Two homegrown-inspired youth league titles have given Altona Gators reason for optimism over their future in Big V basketball.
The Gators have won this season’s youth league men’s and women’s division one titles with most players coming from junior ranks.
Gators’ coaching director Randy Shanklin told Star Weekly the double glory came after years of hard work.
“It’s been a long time coming,” he said.
“A lot of these kids have grown up through our junior system and reaped the rewards.
“We’ve put a lot of work into building a new culture at the club.
“For those two teams to set the example has been a fantastic thing for us.”
Altona had to regenerate its stocks after reaching youth league finals before.
The youth league women’s team lost more than just the 2012 grand final, with 13 players seeking higher league opportunities in the following two years.
It was a similar tale on the men’s side – they won a youth league one title and moved up to the championship, but their stay in the top division was short-lived, with players defecting.
With a more stable offering and both the men’s and women’s youth league teams in the championship division, the Gators should be able to hold on to their players this time around, and thrive.
“For a lot of years we lost a lot of our good players to the bigger clubs, because they thought they might have a better chance to make something of themselves at a bigger club,” Shanklin said.
“Now we can provide everything that the bigger club can provide.
“We’ll move up to youth championship next season, and be up there with all the bigger clubs.”
It was a sweet success for Altona’s youth league women’s team, coached by Shanklin and Emily Caruana, beating western rivals Werribee Devils 66-57 in the grand final at Altona Sports Centre.
Jessica Rarity peaked in the final, scoring a season-high 18 points to go with nine rebounds and six blocks.
Dana Lindemann dropped 15 points and reeled in nine rebounds, while Kobe King Howea double-doubled with 11 points and 13 rebounds.
“It’s an under-23 competition, and our average is 15.5 for the girls’ team, so we did extremely well this season,” Shanklin said.
The men’s youth league team, coached by Craig Bennett and David Nesbitt, held on to get an 82-76 win over Whittlesea Pacers in the grand final at the Altona Sports Centre.
Paul Tang was the star of the show for the Gators, with 28 points, nine rebounds, five steals and three assists, while Samson Rocker produced an efficient 19 points and eight rebounds.
“I think what I’m most proud about is the majority of them are those kids who have come through our program,” Shanklin said.
“David and Craig have coached some of those boys since the under 14s.”