Preview the fortunes of Pool A for the girls competition at the 2019 Australian Under-16 Championships, being held in Darwin, Northern Territory between July 6-13.
Seven teams make up Pool A for the Under-16 women this year as they vie for one of the top-four spots into the Quarter-Finals. Vic Metro enter as the three-time defending Champions of the Norma Connolly trophy as well as winners of 17 of the past 19 Championships but they will face stiff competition from the likes of Qld South who tasted success in 2015.
Team List: Emily Nguyen, Hannah Briskey, Alison Francis, Lauren Armstrong, Mia Slater, Michayla Wood, Tilly Bean, Elise Finney, Seini Melekiola, Elena Moran
Elise Finney, Emily Nguyen and Mia Slater all return for ACT this year and they will be set to lead the team with their experience. Nguyen was a defensive star in 2018, finishing sixth in the tournament with 2.9 steals per game while Slater’s best game came against WA Country when she recorded seven points, eight rebounds and two blocks which is a performance she will be aiming to replicate consistently in Darwin. ACT could receive an offensive boost from a player like Hannah Briskey who has put together some strong showings in the local ACT leagues.
Key Game: ACT secured two wins at last year’s Under-16’s, both against NT as they defeated them by 19 points in the group stage and 39 points in the final classification clash. Their goal will be to improve against other teams in Pool A but their meeting with NT late on Day 4 is a real opportunity to get on the winners list.
Team List: Lilli-Yana Moody, Mila Wawszkowicz, Asha Phillips, Grace Whyte, Sophie Williams, Mikayla Kirby, Amelia Hassett, Ashley Crossan, Emily Foy, Isla Juffermans
Last year, NSW Country finished with a 2-3 record in the group stage and eventually settled in eighth place. Emily Foy has experience at the Under-16 level, returning for her second tournament after finishing second for the team in rebounds and sixth for points as a bottom-ager. Isla Juffermans is an intriguing prospect after she led Coffs Harbour Suns to Shield Division gold at last year’s Under-14’s by scoring 23+ in the Quarter-Final, Semi-Final and gold medal game. Standing at 189cm, she will bolster NSW Country’s front court alongside Foy while Mikayla Kirby will add to their forward stocks.
Key Game: Vic Metro look to be the team to beat in Pool A but the other three spots for the Quarter-Finals are open and that gives NSW Country a real shot to make some noise at the business end of this year’s tournament. A clash with Qld South, who they fell to in the 7/8 classification playoff last year, looms as an important one for both teams late on Day 3 while it will be the second game of the day for NSW Country after they play ACT in the morning.
Team List: Laleeta Das, Olivia Dean, Sophie Palmer, Khadesha Foster, Julia Pollon, Bella Perkins, Emma Keightley, Milla Hensen, Kiarna Collinson, Alyssa Perkins
NT’s leading scorer from 2018 returns this year with Sophie Palmer recording 10.4 points per contest while knocking down eight three-pointers overall. She also finished in the top ten for steals and will be joined by fellow top-agers Emma Keightley (who knocked down seven three-pointers) and Laleeta Das (who finished third for the team in rebounds). Joining them are a pair of Darwin Cyclones team mates in Olivia Dean and Bella Perkins who showed positive signs at the 2018 Under-14 Club Championships. In front of a home crowd, the entire team will be hoping to impress friends and family.
Key Game: With ACT preparing for their match-up against NT, the home side will be doing the same. Having dropped both their clashes against ACT last year, that will be an added incentive for the returning players in 2019 when they meet on Day 4.
Team List: Hayley McDowell-White, Lil Dart, Josie Josiah, Layla-J Cameron, Lilly Rotunno, Skye Mason, Jessica Petrie, Shorna Preston, Chloe Butcher, Lulu Twidale
With a number of speedy back court players and capable ball-handlers, Qld South will be looking to run oppositions off their feet at this year’s Under-16’s. They last claimed a medal in 2015 when they defeated SA Metro in a one-point thriller to win gold and a number of players from that team have gone on to success including Miela Goodchild, Shyla Heal and Jess McDowell-White.
