WESTERN Australia was home to the NBL1 National Championships over the weekend, but it was Victoria that left the biggest winners.
Both the men’s and women’s teams from the south ended up taking home the chocolates on the big stage, as the Knox Raiders snagged the men’s title, while the women’s trophy belonged to the Bendigo Braves.
The tournament took place over the span of a weekend, with the winning side from each competition (and last year’s National Champions) locking horns for the ultimate NBL1 prize. As expected, there were some heavy hitting sides coming into the weekend, with some big names suiting up for their respective sides.
The Raiders’ performance in particular was extremely impressive, defying the odds of having just seven players available for a massive weekend of basketball. Knox was missing experienced frontcourt duo Mason Peatling and Deng Acouth, and faced an uphill battle in the championship game, coming up against last year’s winner in the Rockingham Flames, who certainly brought big game experience.
The Flames started the game by living up to their name, bursting out to a 14-2 lead in a red-hot opening term from the reigning champs. However, the Raiders were kept in the game by star Wayne Stewart Jr., who had an eye-catching first half, as Knox exploded in the second quarter to take a four-point lead into the main change.
Things were much tighter across the board in the second half, but the Raiders had an answer for everything thrown their way by the Flames. Captain Ke’Jhan Feagin delivered a simply superb performane on the big stage, as Knox held on for a five-point triumph.
Feagin was awarded the Championship Game MVP on the back of 27 points, two rebounds, nine assists and three steals, leading from the front when it mattered most and capping off an excellent couple of weeks. Stewart Jr. had 17 points in the first half en route to 19 for the match, proving vital in getting momentum back for his side after the Flames burst out of the gates.
Reigning NBL1 West Men’s MVP Devondrick Walker did all he could with 37 points on 14/22 shooting from the field and 9/12 from three-point land.
In the women’s competition, the Bendigo Braves capped off a perfect season with a huge win over the Norths Bears in the title match.
The Braves won all four quarters in a strong showing, justifying why they came into the tournament as favourites after an outstanding season in the South competition.
A huge performance from Megan McKay headlined the result for the Braves, posting a whopping 46 points and 15 rebounds in a truly dominant display on the big stage. Guard Kelly Wilson was also instrumental in setting up the play, finishing with a huge double-double of 19 points and 18 assists.