Ararat junior Redbacks teams got their 2018-19 season underway in the first tournament of the season at the weekend.
Three teams comprising of under-12, under-14 and under-18 boys travelled to Hamilton to compete against teams across the region.
This was the first tournament the under-12s have played together as a team.
The team played their first three games against division one teams Warrnambool, Hamilton and Horsham on Saturday, dropping all of the matches.
Coach Craig Cooper said it was a huge learning curve for the Redbacks.
“To the credit of the boys they battled very hard against the strong opposition and they never once dropped their heads regardless of the pressure,” he said.
On Sunday the team played two games against the division two teams, Terang and Port Fairy, tough assignments and were not able to get the wins.
“They were able to compete well and were able to keep the scores down through the defensive pressure,” Cooper said.
Cooper said the boys showed resilience, spirit and character against the stronger experienced teams and showed improvement and played better as a team.
Under-14s competed in their first tournament of the season as a new-look team.
Co-coach Mark Dadswell said the boys went into their first game against Hamilton 2 with an open mind and eager to see what they were up against.
“With a solid first hit out the team came out on top winning 37 to 23. The early win gave the Redbacks confidence leading into their next two games,” he said.
With continual improvement the team defeated Koroit by 12 points and Portland 2 by 26 points.
The Redbacks played Hamilton’s division 1 team on Sunday morning, going down 49-17.
Dadswell said the team put in a patchy display and missed early opportunities.
“We were unable to match Hamilton’s quicker ball movement and pressure,” he said.
The Redbacks finished second in division two and came up against Warrnambool in the semi-finals.
Strong defensive pressure and forced turnovers kept them in the game early – but found points hard to come by in the second half going down by 11 points at full time.
Co-coach Mandy Sladdin said both herself and Dadswell were proud of the team’s efforts in their first tournament together.
“The team has come away from the tournament with a lot of positives and things to work on,” she said.
The under-18 Redbacks started the tournament strongly, winning both games easily on the Saturday.
The team had a tougher day on Sunday, claiming victory against arch rivals Terang by only six points.
The final game of the round was against the undefeated side Warrnambool, going down by eight points.
Coach Donna Spalding said the team played well in defense but was unable to convert when it mattered.
Ararat and Warrnambool were awarded a spot into the grand final after finishing in the top two positions.
Scores were level at half time 19-a-piece.
“We continued to apply pressure but were unable to find the hoop,” she said.
Warrnambool upped the tempo late and scored under the basket.
“We lost the grand final by 16 points. Adian Hateley, Will Lawrie and Luke Spalding played strong defense. Nathan Sladdin used his ball skills effectively in offense,” she said.
The teams now have three weeks to train and prepare for the Warrnambool Basketball Tournament.