Throughout the year it was Victoria who dominated the Australian Junior Championships – taking away the gold in both men’s and women’s basketball at the U20 and U18 events – however the U16’s Australian Junior Championships proved to be a different story. This week Geelong was the home of some of the most talented junior athletes that Australia has to offer, and they didn’t disappoint. Here’s a recap of all of this week’s action.
The Championship game in the men’s division saw the defending champion NSW Country squad take on an undefeated VIC Metro squad in what proved to be a thrilling matchup.
Throughout the 1st quarter it was an extremely tight affair, both teams relentlessly attacking the paint. The 2 squads traded buckets with NSW Country taking the early 15-12 lead heading into the first break.
NSW Country then used the next 2 quarters to extend their lead. A run led by Jessy Wilson and Kyle Zunic, who began to heat up from 3-point range, extended the NSW Country lead to a 54-36 lead heading into the 4th quarter – a comeback from VIC Metro seeming improbable. Patrick Bines and Mitchell Barry led an early 4th quarter surge by VIC Metro to cut the lead down to 7 but NSW Country never let it get closer than that, hitting their free throws to seal the game – 82-62 being the final score. Lachlan Dent finished with a game-high 19 pts for NSW Country while Kyle Zunic had 18 pts & 5 rbs. For VIC Metro, Patrick Bines had a team-high 13 pts & 8 rbs.
A team that wasn’t expected to big things this week was the NSW Metro men’s squad, they surprised everyone by very easily advancing all the way to the semifinals. Led by the impressive scoring effort of Dragan Elkaz (16 ppg, 4.8 rpg & 1.6 apg), they managed to go 5-1 in the group games. Team captain Aaron Waban (10.3 ppg, 5.6 rpg & 3.6 apg) showed off his versatility throughout the week while bench players Kevin Achampong and Josh Green were consistently effective all tournament long.
New Zealand followed in the footsteps of their U18 counterparts, showing that they have the ability to compete with the best that Australia has to offer. Samuel Waardenburg proved to be the most efficient player all tournament, averaging 13 ppg & 11.3 rpg on 65% FG. Unique Naboa and Quinn Clinton also had great tournaments for New Zealand as they got as far as the semi-finals, eventually losing out to VIC Metro. They would eventually beat out NSW Metro to finish 3rd in this year’s tournament.
All-Tournament Men’s Team
Samuel Waardenburg (NZ) – 13 ppg, 11.3 rpg, 1 apg, 65% FG – Waardenburg had an extremely efficient tournament, dominating the paint on both ends of the floor. He proved to be one of the top prospects at this tournament and led New Zealand to an admirable 3rd place finish. His efficiency and consistency throughout the week, as well as his team’s success, makes him our Tournament MVP.
Patrick Bines (VICM) – 10.4 ppg, 7.6 rpg, 2.3 apg, 46% FG, 38% 3pt – Bines was the leader of yet another very successful VIC Metro squad. Although they finished in 2nd place, the squad was still dominant throughout the week – in large part due to Bines’ performance on the court. His effort was consistent throughout and he had big games when the team needed it.
Ky Matthews-Hampton (SAC) – 18.3 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.6 apg, 44% FG, 36% 3pt – Matthews-Hampton finished the week as the tournament’s leading scorer, with his numbers proving to be quite efficient. Although he had trouble taking care of the ball at times he made up for it with his level of intensity on both ends of the floor.
Tom Fullarton (QLDS) – 14.9 ppg, 7.4 rpg, 2.1 apg, 48% FG – Fullarton showed off his versatility this tournament, hurting his opposition from both inside and outside the paint. He scored in double-figures in all but 1 game as he picked up his production in the latter half of the week.
Joel Rauch (NSWC) – 11.3 ppg, 6.4 rpg, 1 bpg, 49% FG – Rauch was the driving force on the Championship winning NSW Country squad, playing with a lot of intensity. He finished well with both hands around the rim and his jumpshot looks much improved.
On the outside looking in: Aidan O’Carroll, Dragan Elkaz, William Cooper
Tournament MVP: Samuel Waardenburg (NZ)
SA Metro took the women’s Championship this year, the first time they’ve won it all in almost 20 years. They managed to outplay a tough Queensland South squad in what was a thrilling grand final.
