CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE NBL1 ROUND 2 UPDATE

CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE NBL1 ROUND 2 UPDATE

The Centre of Excellence men have swept their weekend in Round 2 of the 2019 NBL1 season but the women were unable to get on the winners list across their two contests.

On Saturday night, the CoE men visited the Bendigo Braves and put together a 48-34 second half to prevail by 15 points.

They then travelled to Diamond Valley and fought out a thriller against the Eagles on Sunday.

Trailing by five points in the opening term, the CoE responded to take an eight point lead midway through the final quarter before Diamond Valley answered to move back in front with only two minutes to go.

Alex Ducas hit a big three-pointer though on the following play and Josh Kunen then connected while Isaiah Lee proved clutch from the free-throw line in the dying seconds to secure an 86-84 win.

"It was a very pleasing round," said men's head coach Adam Caporn.

"I was happy to see the group rewarded for the work they put in during the week. We really trained hard, focusing on improving our defense and decision making in the key and I thought there was obvious improvement in both areas."

Across their two contests, the CoE men nailed 25 three-pointers at 38% shooting while also holding Bendigo to 6-25 (24%) and Diamond Valley to 6-17 (35%).

"Three-point shooting is a key part of our game, both from a strategic and development stand-point. We encouraged the athletes to pursue a style of game and decision-making that makes most sense for them in terms of becoming a Boomer. Being able to shoot is obviously a key factor in achieving their goals.

"Defending the ball better was a key focus for us all week. I thought we were great in that department against Bendigo game but slipped a little against Diamond Valley. We have really good size and length on the perimeter and we did a much better job of using it to shrink the floor and help each other, but ultimately guys dug in and took on the responsibility of staying in front of the ball."

Ducas played a key role in their perimeter game, top-scoring with an average of 26 points while hitting a total of 12 three-pointers.

"He has really improved his footwork and ability to shoot on the move and off the dribble," said Caporn. "His upside is exciting and we still haven’t seen the best of him."

Caporn was also impressed by the performances of Kunen (11 points, six rebounds per game), Kyle Bowen (ten points, 11 boards, six assists against Bendigo) and Hunter Goodrick who had 19 points, 13 rebounds and three blocks against the Eagles.

"They do so much of the dirty work and their commitment to taking our defense up a notch infected the group. Against Diamond Valley, Hunter was in every contest on both ends and was just a warrior for us."

The late-game heroics from Lee against Diamond Valley did not go unnoticed either from the coaching staff.

"Lee is developing into an elite international point guard and his poise down the stretch was key to us winning both games.

"Sustained rim pressure and big free throws against Bendigo were great and against the Eagles, he made free throws, a big late-clock three and manipulated the game clock to ensure we maximised our final possessions."

After they were unable to get a win in a triple-header across Round 1, the CoE women dropped two games in Round 2 to the defending Champions in Bendigo, 54-72, and Diamond Valley 66-88.

However, every player was able to hit the scoreboard in both outings while they all received significant minutes.

"As a development program, it is important we provide all our athletes an opportunity to play," said women's head coach Kristen Veal.

"In five games we’ve only had one disappointing half of basketball.

"We knew this league was going to be tough with every team boasting quality WNBL, Australian and international players but what has surprised us is the girls maturity to stay in the moment despite the scoreboard."

Continuing her injury management, Isabel Palmer top-scored with 16 points against the Eagles, Adelaide Fuller and Jade Melbourne averaged nine points each while at the defensive end, Agnes Emma-Nnopu, Kobe King-Hawea and Lily Scanlon all averaged over a steal per game.

"It was great to have Agnes back on court for her first game of the season," said Veal.

"To see her play with more confidence and comfort on the perimeter is a reflection of her willingness to learn and work at those skills."

The CoE men and women will now break for the Under-18 Championships before returning in Round 4 of the NBL1 season when they host the Geelong Supercats for their first home game and visit Albury/Wodonga Bandits.

"Six of our girls will attend the Under-18's in Townsville and I will also be there to watch the current CoE athletes represent their states while also tracking new and returning talent from all around the country."