size and length, and ultimately their ability to score in the paint. VIC Metro clearly struggled against New Zealand and the height of Samuel Waardenburg, only being able to pull down 25 rebounds as a team - NSW Country will likely look to abuse the absence of Aidan O'Carroll by forcing the ball inside to the likes of Matur Maluach and Joel Rauch. Both have a great touch around the rim and, with no real length on VIC Metro's part, should have no trouble creating good looks.
The bench production of VIC Metro is what may push them over the finish line. They're a squad with great depth, led by the consistent production of Lachlan Brown and Bayley Lawrence off the pine. Brown in particular has done a great job all tournament coming off the bench and providing a spark on the offensive end. NSW Country's bench isn't as deep as VIC Metro's but still has a few players that can be effective - Jaidyn Goodwin has been able to come off the bench and knock down some shots while Brandon Freire has been an underrated interior defender.
Matur Maluach - NSW Country | Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photo's
Queensland South vs SA Metro
Both women's semifinal games turned out to be tight contests with both of them going down to the wire. SA Metro edged VIC Metro in a thrilling 51-48 overtime victory, Samantha Simons continuing her solid tournament with 12 pts & 4 rbs. QLD South was up against a tough NSW Country team in their semifinals matchup with both teams exchanging leads in the dying minutes - a go-ahead bucket from Ula Motuga gave QLD South the 63-62 victory and a place in the women's Grand Final game.
Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photo's
The last time these 2 teams faced each other it was a nail-biter, QLD South taking the 63-62 win behind Jayden Fuiava's 22 pts & 6 rbs.
QLD South does a great job attacking the paint - McDowell-White and Jayden Fuiava have the ability to get in the lane while Ula Motuga is a very impressive finisher inside the paint. SA Metro has the effective interior defence of Darcy Rees but she'll need some help if they're going to limit QLD South's points in the paint - a statistic that was a huge factor in their previous matchup.
The matchup of SA Metro's Hannah Lehmann and QLD South's Jessica McDowell-White will be one to look out for. Both do a very impressive job leading their respective teams and controlling the pace of the game. Lehmann, who is also team captain, has averaged 11.3 ppg, 4.5 rpg & 1.7 apg and is one of the most productive players for this SA Metro squad. A key for Lehmann is to make sure she takes care of the ball, she has struggled with turnovers this tournament so it's something she'll need to focus on - especially in a Grand Final game where every possession counts.
Hannah Lehmann - SA Metro | Credit: Basketball Australia/Kangaroo Photo's
Jayden Fuiava is a top-5 scorer in this tournament and is extremely adept at getting to the free throw line. She's a threat whenever she has the ball on the offensive end and has also shown to be a terrific perimeter defender. The 'go-to' scorer for SA Metro would be Samantha Simons, she's had a great tournament and is a model of consistency - scoring in double-figures in 6-out-of-7 games this tournament. Simons can finish inside with either hand and has an impressive touch.
The battle of the bigs will be extremely important in this game and may well be the deciding factor when it's all said and done - the old adage being 'rebounding wins championships'. QLD South's Ula Motuga has really stepped up her intensity over the last few games and has been the difference maker, especially toward the end of games. Motuga will likely be matched up against Darcy Rees, who has had one of the best overall performances in this tournament. Rees has a great nose for the ball and plays with an infectious effort and intensity, a vital and invaluable asset in a game like this. The matchup between Motuga and Rees will be extremely fun to watch.