Hayley McDowell-White will now aim to emulate that in 2019 and she will be accompanied by Layla-J Cameron with both players impressing during last year’s Under-14 Club Championships. Lil Dart, who averaged 6.6 points at last year’s Under-16’s, is the only returning player for Qld South but her tenacity on the boards will motivate this team as they attempt to rise into the top four of Pool A.
Key Game: A game against NSW Country late on Day 3 will be important for Qld South’s ultimate seeding but they will be circling the last day of the group stage and a match-up with Vic Metro as a chance to prove themselves. Going up against the team projected to be the one to beat this year will give Qld South an idea of where they are placed in the race to the podium.
Team List: Eleanor Bollands, Emily Maltezos, Abbey-Lee Wood, Ella McIntyre, Amy Kurkowski, Sophie Burrows, Tess Heal, Ally Marshall, Amy Ohara, Nyadiew Puoch
Enjoying one of the most successful runs in Australian basketball, Vic Metro are winners of 17 of the past 19 Under-16 women’s Championships and are aiming to claim four consecutive Championships for the third time in the tournament’s history. The pressure will be on the likes of Tess Heal, who represented Asia Pacific at the 2018 Jr. NBA World Championships as well as Eleanor Bollands and Amy Ohara who are the three returning players aiming to clinch back-to-back gold medals themselves.
In addition, Amy Kurkowski is a player to watch after she lit up the Under-14’s for the Melbourne Tigers last year, finishing second overall for points with 20.3 per game while knocking down 13 three’s in eight contests. At the helm, ex-New Zealand Tall Ferns head coach Kennedy Kereama will lead Vic Metro’s quest.
Key Game: Vic Metro are used to being the hunted and nothing will change at this year’s tournament. They will face stiff competition through the pool stage against the likes of NSW Country and Qld South but their key game could come on the last day with a match-up against their intra-state rivals, Vic Country. The past two years have seen the teams meet in the gold medal playoff and Vic Metro will be keen to maintain their perfect record against their fellow Vics.
Team List: Sarah Ritter, Olivia Bradley, Tara Bryant, Alyssa Duncan, Chloe Harding, Rori Perryman, Georgia Winter, Taylor Moffatt, Bianca Stasinowsky, Emmy Roach
SA Country is another team that will look to hurt oppositions in transition and utilise their speed in the back court. Taylor Moffatt is an offensive powerhouse who shone at the 2017 Under-14’s with 14.6 points per game and has since been a force for the Eastern Mavericks. She will join Georgia Winter and Bianca Stasinowsky who are the two top-agers returning from last year’s Under-16 Championships where they both finished in the top three for the team in rebounds and top six for points.
Key Game: Projected to finish on the fringes of the top four in Pool A, SA Country have a trial by fire with a clash against Vic Metro on Day 1 before their key game falls on the last day of the group stage against WA Metro. Potentially battling for a place in the Quarter-Finals, this will be one to watch.
Team List: Denae Civich, Tayah Morgan, Mia Jacobs, Ella Averill, Riley Burd, Jayda Clark, Kyrah Daniels, Ruby Vlahov, Hannah Duncan, Kate Nalder
Overall, WA Metro had a strong campaign at the 2018 Under-16’s as they finished sixth with a 4-5 record. Getting the better of SA Country and ACT in the group stage before beating Qld South by three points in their penultimate classification game, this year’s team will be looking to carry that momentum forward into 2019.
The daughter of four-time Olympian Andrew, Ruby Vlahov returns from that team and will be a handful for oppositions at both ends of the floor with her quick hands, ability to distribute and shooting. Hannan Duncan will help boost their front court alongside Vlahov while Tayah Morgan, who has represented Willetton Tigers at the Under-14’s, is another one to watch offensively.
Key Game: After they reached the Quarter-Finals before suffering a big loss to Vic Country last year, WA Metro will be targeting their last game of the group stage against SA Country. It could be the deciding game for whether they finish in the top four but they must also have some wins on the board by that time and a double-header on Day 1 against NT and NSW Country is sure to be crucial as well.