Victoria dominates Australian U18 Championships

Victoria Metro U18 Men | Credit: Basketball Victoria

The 2017 Australian U18 Junior Championships followed a familiar script, as Victoria once again taking home titles in both the men’s and women’s divisions.

Even though the trophies will be heading to the same state, the same region doesn’t share them. In the men’s competition, Vic Metro secured their second consecutive championship, while Vic Country won their first title since 2000.

Vic Country’s triumph in the women’s bracket ends a streak of three-straight championships from their crosstown Metro rivals. There was no such drought-breaking with the men, as Vic Metro’s victory was their second in as many years, and their fourth in the last five.

Both Grand Final’s were thrillers, with constant lead and momentum changes underpinning the contests.

In the men’s division, Vic Metro knocked off Queensland North thanks to some stout defense and opportunistic offense in the dying seconds. With the game tied up at 77 in the final 10 seconds, Austin Bradtke had a chance to ice the championship for Metro at the free throw line.

However Bradtke failed to convert, but his teammate, Oliver Hayes-Brown, was able to pull down the offensive rebound and score the subsequent put-back. Queensland North had the chance to tie or take the lead with the final possession. Yet some strong defense from Metro stifled their opponent, resulting in one of the craziest finishes to a junior championship match in recent memory.

The classic had nine lead changes, but Queensland will be kicking themselves, as they failed to hold onto an eight-point advantage midway through the fourth quarter. An 8-0 run from Victoria saw Queensland’s lead dwindle quickly, setting up the nerve-racking final moments.

“For us, it’s about making plays at the right time and we had several at the right time,” Vic Metro coach, Darren Perry said, via Basketball Victoria.

“We had shots made, defensive plays, we had blocked shots, we had a board that we had to get and got possession, then the free throw that we needed to be there.

“When you trail in the fourth quarter, and you trail late in the game, you just have to keep with it and we did. You could say we did these things right, but all the things we did late were tough, we did them at the right times.

“The bunch that started the week are a much bigger bunch of men at the end of the week.”

Samson Froling was a force for the North Queenslander’s, amassing 29 points, 13 rebounds and five blocks. Kody Stattman (24 points, nine rebounds and three steals) provided ample support, but it wasn’t enough for Queensland North.

Froling and Stattman’s Grand Final performances encapsulated their stellar efforts throughout the entire week. Froling averaged 18.8 points and 14.8 rebounds in the competition, while Stattman led the tournament in scoring with 25.3 points.

For the victors, Sean MacDonald led the scoring charge with 20, while Tyler Robertson (16) and Keli Leaupepe (15) also contributed to cap a memorable tournament.

U18 Victoria Country Women | Credit: Basketball Victoria

While it wasn’t pretty, the women’s Grand Final provided just as much drama as the men’s.

A defensive grind from the tip, both teams battled through offensive deficiencies, with Victoria Country shooting just 33.8 percent from the field, South Australia Metro not much better at 36.8%.

Despite the unattractive nature of the contest, there was no denying either side’s intent or commitment. This was evident by South Australia’s epic comeback in the final term.

With Victoria holding a nine-point edge with under four minutes remaining, South Australia found an extra burst of energy to rip off an 8-0 run, to close to within a point. However that was where the offense ended, as the last two minutes saw the score keepers untroubled, as both team’s desperate attempts to win the game resulted in Vic Country holding on, 60-59.

Jazmin Shelley (13 points, five rebounds) and Chelsea D’Angelo (12 points, six rebounds) led the way for Victoria, while Samantha Simons (15 points) and Juliet Gordon (10 points) were the only double-digit scorers for South Australia.

“Just so excited for the players, the staff and a lot of the Country Vic people who have come through the program,” Vic Country coach, Gerard Hillier said, via Basketball Victoria.

“Winning gold is a bit of a rarity in this program.

“It’s something we want to change in coming years, so it’s excitement and relief.

“We keep saying as a team that they’re country tough – there’s a lot of adversity going against them already, just to get to training and games, and participate in these events. It certainly toughens them up.

“They’ve shown that this week and it’s a credit to them.”

West Australia Metro’s Emma Clarke was the standout performer of the week, averaging 21.9 points per game, leading the competition. Queensland South’s Miela Goodchild (20.1) and New South Wales Metro’s Shyla Heal (19.6) rounded out the top-three scorers across the week.

In the Kevin Coombs Cup, Queensland Maroon defeated Queensland White in the gold medal game, 63-38.

FINAL STANDINGS

Under-18 Men

  1. Victoria Metro
  2. Queensland North
  3. New South Wales Metro
  4. New South Wales Country
  5. Queensland South
  6. Tasmania
  7. Victoria Country
  8. Western Australia Metro
  9. Australian Capital Territory
  10. South Australia Metro
  11. South Australia Country
  12. Western Australia Country
  13. Northern Territory

Under-18 Women

  1. Victoria Country
  2. South Australia Metro
  3. Victoria Metro
  4. Queensland North
  5. Queensland South
  6. South Australia Country
  7. New South Wales Metro
  8. New South Wales Country
  9. Western Australia Metro
  10. Australian Capital Territory
  11. Western Australia Country
  12. Tasmania

Kevin Coombs Cup

  1. Queensland Maroon
  2. Queensland White
  3. Victoria
  4. New South Wales
  5. Western Australia
Luke Sicari

Written by

Writer, producer, podcaster and on-air guest at 1116 SEN | Media Intern at Basketball Australia | Sports journalism student at La Trobe

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