Frankston are the 2018 Big V Youth League 2 champions after a miracle finish at home saw them clinch the series 2-0 against a gallant Pakenham.
Entering game two of the 2018 Big V Youth League 2 grand final series with a 1-0 lead, Frankston stormed back from 16 points down in the final period against a stunned Warriors side to steal the win in the dying seconds amid wild scenes at the Frankston Basketball Stadium.
The thrilling triumph came on the back of a scintillating 27-12 final quarter in which the Blues overcame the absence of Tristan Lloyd (college) and three players fouling out before the final period commenced, setting the scene for Mitchell Zuijdwijk to connect on the dagger three-ball to clinch the title.
Zuijdwijk may have hit the winning shot in registering 10 points for the game, but he was not a lone hero. Ryan Wells delivered 9 of his game-high 17 points in the final period, while his team-mates lifted when it mattered most in what was a complete team performance.
After the Blues got the scoring going, the Warriors demonstrated they had come to play, taking control of the contest mid-way through the opening term. Pakenham’s aggression saw Gryf Pugh and then Luke D’Alcorn head to the bench with two fouls each giving some cause for alarm for the Blues coaching staff. Josh Cleary and Wells however, managed to come up with some big shots to keep the Blues in touch. Yet Ned Weideman was on fire for the Warriors, pouring in 9 points for the period to ensure the visitors took a narrow 2 point lead into the first break.
Pakenham scored the first 8 points of the second term to have the Blues on the back foot. Emotions were running high, with Darcey Strauss called for a charge, then giving away an unsportsmanlike foul for his third personal, sending him to the bench to cool off. The Blues could not find the bottom of the net either, with Nathan Dodgson hitting at the other end to keep the Warriors in front by 8. Wells, Liam Doyle-Toombs and Tom Garrett were doing their best to keep the Blues in the game, but Tommy Greer and Weideman combined to ensure the Warriors led by 12 points at half time.
Garrett opened the scoring with a three-point play to cut the lead back to single figures to open the second half. However Pakenham Captain Lee Belton stepped up to lead from the front, stringing together seven points as part of a 9-2 run that pushed the margin out to 16. While Tyson Carr provided some much-needed scoring off the bench for the Blues, the margin ballooned out to 18, with Pakenham threatening to blow out the game. Yet the Blues never gave in, with Doyle-Toombs and Vincent Monaghan both scoring to provide the Blues faithful with some hope. But when Doyle-Toombs and then D’Alcorn fouled out late in the period, a late Carr score had the margin still at 14 and with the Blues in trouble.
A big trey from Garrett was just the start the Blues needed in the final term, but Dogdson responded with a score inside to keep Pakenham in control. Cleary and Wells combined for a mini-run to close the margin to 7, providing their team and the fans with renewed hope of an unlikely comeback. Four straight points to the Warriors silenced home crowd half-way through the period and halt the Blues run, but the home side were not yet done.
Strauss hit a three-ball to get the lead back to single digits, kick-starting an incredible run home for the Blues. Frankston’s defense was suffocating, and buoyed by a boisterous home crowd, looked to overrun Pakenham down the stretch. Wells stepped up with the big plays, hitting a monster three to edge his side to within 1 point with just over 2 minutes left. When Strauss stole the ball and scored on the breakaway, the home side had stolen the lead for the first time since the opening minutes with the crowd all on their feet. Against the run of play, Weideman hit a massive triple from the wing to stem the tide and put his side back in front.
Wells found himself at the line but hit just one, before Matt D’Arcy did the same for the Warriors, who remained 2 points in front with just over 1 minute to play. Pakeham had a chance to extend their lead, with Belton missing a three, but earning a second chance opportunity through D’Arcy’s offensive rebound. A three-pointer made was waved off however as it did not beat the shot clock which had expired, giving Frankston once last chance at stealing victory.
Head coach Glenn Eames called timeout to advance the ball and draw up a play with 33 seconds left. Swinging the ball around, Wells handed off to Zuijdwijk on the wing who launched an off-balance three that found nothing but the bottom of the net. With the crowd going berserk, the Warriors quickly launched one final, desperate assault, however Belton’s attempted game-winner was off-target, with the Blues securing a thrilling come-from-behind win.
Despite owning the paint with a rebound count of 50-36 in their favour, Pakenham went into their shell to protect their final quarter lead rather than going out to win the game, ultimately proving their undoing. The Blues forced the Warriors into 25 turnovers off 16 steals, converting them into 27 points and it proved key in the final quarter championship-winning run.
Wells added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and 4 steals with his 17 points to round out an impressive game and season. Clearly added 12 points with 5 steals in a strong outing, but the entire Blues team deserve credit for all their contributions in a brilliant team performance and a game to remember.
Best for Pakenham was Weideman with 15 points, Dodgson and Greer both adding 14 points, and Belton with 10.
Frankston once again has a winning senior team in their return to the Big V, earning a championship victory in a game that will be talked about for years to come.