U18’s Australian Junior Championships Day 1 Recap
Day 1 of this year’s U18’s Australian Junior Championships is complete here in Canberra and, as always, it’s been full of action and entertainment. Some terrific individual performances were the talk of the first day of tournament play so let’s hope that great play continues throughout the week. Here are some of the storylines entering Day 2 of the tournament:
New Zealand is a dark horse
New Zealand showed some signs that they could be a force to be reckoned with in this tournament. They gave VIC Country a scare in their opening game – falling 82-80 in the final seconds of the game. If it wasn’t for Jack White’s individual brilliance then New Zealand could have stolen this game. White had 38 points and 13 rebounds, hitting huge shot after huge shot. It was New Zealand, however, that surprised a few people. The interior presence of Matthew Freeman and Sioeli Vaiangina stifled VIC Country’s offense. Vaiangina also had one of the highlights of the day – a huge poster dunk to stop a mini VIC Country run. Although New Zealand fell short in their first game, they rebounded with an impressive win over ACT and showed that they can compete in this tournament.
VIC Metro’s depth will take them all the way
In my tournament preview I predicted that VIC Metro would walk away as National Champions – nothing has changed after they defeated Northern Territory 126-34. VIC Metro’s depth is even more impressive considering the fact that everyone knows their role on the squad on any given day. In Thursday’s win, Tom Wilson took over the scoring load while Dejan Vasiljevic and Michael D’Agostino stepped back and became facilitators. Abi Akintola continued to bully his way in the paint, shooting an extremely efficient 8/9 from the field. Just when you think they have no more weapons – off the bench come’s Matt Owies for an added burst of energy and an aggressive defensive presence. They looked like a well-oiled machine out there, it’ll be interesting to see how they handle Day 2 – where they’ll face a much more refined Tasmania squad.
SA Metro shoot their way to victory
NSW Metro were considered the favorites entering their game against SA Metro. Their size was unmatched with the likes of Centre of Excellence big-men Isaac Humphries and Deng Gak, but it was SA Metro’s hot shooting that led them to victory. They made 47% of their 3-pointers and shot 82% from the free-throw line to pick up what could be a crucial win. One thing that was confusing was the fact that Isaac Humphries and Deng Gak where never on the floor at the same time. One would think that have 6’10 Gak alongside 7’0 Humphries would be virtually unstoppable – we may well see that partnership if NSW Metro continue to struggle.
Queensland North starts 2-0
Harry Froling is averaging 27.5 ppg and 13 rpg over his first 2 games for QLD North. The 6’9 forward led them to a comeback victory over Tasmania – outscoring them 20-7 in the 3rd quarter – and helped them cruise through an easy win over SA Country. Although his efficiency is lacking compared to the other big-men in the tournament, Froling has managed to lead his team to an undefeated first day. A lot of this can be attributed to his much-improved passing game; he’s doing a great job at getting his teammates involved. A game to look forward to would be tomorrow’s matchup against NSW Country – a tough task for Froling being matched up with the crafty Kouat Noi.
WA Metro is a team everyone should be talking about
Megan McKay was one of the players I listed as a ‘Player to Watch’ at the tournament – she hasn’t disappointed. McKay is averaging 17.5 ppg and 12 rpg and led WA Metro to a much-needed victory over ACT after dropping their opener. Alongside fellow Australian representative Madeleine Dennis, she’s doing a tremendous job leading the squad and will look to continue this winning momentum as they face NZ in Friday’s tournament action.
NSW Country’s guard duo combine for 61 in win
Elizabeth Tonks and Jasmine Forcadilla clearly stood out from the rest of the pack in NSW Country’s victory over SA Metro. Both guards finished extremely well in traffic and were a nuisance on the defensive end. Every time it looked like SA Metro were about to go on a run, these guards would step up and make big plays. They face QLD South on Day 2, it’ll be interesting to see if the likes of Bride Kennedy-Hopoate can slow down this killer guard duo.
VIC Metro vs NSW Metro is Finals worthy
The talent on the court during this game was incredible. Both squads possess an enormous amount of individual talent. The game was quite evenly matched, both squads having similar numbers in nearly every statistical category. One major discrepancy was NSW Metro’s shooting from the 3-point line. I seems as though that 3-point line wasn’t kind to either NSW Metro side today – with the Men’s squad also struggling from downtown. Like the Men’s squad, the women need to work to get the ball down low. They have a size advantage with Australian representative Dani Milisic and last year’s U16’s Nationals leading scorer Ella Tofaeono. Needless to say that watching these teams go at it for the Championship would be a privilege to watch. The amount of quality that would be on the floor is mind blowing.
VIC Country vs WA Country will be a cracker of a game
Mackenzie Hoycard had an unbelievable statistical performance in WA Country’s tournament opener – 22 pts, 27 rbs and 7 blks. They’re incredible numbers but look for the girls from VIC Country to attempt to put a halt to that great play. Chloe Bibby and Chantel Horvat both have the ability to slow down Hoycard while also putting on impressive offensive performances of their own. A huge factor that may put VIC Country over the edge is the efficiency of their key players – Bibby and Horvat both shot 60% from the field en route to their 28-point win over QLD South.
If Day 1 is any indication, we’re in for a great week of basketball. We’ve seen some great individual performances and some outstanding team efforts - As we progress through the tournament let’s hope everyone continues their stellar play.