It was all about the semi-finals on day five of the Under-14 National Club Championships in Ballarat.
In a day that saw gold medal qualification games tip-off, here are some of the day’s highlights.
With both teams desperate to reach the shield division gold medal game, the Ballarat Miners (VIC) and the Kilsyth Cobras (VIC) met for a semi-final showdown. The Miners looked like the stronger team early on, as their ball movement generated some high-percentage looks at the basket. Kilsyth kept their heads cool and chipped away at the Miners’ buffer zone, eventually passing them to lead 17-13 at the first break.
The pace of the game went up another gear in the second period as the transition defences of both teams were put to the test. The size advantage of the Cobras began to emerge as a factor, with their size and reach making life difficult for Ballarat’s slashers.
Heading into the fourth quarter the Cobras had their noses in front by a point. The aggression of both teams on both ends of the floor was outstanding, but the Miners appeared to carry most of the momentum.
The Cobras were able to withstand the Miners’ run-and-gun passage and tied the game with four minutes left. It was then Kilsyth’s turn to turn up the defensive pressure, as they limited the Miners to three points down the stretch, winning 56-48. Curtis Putney was the Cobras’ best player, finishing with 24 points.
In the championship division, the Northside Wizards (QLD) and the Hawthorn Magic (VIC) clashed on centre court, with the two undefeated teams putting on a show. The points flowed early and often, with both teams aggressive with their shot selection.
The Magic attacked the basket hard, and thanks to some terrific spacing in transition they were able to generate some good looks. The Wizards’ use of aggressive outlet passes also made them dangerous on the fast break.
In the second quarter, the Magic’s skill from three became a big factor and put the Wizards on the back-foot. The game remained incredibly free-flowing in the third quarter. Both teams took early shot-clock looks, as the ball rapidly went from one end of the court to the other.
After three-quarters of hard running, the fourth quarter became a battle of wills. The Wizards put relentless pressure on Hawthorn’s interior defence and took the lead with five minutes remaining.
Both teams threw themselves into the teeth of the opponent’s defence, and the game became a free-throw battle. With seconds remaining the Magic took the lead and were able to stop a last-minute prayer from the Wizards, winning 67-65. Despite being on the losing side, Julius Wardzinski had an incredible game, finishing with 29 points.
In the shield division, the North Adelaide Rockets (QLD) and the Mackay Meteorettes (QLD) faced off for a place in the final round. Adelaide’s defence looked rock solid early. They forced Mackay to shoot very late in the shot clock but an inability to stop Mackay getting offensive rebounds undid some of their efforts.
After having difficulty scoring in the first quarter the Rockets looked much more aggressive in the second period. Upon getting rebounds they ran hard and unleashed long outlet passes. Mackay responded by putting enormous pressure on the Rockets’ ball handlers. The Meteorettes also punished some defensive miscommunications by the Rockets and took a six-point lead into the half-time break.
The game remained in Mackay’s control in the third quarter with their patient offence bearing more fruit than Adelaide’s more aggressive approach. On the back of some terrific three-point shooting, the Rockets surged back into the game in the fourth, closing to within two-points with two minutes remaining. The lead changed hands several times in the final minute, but Mackay was able to hold on, winning 43-42. Monique Bobongie led the Meteorettes with 20 points.
The Sale Sonics (VIC) and Melbourne Tigers (VIC) met in an all-Victorian semi-final in the championship division. Both teams had difficulty scoring in a scrappy and defensively focused first half.
Sale were the first team to get their offence firing in the second quarter. Their positioning under the basket allowed them to get some easy points late, while the Tigers found scoring difficult, courtesy of the quick hands of the Sonics guards.
Melbourne was able to throw the chains off in the third, hitting a three on their first possession. They were also able to get some easy baskets under the rim, as they began to pull away from the Sonics.
Sale was able to keep in touch with Melbourne following some timely three-pointers, but could not close the gap the Tigers had built in the third quarter. Melbourne continued to creep ahead throughout the fourth quarter, comfortably winning 47-38. Bonnie Autupana top-scored with 16 points.
For full schedule and results, make sure you check out today’s Daily Dribble here