BENDIGO basketballers Piper Dunlop, Meg McCarthy and Olivia Noter have narrowly missed out on gold at the Australian Under-16 National Championships.
The junior Braves trio were part of the Victoria Country team, which finished silver medallists behind Victoria Metropolitan in Perth.
In an all-Victorian grand final, Metropolitan emerged triumphant in an overtime epic.
Victoria Country had its chances to secure the gold medal and led the reigning champions with 40 seconds to play.
But a lay-up from Diamond Valley's Casey Valenti-Paea, who finished the decider with 17 points and six rebounds, sent the game into overtime after scores were locked at 69-69.
Victoria Metropolitan finished the stronger of the two teams to snare the title 87-73.
Ally Knights, from Geelong, led the way for Country in the final, with 29 points and six rebounds.
Dunlop had six points and six rebounds in the final, while Noter scored four points and had four assists.
Bottom-ager Dunlop had a fantastic tournament, averaging 13.44 points and 9.33 rebounds through nine games.
She had a personal-high 21 points and eight rebounds against New South Wales Metropolitan and twice scored 18 points, against New South Wales Country and South Australia Metropolitan.
Top-age player Noter averaged 7.11 points, 3.22 rebounds and 1.78 assists, her standout game coming against Northern Territory when she had 13 points, four rebounds and four assists.
McCarthy, who like Dunlop is a bottom age player and eligible for next year's under-16 championships, averaged 2.22 rebounds and 1.89 assists in restricted court time.
Victoria Country coach Joe Turner said he was proud of the girls’ efforts.
"It's the first country medal for under-16 girls in a while, so they deserve it," he said.
"Unlucky with the (grand final) result, so now we know we have to take the next step forward, but happy with what they were able to achieve over the week.
"I always believed they could make it this far – the group has had amazing belief since day one that they could get the job done.
"We didn’t expect it to be easy and we didn’t expect setbacks along the way, but they never lost belief, we never lost belief, it was just a matter of taking care of the next game and getting better each game and they did that."
Meanwhile, Bendigo's Dyson Daniels produced some great performances for the Victoria Country boys, including an 11 point game in their final classification match against Western Australia Country.
Daniels averaged 8.88 points, 4.75 rebounds and 1.75 assist through eight games.
He had his tournament-high of 18 points and 11 rebounds in a loss to Queensland Country and scored 15 points in an early week game against New South Wales Country.
Young Bendigo Braves coach Tom Thorn was an assistant with the boys team.