AUSSIES THROUGH TO QUARTER FINALS AS WILDCATS TOP POOL

AUSSIES THROUGH TO QUARTER FINALS AS WILDCATS TOP POOL

The Jr. NBA World Championships continued on Thursday morning as the Bulleen Boomers and Eltham Wildcats continued their impressive play, qualifying for the knockout stages of the tournament.

Boys Game 1:

Asia Pacific vs South America

After opening the tournament with a confidence boosting win over India, the Asia-Pacific Boys took on South America in their second game. The Eltham boys ran out winners 64-39.

The Eltham team had a chance to watch South America play Europe the night before. Sacrificing some sleep, the coaches spent went late into the night reviewing game tape. The plan was clear, take out the oppositions key players, force them to the perimeter and control the rebounding battle.

The Wildcats led from start to finish in what would be another convincing win for the Asia-Pacific representatives.

“Once again the game was quite physical. They had a lot of length in their team, which caused a lot of match-up worries for us. But as the game went on our skills shone through which was fantastic” said Eltham coach Craig Stratford.

“We knew it was going to be a tough game as South America knocked off Europe last night. The boys were here early warming up and they played a really good first quarter and then the momentum just followed through.”

At the main break the Wildcats had opened up a 30-16 lead as Zahn Agosta provided the highlight of the game with this last gasp attempt to beat the shot clock.

Brad Moorey had a double-double of 22 points and 10 rebounds to go along with 3 steals and 2 blocks for Asia-Pacific. While Kristian Ferronato had 12 points and 9 rebounds and Zahn Agosta tallied 10 points and 5 steals.

The Eltham defence was stifling all contest as they racked up 21 combined steals for the game. The South American team looked fatigued in the second half and began to foul, resulting in 4 of their starters eventually fouling out.

A dominant third quarter from the boys brought the lead out to 22 for the Wildcats, much to the delight of their travelling fans.

“The South American guys had a few bigs and they were very quick. They were also intense defenders which was a challenge” said Eltham guard Zahn Agosta.

“There’s some tough calls that aren’t getting called but you’ve just got to move on and go to the next play” explained Agosta when talking about the different style of officiating.

The Asia-Pacific boys eventually won 64-39 and were due to play Europe later that day.

Stats: https://on.nba.com/2OoFZRq

Girls: Asia Pacific v Europe
The Asia Pacific girls were faced with a test as they came up against the European team. The European team is picked from a pool of the top players from 17 different countries, leaving the Bulleen girls with a tough task ahead.

Europe started hot early, winning the battle in transition and capitalizing on inside finishes. Asia-Pacific was down by as much as 8 in the first quarter but settled quickly as their guard play began to control the game. The score read 28-29 with the Boomers girls trailing and ready to mount a comeback. The game would turn into a slog as both teams had adapted to what their opponent was trying to do, with only 14 points scored between both teams in the third.

“We started too slow, we were down around 10 points at one stage. From there we fought our way back and we were very competitive. The second half was a draw and other than the slow start we were right in it” said Bulleen coach Travis Heal.

“They finish around the rim really well, I’d love to know what they do in practice because their finishing has been really good all tournament.”

Going into the fourth the margin was just one point, with the Boomers constantly pushing. The game would be decided on the very last play, with Asia Pacific holding the possession with 30 seconds to go and finding themselves in a similar place down one. Holding the ball patiently at the top of the key the girls would wind the clock down before they found Tess Heal with 10 seconds to go coming off a handoff from top of the key. Unfortunately, it was not to be as the tough lefty layup failed to drop and time expired before the Boomers had a chance to foul, ending the game with a 49-50 loss.

Tess Heal starred for the Boomers with 15 points and 6 rebounds while Ella Mcintyre scored 11 points.

“Ella Mcintyre and Tess Heal did well. Emily Maltezos hit a couple of long threes at the end there. We played a good game and I think in terms of the tournament, we’ll be there abouts” shared Bulleen coach Travis Heal.

Next Asia-Pacific play Africa in the crossover stage.

“Were playing Africa next, it’s going to be completely different. It’s going to be a little bit of streetball, an up and down sort of game” shared coach Heal.

“Europe were playing hard-nosed defence and crashing the boards. They were playing defence by being up in your face the whole time and bumping cutters, they were a good team” explained Tess Heal.

Looking ahead Tess Heal outlined the game plan for the game against Africa.

“Africa are really big, I’m looking forward to playing against some bigger bodies who are going to play really hard, because I like contact. I also know that they’re really fast, it’s good to play against fast guards cos they’re usually small, which means you can create post opportunities” said Heal.

Stats: https://on.nba.com/2OoFZRq

Boys Game 2: Asia-Pacific v Europe

The Eltham boys faced a tough test against the Europeans in their second game of the day, as they fell 46-58.

Europe came into the game needing to win in order to claim a top two spot. The Wildcats were also fired up as they needed to win or lose by less 12 or less to lock up first.

In the first period the Australian’s started strong with two threes from Anton Stratov. At the end of the first Asia-Pacific led 20-15.

From there, the Eltham boys would struggle to generate consistent offense, leading to some frustration and fueling Europe’s transition game.

Losing the lead in the 2nd quarter, the boys would fight all game to take it back. Struggling to match the oppositions finishing ability the wildcats found ways to stay in the game, whether it be steals leading to layups, or offensive rebounds, they were determined to bring the margin back.

“We ran out of legs during the third, we were starting to get tired. We kept rotating right through to the last couple of minutes. I thought the boys competed well but we just didn’t finish as well as we would’ve liked” explained Eltham coach Craig Stratford.

“Over here, it is officiated a little bit differently but it’s the same for everyone. The kids are adjusting, the good thing is that they’re learning to play through it. I thought that our depth showed when the fouls started to hurt us as we were able to start rotating kids through.”

In the fourth quarter the margin had ballooned to 12 but the Wildcats bought it back to five mid-way through the quarter, the Wildcats felt the support of the crowd as both the Bulleen and Eltham supporters were going wild.

Unfortunately, it wasn’t enough with the final score 46-58. The Wildcats held onto top spot in the pool by the slimmest of margins, as they won the game by just 12.

“When we came over here, our goal was to play as many games as we can. To finish top of the group with South America, Europe and India is a great reflection of where the kids are at with their ability. I think as a group we’re going to really enjoy that quarter final match” shared Stratford.

“I think we played quite well but they had fresh legs. That was their first game for the day and we’d already had a tough game against South America. I think towards the end we just couldn’t keep up and they’re a very physical team on defence, so having that constant pressure was tough” Eltham player Riley Lewis reflected.

Stats: https://on.nba.com/2OoFZRq

Tomorrow is a rest day for the athletes as the two teams participate in the NBA cares program on a day of service.

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