Shepparton Gators take two titles at BVC Junior Championships

By Alex Mitchell

Shepparton's under-16 girls confirmed their reputation as the club's golden generation by claiming the Basketball Victoria Country Junior Championships at the weekend.

The young Gators delivered just as they have all season, adding the state's country crown to previous tournament wins at Wodonga, Korumburra, Southern Peninsula, Shepparton and Bendigo.

In becoming the first Shepparton team to win the under-16 girls division one crown, the side produced an undefeated 6-0 record, but was regularly made to work hard for its wins.

“There were many times where we were down double-digits, but the girls would always stay positive and never give up,” coach Liam Wright said.

“The way they fought back was amazing and it started with really good defence, and they were pretty relentless with their execution.

“It was just an awesome weekend, and to this point the girls are still really excited — and they should be.”

The Gators went 3-0 in pool B to finish on top of their group, moved through to the semi-finals with a 42-30 win against Ballarat and kept things rolling on the grueling weekend with a 38-30 win against Sale.

But the final had the Gators dominate throughout, crushing Southern Peninsula 52-27 to raise the banner.

The side was brilliantly led by Hannah Onley and Isabel Whitelaw, who dropped 15.7 and 12.2 points a game respectively.

Greater Shepparton Basketball Association president Michelle Judd said the effort of every player had made the brilliant season possible.

“Liam has done an amazing job and with Isabel Whitelaw and Hannah Onley you've got two big strong presences inside which really helps,” she said.

“It's one of the most talented groups we've had in quite some time, and to be on the girls’ side of things is amazing. We hope to expand our program into the Big V in the next couple of years, so to have a really talented group is exciting for the sport in the region.

“The girls did an amazing job and carried themselves well on and off the court.”

The win earned the side a spot in June's National Junior Classic, the most prestigious junior basketball tournament in Australia.

● It proved a weekend of double delight for the Gators, with the under-18 boys claiming the division two title.

While two early losses ended the side's division one hopes, the side rallied and upped its game in a big way, winning its next four games to take the second-tier crown.

In the knockout phase, the Gators beat Warrnambool 51-44, Maffra 92-67 and Mildura 65-54 to get the win.

Coach Josh Waight said the fightback from the side had been impressive.

“It was a good way to finish the weekend, we started off not so great and lost a game we really should have won which put us in division two,” he said.

“But to the boys’ credit they really hit their straps and managed to make a positive out of the weekend.

“We were a bit more aggressive ad locked in defensively and we got a few stops that led to easy points that we weren't getting in the earlier matches.

“That was the last junior rep game for seven of our players, so it's good we could finish on a bit of a high.”

Tom Brown impressed throughout the tournament averaging 23.8 points a game, while Jordan Michel was also in outstanding form averaging 12.3.