Benalla is taking over country basketball thanks to Benalla locals Chelsea Gilcrist and Loni Stickland, who helped the Wangaratta Lady Warriors win the CBL championship on Saturday night in Wodonga, while also being picked for the Big V representative side The Bushrangers, who are coached by another home grown Benalla local Mick Hales.
All three were born and raised in Benalla and are putting basketball on the map, thanks to some incredible play and dedicated coaching.
The Bushrangers coach Mick Hales says he is incredibly proud to be representing his hometown in the Big V league, and is so excited for the opportunity to coach Benalla locals.
‘‘They are both really exciting talents. They showed that on the weekend for Wangaratta and they have improved out of sight. What a proud moment for Benalla and for the two girls involved,’’ he said.
Loni is described as a fierce inside presence with great hustle and really refined skills. She has also impressed with her maturity and leadership qualities.
‘‘Loni has a good strong body and does some really amazing work under the basket. I haven’t seen anyone able to stop her yet and she is only getting better. I’m really impressed by her hard work and leadership at the fitness testing we have done in the past few weeks.’’
Chelsea is one of the youngest on the team, at only 17 years old. She is way ahead of schedule in terms of development and Hales says the sky is the limit with his young guard.
‘‘Chelsea is incredibly fast on and off the ball and can run all day. She is already an asset to the team at such a young age and I can’t wait to see what type of player she can become,’’ he said.
While Hales said the girls have some improvement to make to their shooting abilities, he claims that they have already have the mental and physical skills that can’t be taught and their involvement in the Bushrangers can take their game to the next level.
‘‘Some of the physical skills they have are quite incredible. We have had a few personal training sessions so far and they really stood out from the group. It’s exciting to see how much they can improve this year with the Bushrangers and I have a really good feeling about the entire group.’’
Mick Hales has been coaching representative basketball for 10 years and has been the head coach of the Bushrangers for past two seasons. The team was winning most of their games towards the end of last year and the coach is optimistic about the team’s chances thanks to the core group of players staying together.
‘‘We really came together at the end of the year and we have some of our best players returning. I really like our chances to make finals and would be ecstatic if we could move up a division this year,’’ he said.
The Bushrangers will play in the Big V division 2 league this year, playing 10 home games in Wodonga and 10 away games in Melbourne.
For more information on the team, visit the North East Bushrangers’ website.
We wish Mick Hales and his two local stars all the best for the year.