By Hayley Wildes
For the Casey Cavaliers’ Big V Youth League 2 women’s team, season 2018 was all about the chance to create; create an environment conducive to success, create team chemistry and ultimately create some history.
But, as head coach Brad Rooff explains, it was about much more than just that.
“We want to live by the mantra of C.R.E.A.T.E,” he said.
“C stands for commitment, R for respect, E for effort, A for attitude, T for teamwork and E is enjoy – I said if we get the first five letters right, we’ll enjoy it at the end and that is what it’s all about.”
When the team was crowned 2018 Big V Youth League 2 women’s champions on Saturday night, it’s fair to say they enjoyed the moment.
After all, they’d certainly earned it.
Facing the Frankston Blues in a best-of-three grand final series, the Cavs -who had taken all before them in a 16-2 regular season – claimed game one on the road last weekend, 80-67, and returned home on Saturday night to finish the job.
In front of a raucous, 800-strong home crowd at Casey Stadium, the Cavs – despite their early struggles on offence – stayed in the game due to their trademark relentless defence driven by the likes of Steph Leclrec, Bec Jones and Lauren Tuplin.
Rebecca Peacock’s 11 first-quarter points were vital as she put points on the board when no one else could.
Casey’s second quarter offence wasn’t much better – yielding just one-point in the opening 5:30 of the term.
Still, they were just five points adrift of the Blues. A couple of Kim Shankland buckets got the team going on offence and at the main break a 35-32 deficit was the challenge facing the Cavs.
As they have done all season, these Cavs relished and answered the challenge.
With captain Tess Young bringing down rebound after rebound, the Cavs began the second half on an 8-2 run and when Tuplin – who was taking control of the game – hit a triple, the Cavs held a four-point lead.
Casey weren’t satisfied though. Their run continued and with just under four minutes to play in the quarter, Casey held a 52-41 lead on the back of a 20-6 run.
To Frankston’s credit, they responded with some big buckets of their own and Casey held a four-point lead with one quarter standing between them and the championship.
The fourth quarter began with both teams trading buckets and with 4:13 left on the clock, scores were tied at 73-all.
With the crowd riding every play, you got the sense it was going to take something special to split the teams.
That’s exactly what the crowd got.
Having surrendered the lead with one-minute to play, it was Rebecca Peacock who stepped to the fore and drained the biggest shot of the season.
Peacock’s triple from the top of the key gave the Cavs a two-point lead with 50 seconds remaining and Tuplin also rose to the occasion down the stretch with two clutch buckets to seal a memorable championship win for Casey, 89-84.
Rebecca Peacock’s impressive post-season was capped off with grand final series MVP honours after posting 23 points, 4 rebounds and 4 assists in the most important game of the season.
Superstar Lauren Tuplin – who is in with a real chance of claiming league MVP honours – was sublime with 22 points, 5 steals and 3 assists, while Tess Young (17 rebounds, 15 points, 4 assists) was enormous on both ends in an inspired effort.
“It’s always been the focus for us to stay strong defensively – everyone talks about the offensive structure, but defensively we wanted to make sure we made a statement.” Championship-winning coach Rooff said.
Rooff’s team was focused on defence and it was the process that kept them going throughout the season.
“This [win] is an end result and it’s because we stayed true to ourselves the whole way through,” he said.
“We took it one game at a time and stepped it out – it wasn’t a case of just having big plans, it was about having mini goals along the way that we needed to achieve.”
Rooff also talked about the importance of the home crowd and how his team fed off that energy.
“Oh my goodness, it was just sensational how the crowd brought the noise,” he said.
“We went in at half time saying we’ve got the support of the crowd, we’ve got the support of our teammates; it’s now or never – that’s what it is all about.”
After claiming the Youth League 2 crown, the Cavs move up to Youth League 1 next season. That’s a challenge Rooff and his squad is looking forward to.
“There’s a promising future here and we have aspirations of going in there and making some big noise in Youth League 1, so that’s our goal.”
In further Casey Big V news, the Division 1 women, after claiming the first game of their grand final series against Warrnambool, fell in games two and three at home over the weekend.
Despite the disappointment of a grand final loss, the Cavs fought valiantly all series and fell just short of a championship. Tanarly Hood led the way, tallying 34 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists over the two home games.