SA Metro started the game slowly, settling for a lot of outside jumpers that just weren’t falling. QLD South did a great job rebounding the ball and had a 17-10 lead after the 1st quarter. SA Metro managed to pick up their game and attack the basket a bit more, eventually cutting the lead to just 1 – QLD South leading 25-24 heading into the half.
It took a lights-out 3rd quarter from SA Metro to pull away, a 25-11 run led by Samantha Simons and Erina Marafioti was enough to give SA Metro a comfortable lead that they would sustain for the rest of the game. Simons finished with 21 pts, 7 rbs & 4 rbs while Marafioti had an impressive 15 pt, 4 rbs & 4 asts. Darcy Rees continued her solid tournament for SA Metro with 8 pts & 8 rbs while Jayden Fuiava had a team-high 13 pts & 11 rbs for QLD South.
We’ve seen a lot of extremely talented prospects shine throughout this tournament but none as much as VIC Metro big Ezi Magbegor. At around 6’3 Magbegor was one of the tallest women in this tournament and averaged an astounding 10.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg & 5.7 bpg as VIC Metro earned 4th place. She was a monster inside the paint on both ends of the floor and is one to watch as she progresses throughout her junior career.
One team that proved to be inspiring, especially toward the end of the tournament, was the Northern Territory women’s team. Northern Territory as a state usually isn’t one that competes well in these tournament, they simply don’t have the population to put a team together that can compete with the ‘powerhouse’ states. This Northern Territory women’s team started off the tournament slowly but then exploded to win 3 out of their last 4 games – Felisha Swan and Abby Cubillo leading the way.
All-Tournament Women’s Team
Jasmine Simmons (NSWC) – 17.6 ppg, 12.3 rpg, 3 apg, 57% FG, 83% FT – Simmons was dominant all tournament, separating herself from the rest of the pack. Her versatility and court awareness was on show all tournament as she seemingly dominated every facet of the game – leading NSW Country to a 3rd place finish and ultimately earning our pick for Tournament MVP.
Ezi Magbegor (VICM) – 10.8 ppg, 11.8 rpg, 1.4 apg, 5.7 bpg, 43% FG – One of the brightest prospects all tournament, Magbegor was the best rim protector this week – averaging a brilliant 5.7 bpg. She finished inside the paint extremely well and her length was disruptive on the other end of the floor.
Rebecca Abel (TAS) – 21.4 ppg, 8 rpg, 2.9 apg, 31% FG, 34% 3 pt, 81% FT – Abel finished the week as the tournament’s leading scorer with 21.4 ppg. She has range out to the 3-point line and was also very adept at getting to the 3-point line. She had one of the highlight games in the tournament, going for 35 pts & 15 rbs against Northern Territory.
Jayden Fuiava (QLDS) – 15.1 ppg, 6.1 rpg, 1.9 apg, 41% FG, 84% FT – Fuiava was the driving force for the silver medal winning QLD South team, her ability to finish strong in the paint setting the tone for a lot of their games. She proved to be the hero on many occassions, hitting a lot of big shots this tournament – most notably the game-winning free throws in a pool game against the eventual champions in SA Metro.
Samantha Simons (SAM) – 14 ppg, 6.7 rpg, 2 apg, 45% FG – As the most productive, and consistent, performers from the Championship winning squad, Simons earns the final spot on our All-Tournament team. SA Metro leant on Simons for a lot of their scoring and she delivered, averaging an impressive 14 ppg.
On the outside looking in: Cassidy McLean, Darcy Rees, Brenna McKay
Tournament MVP: Jasmine Simmons (NSWC)
In a year that was billed as a ‘weak’ year in regards to the individual talent on show, it’s only fitting that the 2 teams that come away with the gold are ones that stress team basketball. Geelong managed to put on an extraordinary tournament that will likely be talked about for years to come – some people already labelling it as one of the best-run tournaments to date so credit is due to everyone involved in making that possible.
A big thank you to Basketball Australia and Kangaroo Photo’s for their efforts throughout the week, and for allowing us to use their photos. We hope you’ve enjoyed our coverage of these U16’s Australian Junior Championships and we look forward to bringing you continued coverage on the best junior talent that Australia has to offer.