BENDIGO Braves have flexed their championship muscle on their home court by capturing a pair of state country titles on the weekend.
The Braves under-18 boys and girls both emerged as Basketball Victoria Country champions after scoring wins in Sunday’s grand finals at Bendigo Stadium.
They were nearly joined by a third team, with the Braves’ under-16 boys coming within one point of a grand final victory when beaten 65-66 in overtime by Maffra Eagles.
It continued a successful start to the year for the three Braves teams, who all reached grand finals at last month’s Bendigo Junior Classic.
The under-18 boys’ championship win reversed a disappointing grand final loss at the Bendigo Junior Classic (BJC) to Ballarat Miners, with the Braves victorious 77-35.
Victoria Country under-18 representatives Dyson Daniels (19 points) and William Smythe (15) inflicted plenty of damage for the Braves, who got strong contributions also from Caleb Connick (18) and Dylan McCauley (10).
Daniels and Smythe both averaged over 15 points for the tournament.
The Braves were able to restrict Miners star William Hynes, who led his team with 24 points in the BJC final, to just four points.
Fourteen points each from Piper Dunlop and Tess Barnes helped the Braves to an under-18 girls championship win over Traralgon T-Birds 51-45.
The Braves led at every change, and with Meg McCarthy (11) also in excellent touch, were able to post their second tournament win of the year.
Overtime was needed to determine a winner in the under-16 boys’ grand final between the Braves and Maffra Eagles, with the visitors holding on to win 66-65.
The Braves had trailed by four points before Macey Eaton hit a big three pointer to bring them within one point with 25 seconds to play, but the Eagles were able to hold on in the final seconds to win a thriller.
Liam O’Brien top scored for the Braves with 17 points, while Eaton chipped in with 11 and William King and Jacob Nihill contributed eight each.
The Braves under-16 girls team was eliminated from the championship race in the semi-finals after a 26-57 loss to Ballarat Rush.
A stoked Bendigo Stadium Limited general manager of sport Ben Harvey said the organisation could not be prouder of the efforts of its junior players, coaches and officials.
“It’s great to know that the pathways from the grassroots to the highest level for our athletes are really working,” he said.
“The state championships are the pinnacle of the junior program – it’s the best of the best - and to see all four teams make semi-finals, three reach grand finals and two win titles is absolutely outstanding.
“It’s good to see all the hard work that is put in to these events from coaches, staff and the players has paid off.”
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