After a big weekend in Bendigo, Ararat Redbacks backed up with a trip to Portland where, for the very first time, all three teams represented Ararat in Division 1.
With mixed results, our Under 18 boys were by far the most successful coming home with the goods after turning the tables on a relentless and skilled Terang.
Under 14 boys started the tournament with a win in a tight game against hosts Portland, 27-20, only to see the second game of the day blow out against a well-drilled Millicent, going down 19-50. Game 3 saw us play traditional rivals Terang and with a lead at half-time, things were looking good. Unfortunately, a late surge had Terang take home the points 32-31. Sunday's Consolation match had us up against Terang once again but again they proved too strong and this was the end of the road for their U14 Division 1 debut.
Under 16 boys were matched first game against Hamilton and with a full roster, hopes were high as to the competitiveness of the team in Div 1 but with the shots just not wanting to drop, Hamilton took an early lead and remained in front until the buzzer, Ararat 23 - Hamilton 39. Game 2 was a different proposition, with Millicent taking a win over Hamilton in its game. It was a rearing and aggressive Redbacks team that had Millicent on the back foot from the centre jump. The boys continued to apply pressure right through the second half and a fast-paced Ararat pushed Millicent right up until the final buzzer running out winners 35 - 26. Finishing second in the pool, Ararat came up against a strong Terang team to see its hopes for a finals birth come to an end, going down 26 - 35. For our U14 and U16 squads the experience of understanding the pace and expectation of a Division 1 competition was a steep learning curve but one they will take home with plenty to work on.
UNDER 18 BOYS
Vs Hamilton (Round 1)
Meeting this team in the Warrnambool Tournament back in October, we knew it would be a close encounter.
We stuck to the same plays as we did against them last meet, with a man-to-man defence. All seven boys gave 100 per cent. We gained an early break with 8-0 in the first five minutes, which saw the opposition change its defence. Not a high-scoring game, maintaining a 17-12 lead at half-time. Hamilton racked up the fouls in the second half, taking us to the line, however, foul shots are not our strongest point, but they do add up and they were the difference in this game. We finished the game with a win 36-30, giving us our first 3 points on the ladder.
Vs Portland (Round 2)
There are no easy games in this tournament. It's a matter of playing 40 minute matches, every game. This match saw each team gain the lead. We were 3 points down at half-time. Our man-to-man defence has served us well along with our offensive plays. The second half was similar but quickness on fast breaks and a few calls taking us to the line and converting these at the right time saw us come out with a 3 point victory.
Vs Terang (Round 3)
This would be the two undefeated teams playing off. It was always going to be a tough one. It was a physical game at both ends. We had the upper-hand at half-time with a 16-10 lead. After half-time, Terang was able to pick up a few easy baskets, take charge and run off with a 10 point break. We slowly bridged the gap with a couple of 3 point plays and a couple of 3 pointers. Unfortunately, we had run out of time, going down by 3 points.
Vs Portland (Semi-Final)
Another physical game from the word go. Our boys scored the first 5 points, with Portland having 3 out of the 4 fouls in that same time. With a 15 point lead at half-time, we were definitely in a good position but the game was not won yet. The boys maintained their desperation for the ball all game. Once again, our fast breaks and speed to get the ball down the court prevailed. It wasn't until the final minutes of the game, our opposition placed a full-court press on us. We were able to break it to continue to score and secure our way through to a tough but well-deserved win.
Vs Terang (Grand Final)
We met arch-rivals Terang. With a 3 point loss in our previous meeting, this could be anyone's game. We stuck to our game plan and what had worked for us during the weekend. Man-to-man defence for 40 minutes.
Scoring the opening points with a 3 pointer from Jezza Woods, is always a great start. We applied a half court pressure to get under the skin of Terang. In offence, the boys moved the boy well with some super strong drives to the basket by Tom Cousins and Will Lawrie. Our strong rebounders, Flynn Toner and Kobe Davis, are certainly not to be reckoned with. Some early fouls under the ring by Terang put us in a good position and took us to the line to convert. Every point was adding up at this stage of the game, with a mini break 11-7 halfway through the first half. Once again, the speed of Alex Van Opstal, fast breaks and quick passing did us proud. We had a handy 14 point (26-12) lead at the break. It was crucial to keep this lead. With the first 3 points scored by us in the second half, things were looking positive. Jordan Cox, a versatile player, was able to drive strong and sent to the line on a few occasions. With under 4 minutes to go, a 15 point lead was a good set up to take out this game. All seven boys played hard defensively, putting their body's on the line, they all took care of the ball offensively, running through the set plays and making them work to come out with the goods. It was impressive team play and a great turnaround. With the clock stopping in the final minute of the game, all Terang could do was foul. In our third tournament, we were able to conquer, coming home with the gold medal.
Coach Casanda Woods and assistant Mark Lever would like to thank the boys for their fantastic efforts. Also to team managers Cameron and Romaine Lawrie, and all the parents for scoring, getting their boys to the game and ready to play. Definitely a team effort.