The 2017 Helloworld Australian U18 Junior Championships & Kevin Coombs Cup was held from 8-15 April, with the Kevin Coombs Cup starting on 12 April. Queensland performed exceptionally well, with Mel Downer, Brady Walmsley and Tom Kyle giving us the highlights from the week:
Mel Downer (Girls):
The U18 Queensland South Women went into this campaign as one of the firm favourites of the competition, having been Gold medallists at U16’s in 2015. The South ladies showed promise in the rounds with a 3 win, 2 loss record, including two dominant 25+ point victories to finish 2nd in their pool and send them into the quarter finals confident. Insert the U18 Queensland North Women’s team. The ladies from the North, lead by prominent basketball identity Jenny Froling, battled hard during the rounds in front of a loyal home crowd and snuck their way into 3rd place in their pool (2 wins, 3 losses), setting up an all Queensland crossover against the Queensland South women.
The quarter final was considered by some to be a nonaffair, but North Queensland were having none of it. Spirited on by the underdog tag, the Queensland North ladies were relentless in their approach, rolling over a stunned South Queensland to win by 6 points and silence their critics in the process. Unfortunately, the Cinderella story ended there, with a semi final loss to SA Metro and Bronze medal game loss to Victoria Metro to narrowly miss out on a coveted medal and finish 4th. The Queensland South women managed to bounce back from a disappointing quarter final appearance to finish 5th, including a gutsy overtime win over ex-Queensland representative Shyla Heal & NSW Metro.
Brady Walmsley (Boys):
The Queensland North Men’s team started the tournament at an electric pace, opening with a comprehensive winning display against SA Metro. Similar pool game performances would follow against NSW Country, Northern Territory, Vic Country, Tasmania and WA Country. By the end of the pool phase, the Queensland North Men were sitting comfortably on top of Pool B and appeared in the driver’s seat moving into the business end of the week.
WA Metro was the quarterfinal matchup. Due to their explosive individual talent, this was expected to be a dangerous crossover game for the Queensland North group. The likes of Wani Swaka Lo Buluk, Kyle Bowen and Callum Beard, had the star power to make this matchup a difficult one for the Queensland North team. After 40 minutes of competitive basketball, it was Queensland North who finished victorious, 91 – 59, with significant contributions from Sam Froling (25 points, 15 rebounds and 5 assists) and Kody Stattmann (20 points).
As the group advanced to the semi-final, they drew NSW Metro as their opponent. NSW Metro had opened the tournament with some key wins and had proven they were a team that needed to be taken very seriously. As the matchup started, it was NSW Metro and Isaiah Lee that took the early advantage. A clinical first quarter had NSW Metro in front. To their credit, the Queensland North Men gallantly worked their way back into the game and proved to be the better team over the full four quarters of basketball. The win required a number of contributions, including 32 points from Kody Stattmann, 22 points from Aiden Krause and 10 points, 15 rebounds and 8 blocked shots from Sam Froling. This win punched a ticket into the Grand Final against Victoria Metro.
As warm ups started for the 2017 U18 AJC Grand Final, it was a familiar matchup. Queensland North had played Victoria Metro in the Grand Final two years ago in the U16 age group. On that occasion, it was Queensland North that were ahead as the final siren sounded. You could tell that both teams were comfortable and confident on the big stage, setting up for a great Grand Final matchup.
From the opening jump ball, it was clear this game would be a dog fight. Queensland North would edge ahead, before Victoria Metro would respond and find their way back into the game. This was the storyline for the full 40 minutes. Heading into the fourth quarter, the Gold medal was still well and truly up for grabs. Early in the final quarter, Queensland North started to impose themselves and managed to take the lead out to 8 points with 5 minutes to go. As the game started to get away from Vic Metro, Sean MacDonald came to the party with a number of clutch three’s and timely offensive plays. It was back to even with a minute to go. In the final minute of play, it was Victoria Metro that executed more effectively and managed to find themselves in front as time expired, 79 – 77. Queensland North claimed the silver medal, with some tremendous individual contributions from Sam Froling (29 points and 13 rebounds), Kody Stattmann (24 points and 9 rebounds), Ryan Runnalls (17 rebounds) and Riley Clarke (10 points, 7 rebounds and 7 assists).
The Queensland North Men should be very proud of the way they represented themselves, their families, their associations and their state over the course of the week. Congratulations to all players, coaches and support staff. Further congratulations to Townsville Basketball Incorporated and Basketball Australia for the execution of a sensational U18 Australian Junior Championship event.
Tom Kyle (Wheelchair):
The Queensland Rolling Thunder Maroon and White teams have dominated the Kevin Coombs Cup in Townsville, playing each other in the Grand Final for the gold medal. The Maroon team went undefeated through the championships enjoying victories over NSW, Western Australia, Victoria and the Queensland White team.
“The team really pulled together throughout the tournament with everyone contributing to the team’s success,” said Head Coach Peter Sumpter.
Tom Kyle, Head Coach of the Queensland Rolling Thunder White team, was also proud of the players and team staff.
“This is a special time for Queensland with so much talent on the court and in our coaching ranks.”
“The gold and silver medal really highlights the hard work and commitment from everyone over the years, and we’re just so proud of what they have achieved at this championships. We hope to continue this success well into the future.”
Queensland Rolling Thunder Maroon (4-0 record) defeated Queensland Rolling Thunder White (2-2 record) 63 – 38 in the grand final. The official match report from Basketball Australia below stated:
‘QLD Maroon were the favourites heading into this contest and they lived up to the expectations, winning every quarter on their way to the gold medal. They started the game ominously with the first eight points and continually looked inside where they tallied a 52-18 advantage in the paint. QLD Maroon were simply too quick on the break while Tom O’Neill-Thorne (27 points, eight rebounds, five assists) and Tom Holland (12 points, six rebounds, four assists) combined for 14 steals to help them to 37 points off turnovers. QLD White were led by Anderson Parker’s double-double of 12 points and ten boards while Dylan Child combined 12 rebounds with eight points.’
The win secured the third national gold medal for team members Steven Elliott, Thomas Holland, and Ben Grice, who won their first national title with Queensland in 2014 and repeated in 2015. All three basketballers have enjoyed increased training and development opportunities through Sporting Wheelies and Disabled Association’s High Performance Program, funded through the Queensland Academy of Sport. Steven, Thomas and Ben hope to be named with other Queenslanders Dylan Child, Jake Fulwood, Tom O’Neill-Thorne, Anderson Parker, Bailey Rowland, Hayden Siebuhr, and Lachlin Synot in the Australian Spinners U23 Men’s team to be announced soon.