The men’s and women’s Centre of Excellence teams have begun the 2019 NBL1 season with a tough road trip, playing a triple-header against Dandenong Rangers, Ringwood Hawks and Kilsyth Cobras.
Opening their campaign with a 99-88 victory against the Rangers, the CoE men then fell just short of the Hawks and Cobras on Saturday and Sunday as they lost both games by an average margin of only eight points.
“We are very pleased that so many of the athletes demonstrated how much they have improved,” said men’s head coach Adam Caporn.
“There were some really strong performances across our playing group and our skill level has clearly improved. We need to be able to focus and execute more consistently on the defensive end under pressure and fatigue but that is why NBL1 is so important for our development.
“To go through the review, learn and hopefully demonstrate improvement next week is invaluable.”
Alex Ducas top-scored for the CoE across the weekend, recording 16.7 points, 3.7 rebounds, 1.7 assists and 1.7 steals while shooting 8-19 (42%) from the three-point line.
“Alex’s consistency across all three games showed how far he has come and he is an elite young player,” said Caporn.
“I thought all of our second year/senior athletes played well and I was very pleased with their professionalism and leadership.”
Five players hit double-figures in the win over Dandenong including 2019 NBL Champion Kyle Bowen who had 15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks off the bench while Josh Kunen scored 12 points against Kilsyth and Hunter Goodrick recorded 16 points against Ringwood.
The standout performer in the Ringwood clash was Mojave King though, who hit 9-16 from the field including 5-8 from distance for 24 points in 18 minutes.
“Mojavee is a very talented young player and an exciting prospect,” said Caporn.
“He joined us in January and has really bought into the program. His improving skill-set and elite athleticism makes him a very dangerous offensive player and his performances across all three games were exceptional for someone playing their first games in such a challenging competition.”
The women were unable to get on the winners list in Round 1 but showed improvement after a 25-point loss to Dandenong on the opening night with a 72-83 defeat at the hands of Ringwood in overtime and a 56-76 loss to Kilsyth.
“The weekend was enormously valuable in the team’s experimental development, both collectively and individually,” said women’s head coach Kristen Veal.
“The experience, physicality and variety of opposition forced the girls to have to make real time decisions and adjustments. In a league with quality Australian, WNBL and import players, we were impressed with the energy and engagement of the team and the desire to compete.”
An interrupted pre-season for the CoE women made preparation for Round 1 difficult but that opened the door for the likes of Jade Melbourne and Paige Price to step up into starting roles.
“Isabel Palmer and Sara-Rose Smith are returning from lower leg injuries and were only able to play a couple of games in Round 1 and a number of injury disruptions has required us to manage players accordingly,” said Veal.
Melbourne scored 14 points against the Rangers and Paige averaged 5.6 points and 3.3 rebounds while Palmer showed she will be a handful for oppositions once fully fit as she had 22 points, seven boards and two steals in her only outing against the Hawks.
Next week, the CoE hit the road again as they face the Bendigo Braves on Friday night and Diamond Valley Eagles on Saturday night with the women set to take on the defending Champions in Bendigo.
“Both teams have strong rosters complimented with size, experience and talent but the team is up for the contest,” said Veal.