In-Depth: Wolves Win Championship in Overtime Thriller

The 2022/23 Basketball Season reached its climax as Wolves and Forget Me Not Jets took to the arena court for a thrilling Championship Final on Thursday. Both teams arrived in high spirits from the play-offs the previous week, Wolves having fought through injuries to overcome Cavaliers while Jets notched up a decisive victory over Turkeys. Each side was near full strength the only exception being Wolves rising star Oscar Lace, who is recovering from a shoulder injury, and so as the crowd took their seats and the music died down the stage was set for one of the most exciting finals in recent memory.

Wolves opened the scoring with a solid inside move from Cameron Scott and drive by Michael Pardoe, but it wasn’t long until Jets engines were roaring, with a quick return from Wayne Mears and a strong post move from Michael Baker that had the teams neck and neck. It was a finely balanced competition throughout the first quarter, but Jets found success in breaking the Wolves full court man press and drawing fouls, forcing an early change in Wolves defensive strategy. Renewed defence from Corey Pinder and Kyle Mills disrupted Jets offence and stopped them from building significant momentum but a swish 3-pointer from Tom Dalton-Brown along with drives by Mears saw Jets edge ahead, but only by a single basket. Wolves’ offence produced in the form of mid-range shooting from Ben Campbell and Ben Takken to keep the game close, score 15-17 to Jets at the end of the first.

Jack Murray evened up the scores in the opening play of the second quarter with a nice shot from the top of the key under defensive pressure. The tie didn’t last for long though as Mears again delivered and was joined by Jake Glover on the scoresheet, with his trademark pace down the court. The combination of Mears and Glover allowed Jets to take off and a succession of baskets saw them start to pull away, building a 12-point lead going into the final two minutes. Wolves shooting was patchy throughout the second but a late set of baskets from Pardoe and Takken, joined by Viktor Capkanovski, narrowed the gap. At half-time Jets had a 7-point lead, 28-35, and the game seemed to be going their way.

Outside shooting was decisive in an intense third quarter battle between the sides. Ross Wilson and Viktor Capkanovski were early to produce from outside the arc for Wolves, made even more impressive by the former having just returned from a 3-week ankle injury and still showing some signs of stiffness. Jets game shifted to the inside and it was Pete Boussougou who provided the goods with some great post moves, including one impressive baseline reverse layup. The quarter was a closely contested affair that could have gone either way, both teams working hard to capitalise on every opportunity in offence and defence. It was Ollie Smith who found his mark outside the 3-point line, swishing the shot, and giving Wolves the quarter by a single point, 16-15, but Jets still held a 6-point lead in the game, 44-50, going into the fourth.

Wolves fight back stepped up a notch in the final quarter with effective team defence providing a solid wall against Jets offence and denying them any sustained runs. Impact came on offence in the form of Harry Brindle who found routes through the Jets defence and set some effective on-ball screens for quick hand offs on the pick-and-roll. Paul Kilic kept Jets in the lead, with two great baskets followed by a pressure free throw that he sank without hesitation. The game was nerve-rackingly close after the efforts of Brindle and Capkanovski had slashed the Jet’s lead to a slender 3-points with two minutes remaining on the clock.

Both sides worked hard in the final minutes to shut down on defence and find any opportunity on offence, and it wasn’t until the last 30-seconds that a breakthrough came. Quick movement from Wolves drew in the defence and allowed a kick out to Wilson who sank a deep 3-pointer to cheers from the crowd and tying the game, 61-61. Jets immediately called a time-out and advanced the ball to the front court as they sought a game winning shot with 21-seconds remaining. Wolves defence held the line and a turnover from Jets gave them the ball with barely a second to go, running out the clock and sending the game into overtime.

Basketball is a game of momentum, and it was Wolves who carried it into the extra period. Boussougou hit an inside shot to give the lead to Jets, only to find a 3-point return from Capkanovski snatching it for Wolves. Kilic sank two free throws to put Jets back in the lead by one, only for Mills and Brindle to post 4-points and steal the lead back for Wolves seconds later. They held the lead for most of extra time, though the game stayed on a knife edge until the last minute when Capkanovski sank a 3 and followed it up with two quick breaks off the steal. The final buzzer brought heartache for Jets and elation for Wolves who won a thrilling game, 75-67, and were crowned 2022/23 Season Champions by the Association Chair, Trudi Crellin. Top scorer for Wolves was Viktor Capkanovski with 25 points, while Peter Boussougou topped the scoresheet for Jets with 16 points.

The basketball association would like to thank all players, coaches, officials, and supporters for a great 2022/23 Season. Basketball will take a short hiatus now before continuing over the summer with a fun scratch court session ahead of the start of the 2023/24 season in September. Details of the summer court will be announced in the coming weeks.

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