CENTRE OF EXCELLENCE ROUND 14 RECAP
On Friday night, the men overcame a seven-point deficit with five minutes remaining to defeat the Eltham Wildcats 91-87 in a positive start to Round 14.
Angus Glover, who already had one of the dunks of 2019, knocked down two big three-pointers on his way to a game-high 29 points while Tamuri Wigness (18 points) and Lucas Schmidt (14 points) played important roles down the stretch.
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“We weathered an impressive attack from Adam Doyle and a number of our guys made big shots and showed tremendous poise,” said men’s head coach Adam Caporn.
“The spread of contributors in the fourth quarter was one of the pleasing things.”
The men were unable to get on the winners list again in Round 14, falling to the Hobart Huskies by 18 points on Saturday night before a late charge from the Southern Sabres on Sunday saw them overcome a three-quarter time deficit and win by four.
“Playing a triple-header with eight or nine guys is obviously a challenge but I thought all our players demonstrated that they have improved and we had a number of guys break new ground in their ability to execute certain things at this level.
“We learned some valuable lessons about being able to operate under fatigue and against different styles with a quick turnaround between games but that is why we are here- to test ourselves, get that feedback and improve.”
Hunter Clarke stepped up in the clash against Hobart with 25 points, while Wil Tattersall tallied 18 points, eight rebounds and three assists against the Sabres.
Returning from Greece where they represented the Australian Emus at the FIBA Under-19 World Cup, Wigness (15.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, five assists per game) and Josh Kunen (10.3 points, 7.7 boards, 1.7 assists) were also impressive with handling the work-load of a triple-header.
“Tamuri and Josh were fantastic in their commitment to come back to the group and lead us this round,” said Caporn.
“It would not have been an easy turnaround for them physically or mentally and it speaks highly of their character.”
A very successful weekend for the CoE women saw them double their win tally for the season.
Showcasing nerves of steel, every contest went down the wire but the CoE prevailed by four points over the Wildcats thanks a 26-19 final term, by six points over the Huskies and then by a point in double-overtime against the Sabres.
Jade Melbourne was the heroine against Eltham, scoring ten of her 14 points in the fourth quarter while Sara-Rose Smith and Kelsey Rees added an equal game-high 16 points each and Paige Price had 13 points on 3-8 three-point shooting.
Every player got on the scoreboard against Hobart, paced by an efficient Melbourne who had 18 points on 7-11 shooting, but they left their best for their last outing of the season on Sunday.
Down six with 4:30 remaining in regulation, the Sabres put together an 11-2 run to finish regulation and almost claim the win but Olivia Pollerd proved the saviour with a buzzer-beating three-pointer to send the game into overtime.
The CoE went up by four points in the extra period but Amelia Todhunter forced a second overtime with a late lay-up.
However, that would be as far as the game would go as Melbourne (29 points, 14 rebounds, two assists) scored five points in the last five minutes to give them an 80-79 victory.
Smith also collected a double-double of 18 points and ten boards while Pollerd scored 12 points on 5-10 shooting.
“We couldn’t have asked for a better scenario to cap off our season,” said women’s head coach, Kristen Veal.
“It was a culmination of the learnings from the two previous games of the weekend with the added bonus of three end-game situations where the team had to analytically think through time, score, calls and opposition strategy. We will take an enormous amount out of that game.”
“What was most pleasing in Round 14 was the girls’ ability to work through momentum swings and stay engaged in the battle even when down by ten or more points.
“It was great to see all the girls step up and make big plays across the weekend but more impressive was their commitment to doing what the team required at various stages of each game.
“Their ability to hold their nerve in so many close finishes is a a sign of maturity and growth from past games.”
With their regular season coming to an end, the CoE men finished with an 8-12 record and currently sit 13th on the ladder with one more round to come for the competition.
“I am really proud of what we have been able to achieve throughout this season,” said Caporn.
“For us, the team was divided into three parts with the graduating group playing their last season before World Championships and heading to college or NBL, another group of newcomers going through the rigours of improving their skills, bodies and leadership and a younger group that is earlier in their development stage and gaining valuable experience.
“I thought our graduating group demonstrated at the start of the season that they could compete with anyone in the league and the growth of Alex Ducas and Hunter Goodrick was exceptional.
Seeing guys like Clarke, Tattersall and Wigness grow into leaders and perform so strongly, particularly over the last few rounds, has been really rewarding and I think it’s obvious that some of our young talent right now is very exciting – many of whom are currently in Atlanta performing strongly in the NBA Academy Games.”
The CoE women earned a 6-14 record, moving to 15th on the ladder after a successful Round 14.
“The 2019 season for us was immensely valuable as it provided professional learning opportunities on and off the court while getting the girls to test themselves against some of the best senior players in the country,” said Veal.
“The season delivered our high-performance athletes a lesson in ‘win entitlement’ and the girls are more well-rounded, resilient and educated young players.
“Our focus now shifts to development mode where the athletes will work on building their strength and athletic capabilities as well as their individual and concept-based skills while also supporting our athletes as they work their way through the Under-19 World Cup and Under-17 and Under-16 qualifying tournaments.”
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