Country spectators were treated to some extraordinary basketball to cap off a stellar 2021 CBL season. From Maryborough to Maffra, and Benalla to Colac, the cries of basketball filled Victoria last night and for those of you who missed it, here’s why…
NORTH WEST MEN
Maryborough Blazers 53 v. Bendigo Braves 64
GRAND FINAL MVP – Trent Leech (Bendigo Braves)
It was the Grand Final rematch we’d been waiting to see.
Maryborough Blazers had the home advantage and the confidence from last year that they knew how to secure a CBL title. The Bendigo Braves, however, had the bitter taste of their previous upset to the Blazers, and the undying motivation to recorrect the past.
Darcy Bond (nine points) came out of the gates for Maryborough to steal the ball with an intercepted pass and layup to the basket to secure the first points of the game. Bendigo came back with a roar to put some numbers on the board, but this only made Bond intensify his efforts and add another two points for Maryborough.
Bendigo led the way at half time but, down by only 18 points, Maryborough weren’t out of the game yet.
The game continued as a back and forth contest filled with intensity. Bendigo continued to work the ball with confidence, as if this game was what they’d been training all year. They moved with speed and the knowledge that their teammates would be there to catch any ball released.
Maryborough came fighting back suddenly in the second half with second place clearly not an option in their minds. Lachland Drummond (16 points) and Brady Neill’s former finals experience showed as they directed their team to keep their heads up.
The offensive fouls were off the charts, demonstrating the pure will power of both sides to get the job done.
However, with the Braves’ captain Jack White (18 points) and MVP Trent Leech (17 points) an unstoppable duo, Bendigo kept their lead for the entirety of the match.
In the end, Maryborough became the hunted and the emotions of Braves’ coach, Clayton Bell, after the game really said it all for the Bendigo bunch.
NORTH WEST WOMEN
Bendigo Braves 73 v. Kyneton Tigers 50
GRAND FINAL MVP – Madi Sexton (Bendigo Braves)
The Bendigo Braves did their town proud last night, bringing home the North West Women’s title for the second year in a row, after a performance even more exceptional than their 2020 season victory.
Kyneton leapt for the first goal in the game, catching the Braves off guard. Bendigo sped the ball down to their end in an attempt to quiet the Tigers. This set the tone for the match, one team shooting a cheer-worthy three-pointer, only for the other side to return the favour.
It was one point the difference going into the second quarter. Both teams pulled the ball in for dear life and held onto it like it was the physical title flag. The physicality of the game was something to behold and encapsulated the true grit of country basketball.
The efforts of Kyneton’s Brooke Mangan (10 points), Michelle Fletcher (10 points), Amelia Jarvis (five points) and Alex Strawhorn (11 points) reflected the team spirit the Tigers had demonstrated all season.
Going into the third quarter, the Braves switched into finals mode and assured their dominance as the team to beat in the North West. Sharna Appleby (23 points) shot for three-pointers like no tomorrow to contribute 15 points of them. Meanwhile, two-time MVP, Madi Sexton, shot with confidence and showed true leadership throughout the game.
The final minutes of the game saw Kyneton, the hardest team to box out in the league, increase their pressure over the ball. It almost seemed to be their final statement to declare ‘we deserve to be here and we’re not giving up’.
However, Bendigo’s lead was already secure, and the team of brave faces went back-to-back!
Maffra Eagles 85 v. Moe Meteors 71
GRAND FINAL MVP – Elliot Hunt (Maffra Eagles)
There was plenty on the line as Maffra set its sights on an inaugural CBL Men’s championship.
The shortened 2021 season, coupled with welcoming the Gippsland basketball community to its newly redeveloped home at Cameron Sporting Complex mean the stakes were high.
The Eagles desperately wanted to earn that maiden men’s CBL title on their court, in front of their friends and family.
It was a grand final for the ages played in high spirits on the Yvonne Higgins Showcourt as Maffra prevailed 85-71. The showcourt was recently renamed in honour of Maffra’s long-serving president, who despite currently undergoing treatment for cancer, was proudly on hand to see her Eagles soar.
It was a back and forth affair through the first half as the Whelans – Sam (19 points) and James (12) – gunned it out of the blocks for the Eagles. For Moe, the D’Angelo brothers – Luis (15 points) and Christian (12 points) – toiled for their adopted association alongside Josh Pearce (13 points).
The ball pinged up and down the court, but the relentless tempo started favouring the hosts. A narrow lead at the half had been boosted by three-quarter-time as the three-ball started peppering the Eagles’ basket.
Piece by piece the Maffra championship equation came to life… but there was plenty to still be concerned about even with an 18-point gap late in the clash.
While the margin ballooned, the Eagles’ faithful started fretting on a different tally… the foul count. One by one Maffra’s starters began to succumb to foul trouble and eventually fouling out altogether.
James Whelan and Sam Whelan had to watch on nervously as the Eagles went to its deep bench to get the job done.
Coupled with the long-range game up the other end of the court from Jayden Van Dyk (11 points) and there were some anxious faces in the Maffra audience.
