Action from last weekend’s Victorian Country Championships featuring Wonthaggi Coasters Under 18s.

Action from last weekend’s Victorian Country Championships featuring Wonthaggi Coasters Under 18s.

Wonthaggi Coasters Under 18s talking tactics during a break in the finals at Bendigo on Sunday.

AFTER a gruelling weekend of play in the annual Victorian Country Basketball Championships, Bass Coast and South Gippsland teams have come away with one championship and plenty of fine performances.

Winning the weekend in inspiring style was the Wonthaggi Coasters Under 18 boys’ team, who surged through to the Division 2 grand final on the back of a great semi-final performance against VJBL powerhouse team Ballarat, winning 40-34 in the semi and going on to defeat Wallan Panthers in the grand final 29-26.

The Wonthaggi Under 16 Girls made the semis and the Korumburra Wildcats Under 16 boys made the Division 1 quarters.
It was all the more meritorious for the local teams with training and lead ups heavily impacted by COVID restrictions.

“It was a particularly good effort seeing we had hardly played together because of the COVID,” Coasters Under 18 championship coach Cam Lean said.

“We were supposed to have the tournament at Warragul the week before to work things out but that was cancelled, and we basically went away to Bendigo without having played together as a team.

“But the guys have played a lot of basketball and they knew what to do.”

Cam agreed the semi-final match against strong VJBL team Ballarat was the team’s biggest challenge and finest effort of the weekend.

“We’d played against them in the rounds and really could have won that match, so we gave ourselves a good chance but they’re a very strong association.

“We got out to a bit of a lead early and held that through to half-time but they came at us strongly in the third period.”
According to the coach, the last quarter was a superb one by all players with some nice steals resulting in valuable points but also with Harry Scott leading the way with 19 points including a three-pointer and two goals from the field in the last term to keep a surging Ballarat at bay.

“We had a really nice passage of play near the end, getting the ball to Archer (Reid) on the side for two points which really iced the cake in that game. We got a tech foul too that put us on the line near the end.

“The boys were really pleased to win that one and go through to the grand final.”

The semi-final score line was Wonthaggi Coasters 40 def Ballarat Miners 34.

In the final, both teams, Wonthaggi Coasters and Wallan Panthers, looked spent, after a full weekend of tough competition and according to Cam, both teams played the zone well with shooters finding it hard to penetrate.

“We probably took a few too many speculative shots for three and I said to the boys to use our height advantage and to get the ball closer to the ring.

“We established a bit of a lead early and the closest they really got to us was at the end. They were fouled going for a three-point shot with a few seconds left on the clock and their player went to the line with the chance to send it into extra time, but he missed the first two. He missed the third on purpose in hopes of getting the rebound, but we recovered the ball and held on.”

Final result: Wonthaggi Coasters 29 def Wallan Panthers 26.

Coach Lean said there was no doubt the new facilities at Wonthaggi were starting to play a role in the association’s better performances.

“Obviously we’ve had the COVID holding us back, but we’ve had record numbers registering to play at all levels since we opened the three-court stadium and I think we’re going to see a tremendous upswing in basketball in this area over the next few years.

“That’s only our second Country Championship, after the girls won Division 1 a few years ago and went on to the nationals but I’m sure we’re going to see more of them from now on.

“The association has a great group of people running it who are all there for the right reasons, for the kids. I’m just so proud of them and also of our boys the way they played together as a team. It was a great effort.

“It was also good to see their matches on the Herald Sun live feed. We got a lot of feedback at home from people who were watching it. That’s got to be good for the sport locally as well.”

Cam also paid tribute to the Korumburra Under 16 boys who won through to the Division 1 finals after a strong run in round robin play on Saturday, making it through to the quarter finals.

Wonthaggi Coasters had three teams in the country championships.
• Wonthaggi Coasters U16 Boys (Division 1 and 2) best result def Pakenham 48-37, quarter final loss to Maffra 54-56.
• Wonthaggi Coasters U16 Girls (Division 1 and 2) best results def Macedon Ranges 39-34, defeated Colac Kookas (quarter final) 39-31, narrow loss in semis to Ballarat Rush 31-37.
• Wonthaggi Coasters U18 Boys (Division 1 and 2) best results def Southern Peninsula Sharks 73-59, quarter finals def Mildura Heat 33-31, def Hamilton Hurricanes 49-28, semi def Ballarat Miners 40-34 and grand final def Wallan Panthers 29-26
Korumburra Wildcats had two teams in the country championships.
• Korumburra Wildcats U16 Boys best results defeating Horsham Hornets 49-59, and Wangaratta Warriors 41-25, close match with Sale Sonics and winning through to the Division 1 quarter finals where they performed strongly against Geelong, losing 51-42.
• Korumburra Wildcats U18 Girls best result defeating Southern Peninsula Sharks 44 to 36 and playing off in the quarter finals, losing 22 to 38 against Bellarine.