Strong showing at Wodonga

By Deniliquin Pastoral Times

Deni Junior Giants hit the courts at Wodonga for the first tournament of 2020 on February 8 and 9, returning home with some fantastic results.

It was the Under 14 Girls who continued on their winning ways from 2019 to make their third consecutive grand final for the tournament season.

The girls faced arch rival Bendigo in the first round of the weekend and showed huge improvement from their last encounter going down by a close nine points.

The Giants knew they needed to lift to get another crack at a grand final, and in a close game against Echuca Pirates, they recorded a three point win.

In another tightly contested round three game the Giants had to settle for a draw against Albury Cougars, with scores level at 25-all at the final buzzer.

The tie was enough for Deni to secure a spot in the finals, with the Giants scoring a solid 10 point win in the semi final against Wangaratta Warriors to qualify for the decider. 

The grand final game saw the Giants go head-to-head with Bendigo once again. Deni scored the first points for the game and the excitement was obvious but the girls knew Bendigo wouldn’t let an early lead stop them.

Bendigo lifted in the last minutes of the first half scoring a quick three goals to give themselves a 9-5 lead.

In the second half Bendigo found their straps, scoring with every opportunity.

The Giants were unable to counteract Bendigo’s technical game, resulting in Bendigo taking the honours.

Despite the loss, Deni’s Jerrah Caruso was named MVP for the grand final game once again showcasing her superior ball handling skills.

The U16 girls also continued their strong form in Division Two taking on unknown Wagga Heat in the first game.

The break over Christmas showed with the Giants starting slowly to give Wagga a real chance.

The second half saw Annie Harvey and Mia Parks gain multiple steals and score off fast breaks to push the girls out to a 26-16 win.

The Giants started their second game strongly, putting Shepparton Gators under pressure early.

Bonnie Everett was the lead scorer with 16 points, working hard at both ends, to help Deni claim a 29-19 win.

The girls took on Wangaratta in game three. The game was tight with Wangaratta taking a small lead going into half time.

Annie Harvey led the way again in the second half scoring 25 points to be a completely dominant force in an impressive 37-17 win. 

The final round saw the girls take on Myrtleford Saints. The rebounding of Chloe Way and the steals from Jarrah Fitzpatrick got the Giants over the line 25-19. 

Deni finished the round matches undefeated securing a position in the semi finals against the might of Wodonga.

Wodonga had a tall centre who proved to be just too tall and the girls struggled to score going down 31-12. 

The U12 Boys team went into day one with only six players but that was not going to stop them, starting with a 25-21 win against Wangaratta Warriors.

Deni then came up against nemesis Tumut Timberwolves. At the first three tournaments the Giants had just fallen short of a win but this tournament was going to be different.

The boys drove hard to the basket causing the Timberwolves foul problems and the Giants were finally able to run away the winner 29-15.

A late Saturday game against unknown Wagga Heat and weary Giants players saw the boys unable to continue their winning way going down 24-18.

With the return of two players on Sunday the Giants were ready to take on the strength of Echuca Pirates.

The game did not disappoint with both sides going goal for goal to the final buzzer in a 20-all draw to close out the tournament.

Deni’s U14 Boys had one of their most successful tournaments and put in strong performances in all four games.

The boys finished with two solid wins and two close losses, including their top scoring game against Benalla 47-21. 

It was a breakout tournament for many players, with newer Giants Dexter Hardman, Zach Andrews and Sam Crossley putting in their best performances to date. 

The U16 Boys would consider Wodonga their best tournament to date playing consistently strong basketball and implementing their plays from training.

The Giants played hard physical basketball on Saturday which resulted in an 11 point loss to unknown Tumut Timberwolves, a win over Benalla Breakers 26-21 and a narrow three point loss against CVBA Sparks with a play set just before the buzzer.

Deni had a rematch against Benalla in a consolation final on Sunday afternoon.

Benalla were keen to even the ledger playing hard, aggressive basketball, but the Giants were able to maintain composure and come away with another five point win 28-23. 

The highlight of the tournament for the club was the first win for the U18 Girls, coming against Mansfield Eagles on Sunday.

Ellie Parks, Sophie Hill and Jade Hussey were strong under the ring  rebounding, defending and converting goals.

Molly Shaw, Macie Free, Abbey Wills and Gracie Willis were relentless all over the court, hustling their opponents, creating plays and driving to the key.

Unfortunately the girls lost their first three games on Saturday. 

The U18 Boys started strong in their first game against Wodonga Wolves, however were unable to hold off their opponent, going down by four points in the final minutes.

The Giants came up against a familiar opponent in their second game facing Narrandera, a team they had played school basketball against.

The boys started strongly getting out to a 10 point lead before Narrandera stepped it up and got the lead back with only a minute left on the clock.

The ball went back and forth before Darcy McManus was able to score under the basket resulting in a 33-all draw.

Tumut Timberwolves were the last opponents for Saturday in another physical game. Unfortunately the Giants showed signs of fatigue from their previous encounters and were unable to keep up, going down 32-9.

Feeling refreshed on Sunday morning the boys finished the tournament with a confidence boosting 10 point win over Mansfield. 

The tournament was a rewarding experience for the U12 Girls who went up a division after their grand final appearance in Shepparton. The girls took on unknown team Lakes Entrance as well as Albury, Bendigo and Mansfield.

Although unable to secure a win the girls were quite competitive and outscored their opponents for periods of time.

The U12 Boys development team had a tough weekend playing all their round games on Saturday. All players gave 100 per cent and have been working on individual and team objectives each game. This tournament the boys showed improved defensive pressure down the court and teamwork in offence. 

The Giants will travel to Benalla for the final tournament of the season at the end of February.