But when the game was there to be won in the dying stages of the fourth, Maffra prevailed through Elliot Hunt (24 points) – who secured himself Grand Final MVP through an incredible effort at both ends under the ring – as well as Coby Burgiel (10 points) – who battled his own foul troubles but steadied the ship with some collected possessions down the stretch.
Warragul Warriors 84 v. Moe Meteors 68
GRAND FINAL MVP – Mikaela Dickson (Warragul Warriors)
It shouldn’t have gone to plan for Warragul this year… but sometimes fate has a different hand to deal.
The Warriors struggled to find coaches, they didn’t have a team manager and they put together a team on short notice once the all clear was given for the 2021 CBL season. Those would be a lot of excuses for a lesser side missing out on a title, but the Warriors dug in and united to take the title 84-68 over Moe on Saturday night.
Warragul’s roster played deep and had plenty of on-court generals to make up for its lack of coaches. Tanarly Hood (15 points) continued her elite showing throughout her CBL career, guiding from the coalface with her strong rebounding and inside/outside offensive prowess, alongside Grand Final MVP Mikaela Dickson (27 points). When the game was up for grabs, Dickson shut the door on the Meteors.
As she peppered the Meteors with the three-ball, the best efforts on the opposite weren’t enough to keep pace with the potent Warriors’ performance.
Despite tip-toeing foul trouble throughout the game, reigning Grand Final MVP Samantha Labros (9 points), continued to cause headaches even with the foul-out looming over her head. Every time she hit the court, it was a problem match-up and gave the Meteors a chance.
But those chances were few and far between, even with Abbey Noblett (16 points) and Caitlin Demczuk (14 points) also showing great signs for Moe.
In the end the Warriors shut the door on any hopes of a Meteors’ comeback as Shanara Notman (15 points), Pete Rhodes (nine points) and Myah Healey (nine points) amongst others all contributed to seal the deal and earn the Warriors’ the 2021 Gippsland Women’s championship.
NORTH EAST MEN
Seymour Blasters 80 v. Myrtleford Saints 53
GRAND FINAL MVP – Thomas O’Connor (Seymour Blasters)
After falling short in the CBL19/20 season, Seymour Blasters redeemed themselves greatly last night and secured their status as rightful champions.
The triumphant victory came at the expense of Myrtleford Saints who put up an incredibly tough front but couldn’t overcome Seymour’s finals experience.
Taking their conquests to Benalla, Seymour’s final 27-point win came as a result of the dynamic movement they executed across the court. Their pressure and playmaking from defense to offence saw them the top side of the night.
Thomas O’Connor, the game’s MVP winner, put on an impressive display to see 11 points, 17 rebounds and four assists by his name at the end of the four quarters.
Seymour’s title was won on the back of some incredible communication between Jordan Hockley (17 points), Tyler Best (16 points) and Robbie Sartori (13 points). The Mermaids were led by Tyler Barker (14 points) and Marcus La Spina (12 points).
NORTH EAST WOMEN
Seymour Blasters 62 v. Wodonga Lady Wolves 82
GRAND FINAL MVP – Caitlin Reid (Wodonga Lady Wolves)
In this epic Grand Final rematch, it was the Wodonga Lady Wolves who would have been feeling the pressure to retain their championship status.
After a valiant effort from the Seymour Blasters, history repeated itself last night and the Lady Wolves relived the feeling of winning the North East Women’s Conference Title.
Maddison Ford (20 points) and Hayleigh Frost (21 points) kept the Blasters in with a fighting chance. A tough physical contest brewed the entire game and tensions intensified as these old rivals provided the competitive country basketball expected.
In the final quarter, Wodonga appeared to have gotten inside Seymour’s heads and ultimately proved dominant on court to claim the title.
Caitlin Reid (28 points) was sublime alongside Charlotte Beaven (13 points), who racked up nine points from three pointers, and consistent shooter Jade McCowan (14 points).
SOUTH WEST MEN
Ararat Redbacks 108 v. Portland Coasters 71
GRAND FINAL MVP – Ethan Fiegert (Ararat Redbacks)
The Redbacks fought their way to the top last night to finish their season with a decisive 37-point victory against the Portland Coasters, taking home the South West Men’s Conference Title with exhilaration!
Despite teams playing at the mutual Bluewater Leisure Centre in Colac, fans from Portland and Ararat filled the stands with town pride to cheer on their much-loved CBL teams.
Ararat’s start to the game sent a message of absolute drive, with the goal of a win the only thing in their sights. While both teams played a strong extended court defense, it was the offensive rebounds that killed Portland in the first quarter and gave Ararat ample opportunity to take an early lead.
Ararat in the lead going into the second half (46-27), the Redbacks surged ahead as Ethan Fiegert (33 points) paved the way for his team.
The rest of the match followed similarly to the first half, Ararat providing great defense and consistent shooting, while the Coasters were chasing an already large margin.
The final quarter saw the Redbacks solidify their champion title, scoring 12 points to Portland’s 4 points in the first four minutes. By the end, Ararat’s win was confirmed, and the crowds couldn’t have been louder!
For the Redbacks, the best was brought by Ethan Fiegert, Zac Dunmore (18 points) and William Hynes (21 points). While Portland didn’t walk away with the win, it was still a special night for Jackson Dunlop who put up 24 points on the scoreboard.