Our latest eight CBL champions were crowed last night following the end of anther unforgettable Country Basketball League season across Victoria.
Taking the title in 2021/2022 has been nothing short of heroic from our sides who battled stiff competition across the league and the ever-evolving situation that COvID-19 has presented.
But in spite of the challenges of this year, the teams were focused on finishing the year and it made for an extraordinary Grand Final night held across the four conferences at Traralgon, Wallan, Maryborough and Horsham.
SOUTH WEST MEN
It was a night Horsham will never forget.
Half the town – maybe more - turned out to see the Hornets claimed a famous 87-80 CBL South West Men’s Grand Final victory over a gallant Portland. There were junior Hornets screaming for their favourites, getting signatures on posters, jerseys, arms, legs and even on their backs, just to lap up the incredible moment the Hornets took home the title.
It was an electric atmosphere across the stadium as neither side took a backwards step. There was no easing into this one – out of the gates both sides went from 0-100 in an instant. The tempo was fierce with everyone looking to spend it all early to take any advantage.
The brute force of League MVP Nathan Hardingham (28 points) under both rings – reeling in rebound-after-rebound and feasting on second-chance scores - was difficult prospect for the Hornets to curtail. Alongside Toby Jennings (15 points), David Denboer (18 points) and Jackson Dunlop (11 points), the Coasters were not going to head off into the night without a fight. Their indefatigable work-rate kept the Coasters in the contest and set the stage for an almighty second half after falling behind by six at the main break.
Toe-to-toe down the stretch – it made for outstanding basketball as the stands roared for every make or miss.
With proceedings all locked up in the dying minutes at 76-76, Horsham found one last ounce of energy to push through the resilient Portland defence as the likes of Matthew Lovel (18 points), Sam Breuer (15 points) and Mitch Martin (15 points) stood tall and made it count when it mattered most.
On the court named in his honour, you could scarcely wipe the smile off Owen Hughan’s face as he presented Horsham coach Scott Benbow and captain Mitch Martin with the CBL shield and the 2021/2022 South West pennant.
Matty Lloyd (16 points) was named MVP from the Hornets to cap off the night as the Hornets’ faithful kept the celebrations going long into the night… even with the Horsham tournament dragging most of them out of bed only a few hours later!
SOUTH WEST WOMEN
Bringing home its first CBL championship, Portland surged from the get-go to take out the CBL South West Women’s Grand Final to take a 71-49 triumph over Warrnambool.
Returning junior star Nicola Handreck (17 points) dictated the tempo and was hard to stop on the drive - pulling up to nail treys and mid-range jumpers. Her efforts put the clamp on the Mermaids’ offensive prospects too and earned her Grand Final MVP honours as the Coasters shone across the night. Millie Jennings (21 points) hit the lights out as well to guide Portland across the line.
Katie O’Keefe (18 points), Molly McKinnon (11 points) and League MVP Leah Bartlett (10 points) toiled for the Mermaids to keep the scoreboard from blowing out, but it was a night for the Coasters as they emphatically took the association’s first senior representative trophy back home.
NORTH WEST MEN
Echuca shone to take out an 81-58 championship triumph over Bendigo. Pirates’ star Luke Rosendale was named Grand Final MVP for his performance.
(Results to come)
NORTH WEST WOMEN
Holding on for a drought-breaking CBL championship triumph, Maryborough’s women took their first championship in front of a raucous home-crowd.
A 29-21 opening term set the stage as both sides surged out of the gates. Erin Condron (21 points) and Caitlin Richardson (20 points) continued their superb seasons in the finale as Bendigo started to drag back Maryborough’s early advantage.
It was high-energy throughout the clash but in the end the Blazers lit it up to hold on and take the title. The likes of Grand Final MVP Millie Cracknell (25 points), Maddison Egan (17 points) and Kasey Burton (14 points) led the charge for the Blazers to add some new hardware to the trophy case at the Delly Dome.
NORTH EAST MEN
Seymour’s superb season was capped off in style on Saturday night as the Blasters took a 66-54 victory over Benalla.
It was close throughout the clash, but in the end the Seymour salvo from Grand Final MVP Keenan Gorski (18 points), Jordan Hockley (14 points) and Tyler Best (11 points) proved too powerful. Eric Miraflores (20 points) excelled in the finale for the Breakers alongside Sam Beks (16 points).
NORTH EAST WOMEN
Picking up the first of their two titles on the night, Seymour’s Women shone from tip off to the final buzzer to take a 73-53 triumph over Wallan.
When the game was there to be won, the Blasters stood up and delivered. A 28-30 margin at the main break was turned on its head as the likes of Grand Final MVP Dyani Ananiev (27 points), Maddison Ford (25 points) and Leah Swain (10 points) raised the tempo.
In spite of the best efforts of Ruby Pantisano (13 points), Kaitlyn Wakartschuk (11 points) and Nicola Stewart (10 points), there wasn’t much to celebrate for the home crowd following the second-half surge from Seymour.
Turning on the afterburners, Traralgon picked up a 90-61 grand final victory over Warragul to cement its return to the league in style. After a one-season hiatus last year, Traralgon made its presence felt upon re-entering the CBL as it swept aside the Warriors to take the title in convincing fashion.
Christian D’Angelo (21 points) and Frazar Brouns (21 points) stole the show for the T-Birds as the Traralgon tandem excelled on their beloved home-court. A 27-10 first term was a sign of things to come from Traralgon as the team shone.
Warragul was well led by Graeme Radford (17 points) and Jarryd Moss (14 points) as they toiled gallantly for the Warriors.
Wonthaggi showed the league last night that nothing is ever set in stone in its 76-67 championship victory over Traralgon.
Knocking over an almighty T-Birds side on their home court is nothing short of a daunting prospect, but the Coasters – who have been newcomers to the league in recent seasons – shone in their first outing to the championship clash.
It was a McRae-fest on the Wonthaggi stat-sheet as Grand Final MVP Alana McRae (26 points) stole the show alongside Grace McRae (13 points) and Hannah McRae (13 points). The trio united emphatically to bring home the spoils of success and gave the Wonthaggi faithful plenty to cheer about at the stadium.
Samantha Labros (16 points), Laura Vannapraseuth (12 points) and Emily Scholtes (11 points) led the way for the T-Birds across the night and fought back through the middle terms to retake the lead entering the fourth term.