The Shepparton Gators’ under-16 girls started the Victorian Junior Basketball League season on Friday with a draw against Keilor Thunder.
It is the first time in almost 25 years a female side from the region has competed in the VJBL, with the Gators qualifying for the third tier of the competition (Metro two).
Coach Tony Long said it was great to be part of history in the making and to be able to bring top level junior basketball to the region.
‘‘The last time a girls’ side went down was about 1993, but back then they had to play all the matches down in Melbourne,’’ he said.
‘‘It’s fantastic for the girls in Shepparton to be able to play at that level of basketball every week.’’
The Gators started well at Keilor Stadium, with the visitors dominating the court on the defensive end.
‘‘We got a jump on them, our defensive work was great and we got a few steals early,’’ Long said.
‘‘We really pushed them for most of the first three quarters.’’
Eventually the Thunder lifted and a thrilling final few minutes saw the match finish a draw with the scoreboard reading 32-all.
‘‘They obviously came back in the end and jagged a draw as we got tired,’’ Long said.
‘‘But it was a great first hit-out for the season, the girls worked really well.’’
The under-16 boys travelled to East Doncaster Secondary College to take on the ladder-leading Bulleen Boomers, but failed to take the points in a tough encounter.
‘‘A couple of things we want to pride ourselves on is our effort and our intensity, we know that if we bring that to every game we’ll do well,’’ coach Josh Waight said.
‘‘To their credit the boys definitely worked hard to the end, which was good.’’
The side was not helped by the unavailability of a few of its stars due to school camps, but Waight said it allowed more players to step into the limelight with increased game time.
‘‘The weight of numbers wore us down in the end, but it gave an opportunity for those that don’t play much to get on court,’’ he said.
‘‘The boys all definitely stepped up and made a case for more minutes in the future.’’
The final score was 67-45, leaving the Gators in seventh spot in pool two.
Friday will see a VJBL double header at the Shepparton Sports Stadium, with the girls starting at 8.40pm against Broadmeadows, before the boys clash with Knox an hour later.