WARRACKNABEAL basketballer Chloe Bibby and the Vic Country under-18 team were denied a gold medal in the grand final of the Australian Junior Championships on Thursday night.
Vic Country faced off against arch-rival Vic Metro in the gold medal match after both went through their pools undefeated.
Vic Metro was the favourite to win the tournament, having won six of the previous 10 women’s grand finals.
Vic Country has not won an under-18 women’s gold medal since 2000.
The grand final was a see-sawing affair, with neither side able to grab a clear advantage.
Vic Metro raced out to a five-point lead in the opening minutes before an offensive rebound and putback from Bibby gave Vic Country its first points.
Vic Country led by a single point at quarter-time and trailed by a point at half-time.
Playing with a sore hip after falling awkwardly in the semi-final, Bibby struggled to impose herself on the game in the first half.
She had just six points at the long break after leading her team in scoring throughout the tournament.
She responded with a better second half and finished with 14 points and seven rebounds.
Vic Country trailed by six points with 1.08 left in the game, but cut the lead to just three points after a Bibby free throw and a Chantel-Anais Horvat two-pointer.
A huge upset was on the cards momentarily, but Vic Metro was able to retain possession and make crucial free throws to come out with a 75-70 win.
Bibby said the team was far from dismayed at the grand final loss.
“It is a bit disappointing that we couldn’t get the win, but I’m really proud of all the girls and what we achieved,” she said.
“We didn’t even think we were going to get to the grand final at the start, just because there were a lot of good teams in the competition.
“Sometimes we got a bit flustered out there because it was a grand final and the atmosphere was incredible, but I think everyone is happy with the way they played.”
Bibby said she looked forward to returning to play for the under-18 Vic Country team next year.
“Half of our team this year was bottom-age, so hopefully we can come back next year and get the gold.”
Bibby thanked her friends and family for their support and credited her team physio for getting her ready to play in the grand final after hurting her hip.