ECHUCA Junior Pirates held its annual tournament in Echuca in early October.
On top of fielding teams of their own, the tournament saw over 90 teams from across the state take part.
The under 12a boys had a strong showing in the tournament, with an unlucky loss in the semi-final seeing the team finish third in their age group.
The team was incredibly well prepared by their coach Jordan Hutton.
The team, which fielded six debutants in their nine players, took part in division one and showed improvement every game.
The team worked hard for the duration of their matches, putting together impressive passages of play, as well as good defensive intensity throughout their matches.
The highlight of the weekend was a thrilling two-point victory over Yarrawonga.
With scores tied at 33-33 with just 6 seconds left on the clock, Hutton called an opportune time-out and from the subsequent play, Darby Jones secured victory for the Pirates scoring with just one second to spare.
For the under 12b boys, nerves were high before the opening game against Benalla, with multiple players making their first appearances as Pirates.
With only seven players in their team, fitness was tested, but the boys never gave up.
With matches against Wangaratta, Craigieburn and Wodonga — teams who are always strong competitors — the boys did not give up, continuing to show their strong work ethic and team spirit.
Coaches Lisa McLean and Lokki Somerville were highly impressed and look forward to the teams development heading to he next tournament later in the month.
It was the first appearance as pirates for a few of the under 12 girls.
Game one saw a close result, with the Pirates going down by one point to Yarrawonga.
The girls showed improvement going into each match, getting stronger and more confident working as a team.
A full squad performance saw the team put in a solid tournament.
The under 14a girls had a great start to the tournament coming up against Wangaratta.
The team did miss a few chances to run away with the game, but came out winners in the end 28-22.
In game two against a very strong Shepparton side, the Pirates overcame a number of injuries to produce a strong performance, but fell short in the end.
The third match against Warrnambool had a very even first half.
The second half saw the Pirates put forward a stellar performance to claim victory, leaving the team equal second on the ladder at the close of Saturday’s play. Sunday opened against Yarrawonga/Mulwala, a strong team who the Pirates have met on multiple occasions.
The match was a shoot-out, with both sides going goal for goal for the majority of the match, before the Pirates hung on in the later stages.
The under 14b girls also produced a number of solid results, winning two of their four matches.
The opening match against Phoenix United was highly competitive, with the Pirates falling just shy of the win.
Saturday’s matches saw the Pirates claim victory over Riddell Creek Rapture and Wangaratta, before falling to Benallain the final game on day three.
The under 14a boys came out fired up in the opening game, but Craigieburn showed a bit more polish around the rim and opened up a small lead.
Despite some strong work by the Pirates, Craigieburn crept away, taking the game by 15 points.
The Pirates were determined to give a good account of themselves following the loss, and started game two at a frenetic pace.
With a great team performance, the Pirates were rewarded with a comfortable win.
The Pirates started game three against Wangaratta strongly, and good shooting in the second half saw the Pirates take a comfortable win.
With the final in sight, the team focused on its defence in the final game, where a strong team performance saw a Pirates victory, though the side fell short of the grand final on percentage.
The under 14b boys also made an appearance in the tournament.
The tournament opened with a game against Rochester.
While the Pirates put up a solid performance, the result did not come.
Games against Myrtleford and Riddells Creek followed, and while the side played some high quality basketball, both matches resulted in losses.
The Pirates gave their all across the tournament, but were unable to get the results they wanted.
This gives the side a clear set of goals for the next weeks of training in preparation for upcoming basketball.
The under 16 girls campaign saw the team line up against the Shepparton Gators on the opening night at Echuca stadium.
The Pirates played a defensive style, constantly applying pressure and forcing nine fouls in both halves.
The whole side contributed, but unfortunately the side dropped the opening game 42 to 22.
Game two against Wodonga saw a strong effort from the Pirates, though they fell to a strong Wodonga side 44 to 15.
The Pirates continued to give their best in their third game against Wangaratta, but they dropped the match 53 to 16.
Despite the results, the side made their way into the semi-final against Wodonga.
The results again didn’t go the sides way, with the team failing to make the grand final.
The under 16a boys tournament began against Wangaratta, and a strong start meant the team was well in the game at half time.
The second half Echuca suffered at their own hands, with a number of turnovers resulting in Wangaratta running out winners 40-24.
The Pirates continued their tournament against YarraMul.
Again turnovers were a problem and looked likely to throw a spanner into the works.
A solid performance from the entire team broke the first half duct, with the Pirates getting over the line 31-16.
The third game against Wodonga was highlighted by strong defensive pressure, leading to Echuca going into the break with a 10-9 lead.
The team continued to shoot well in the second half and this resulted in a 30-20 victory for the Pirates.
For the Pirates final game, the opponent was Shepparton.
Strong performances from the the whole side saw the Pirates trailing by just three points at half time.
Shepparton came out and produced all over court pressure and were accurate at the basket, getting away from the Pirates, who fell 31-43.
The tournament was the first time many of the under 16b boys had played together under the coaching of Gary Priestly, and the team were proud of their efforts.
Despite their strong efforts and team work, a win was not forthcoming for this tournament.
The side now looks to furthering their skill and development at future tournaments.
With just a few weeks of training under their belts, the under18 girls formed a close knit team and pushed themselves from the first game, opening with a 10 point win over Wangaratta.
The side worked hard in the second match, claiming a seven point win over Rochester.
For their third match, the Pirates came up against Shepparton, and came out with a 21-point win.
The side headed into the final game undefeated and face a tough encounter against Wodonga.
Once again the girls were pushed to their limits but ended up pushing out to a 10 point win.
With an undefeated tournament, the Pirates headed to the final against Wangaratta.
The Pirates started out strong, pushing out to a 20 point lead.
But Wangaratta made a late charge, pulling the contest back in the late stages. But the Pirates held their nerve, claiming a three point win to take the title.
The under 18 boys headed into this tournament with a combination of new and old players, and a new coach also taking charge.
The boys soon showed us that they were going to be a force on the court this year, with the experienced players combining well with the bottom aged players.
The Pirates started the tournament strongly, with a big opening win over arch rivals Wangaratta.
The Pirates proved too strong for Benalla in their second game, before losing to a very strong Wodonga Team in the third game.
The main stage of the tournament was finished with a win against Myrtleford in the final game, leaving the side three and one, earning a grand final berth against the unbeaten Wodonga.
Coach Lach Hiusmann asked his team to give their best against Wodonga’s strong shooting.
The boys took the message on board, giving Wodonga no room to move and blocking their shooting out.
The performance resulted in a second under 18 win for the Pirates, with the Pirates claiming the inaugural tournament of the year.
■All Pirates teams move now to the upcoming Swan Hill tournament in coming weeks.