Grafton Vikings Under 16s centre Jade McDonogh gets in the face of a Lismore Storm attacker at Tamworth.
Grafton Vikings Under 16s centre Jade McDonogh gets in the face of a Lismore Storm attacker at Tamworth. Basketball NSW/Facebook

Vikings defy odds to clinch first Under 16 NJL title

BASKETBALL: The next era of Grafton basketball looks to be in good hands with the Vikings representative Under 16s girls defying the odds to clinch the Northern Junior League recently.

The Under 16s title was a long time coming for the Grafton girls after they made the final of the tournament on three occasions in recent years.

It has been a roller-coaster season for the Grafton youngsters, who have managed to hold the ascendancy over most teams except for long-standing rival Lismore Storm.

On two occasions during the regular season the Lismore side defeated the Vikings girls, including a 20-point thrashing on their home court.

That left the Grafton side nervous as it headed into the major semi-final showdown with the Storm on day one at Tamworth.

But under the guidance of coach Dan Boorman, the young Vikings put in a strong defensive performance to pull out a four-point victory and earn a trip straight to the final.

Proving themselves to be the dominant players in the competition the Storm defeated Coffs Harbour Suns in the preliminary final, to book another classic showdown with the Grafton girls in the final.

In a final that had spectators on the edge of their seats, a nail-biting fourth quarter with multiple lead changes came down to the dying seconds for Grafton pull off a 49-47 victory.

"It was incredible,” Boorman said.

"We got out to an eight- point lead with about five minutes left but we couldn't close it out,” he said.

"There were about five lead changes in the last two and a half minutes, but eventually the girls with their defence pulled out a couple of stops and were able to convert those into points to claim the win.”

Boorman had put a direct focus on the defensive efforts of his players, after a tough NJL season off the ball, and the improved efforts showed through at Tamworth as the Grafton side put the squeeze on the Storm.

Grafton centre, 15-year-old Jade McDonogh, said it was a great feeling to pick up the win, especially for her teammate Alex Dahl who has played for Grafton for the past six years without a title.

"We just all worked as a team,” McDonogh said. "We were a bit messy early on, but in the second half we started working together again and just gave ourselves a chance to win it,” she said.

"At the end we were all crying, and were a bit shocked, but so very happy. I was going mad telling everyone to just hold the ball.”

The Vikings girls will now go on to Sydney to compete in the State Cup on September 11-12.



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