ECHUCA junior basketball teams took to the court in Bendigo for an action-packed three days across the Australia Day long weekend.
It proved to be a successful tournament for every team involved despite what the scoreboard might have shown.
Under 12 girls
The Pirates had a great Bendigo tournament finishing runners-up in division three.
The girls are training very hard and their continued improvement is great to see.
The tournament involved six pool games and two finals with the girls winning seven out of eight games.
Unfortunately they fell at the final hurdle to a much older and well drilled Wangaratta team in the grand final.
Georgia Beasley, Sadie Jones, Grace Napier applied continued pressure to the ball carriers leading to the tournament point scorers of Elise Napier (63 points), Diaz Agg (56), Jaz Milligan (44), Milly Morley (24), Violet Agg (7) and Milla Ryan (2).
Pool game results: Echuca (25) def. Ballarat (12); Echuca (22) def. Melton (8); Echuca (34) def. Horsham (18); Echuca (25) def. Colac (12); Echuca (31) def. Maryborough (9); Echuca (26) def. Bendigo (9).
The semi-final final was a close affair with Echuca (15) defeating Sunbury (9).
In the grand final, Wangaratta got away to an early lead with a 17-5 half-time lead.
The girls did a great job of getting back into the game in the second half but ultimately went down 31-18.
Under 12A boys
The boys had a fantastic tournament.
The team played five games of basketball in two days to earn a place in the grand final against Horsham.
Unfortunately, the boys went down by four points but they should be proud of their efforts.
Echuca was down by 10 at half-time, in some foul trouble and had some emotional boys.
However, they dug deep and fought back to pull the scores back with one minute and 40 seconds remaining in the contest.
Echuca missed some opportunities and an unfortunate foul sent one of the Horsham players to the free throw line.
The boys were devastated but we reassured them their tenacity and second efforts were absolutely amazing and they needed to be proud of the result.
The team has one more tournament then the Country Champs in April.
Echuca has now made it to three grand finals and taken out two of them.
A champion group of boys with a very dedicated and passionate coach.
Under 12B Boys
The boys had a tough tournament, but again showed their improvement, playing against a couple of really strong, tall sides over the weekend.
They finished with two wins from five games, but showed great improvement against a quality side that they have played previously.
With the Wodonga tournament only a fortnight away, these boys are really looking forward to giving it their best shot.
Under 14B boys
Our first game was against a talented Ballarat team.
Jai Hutson made some great two-point shots, while Bodhi Griffiths scored a wonderful three.
Strong defence came from Charlie Isaac, however, Ballarat played at an extremely high level, coming out winners by 23 points.
The next game saw the Pirates get a win by two points against CVBA Stars.
Jude Phyland led the way with seven points while Charlie Isaac and Zade Maschewski both shot five points.
Defensively, Liam and Bailey Shead were the strongest for the team.
In game three against Cobram, our highest scores came from Liam Shead and Zade Maschewski, with both boys adding six points to the team's score.
All players contributed strongly to defence with Echuca again, winning by two points and a final score of 22-20.
On Sunday, the boys first came up against an amazing team from Bendigo who had strongly beaten all other teams they had played thus far.
Unfortunately, it was the same story for our game, with Bendigo winning by a large margin and giving the Pirates some lessons in how to swarm defensively and make great driving space to the ring.
Echuca's top scorer for this game was Liam Shead with six points and the boys were truly valiant in their defeat, never giving up until the final buzzer.
Game five saw the boys tackle a team from Ararat who were physically imposing.
The boys tried hard to find strategies to counter the size of the other team and for a while they seemed to be getting results.
A few quick baskets in the middle of the second half, however, saw Ararat pull away and create a buffer that Echuca couldn’t get past, with the final scores of 36-21 not really showing the impact the Pirates almost had in this game.
In the final game on Monday morning against Colac, it was a nail-biter with the scores consistently shifting within.
Top scorers were Zade Maschewski with nine points and Bailey Shead with 8 points.
Paddy Barry was a standout at both ends with some excellent defensive moves and consistent strong work on offence
Unfortunately, in the final minute of the game, Colac scored to edge ahead by one point and then were awarded a foul.
As the Pirates were on nine team fouls, this gave Colac two shots which were both successful and put them three points ahead.
Despite a time out, Echuca's strategy to score a three (to tie the game with only seconds to go) was unsuccessful, giving Colac the win.
Under 14B girls
The girls had their best tournament for the season.
They came away with two wins, where they displayed great teamwork, strong rebounding and defensive play.
All the girls fought out games until the end and never stopped trying.
Under 16A Girls
The girls started the weekend with a tough loss to Warrnambool - playing well, but ultimately were just outgunned.
Game two against Traralgon was a better team effort with every player scoring.
Even though Echuca lost, it was a great team effort.
The best game of the tournament was against Geelong.
It was goal for goal until the final minutes with Geelong coming away with the win.
The final game of the pool stage against Ballarat was another tough game.
Echuca's consolation game on Monday against Horsham was another close on.
Echuca led by four points at half-time but unfortunately were out-scored in the final minutes, again going down.
The coach, Chris Hutton, was proud of the girls battling it out in the Championship Division.
It provided an insight of things to come at Country Championships.
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