Author: Peter Williams

2021 NBL1 North wrap: Round 12

JUST a trio of North Queensland clashes in each of the men’s and women’s National Basketball League (NBL1) North divisions proceeded last weekend due to the snap lockdown announced on Saturday. The Friday night clash saw Townsville Flames win both games over South West Metro Pirates, with Mackay and Rockhampton winning their respective clashes over Cairns, handing the Dolphins and Marlins a combined four losses in Round 12.

WOMEN’S:

Tipping off on Friday night, Townsville Flames put up a big 29-point buffer on South West Metro Pirates, courtesy of a dominant first quarter. Piling on 31 points to 11 to open up a 20-point lead by quarter time, the Flames were unstoppable, winning all four quarters and holding the Pirates at bay. The home team did arrest the poor first quarter by only losing the next three by a total of nine points, but it would be too little, too late with the visitors winning, 80-51.

Mia Murray put up 20 points, as well as four assists, three rebounds and two steals, teaming up well with Steph Reid (21 points, six rebounds, four steals and two assists) for the Fire, while Micaela Cocks (16 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Jaimee Seebohm (eight points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) were also busy. Amanda Johnson was the standout for the Pirates with a double-double of 18 points and 12 rebounds, while Tylah King had the 10 points in the loss.

In the standalone Saturday clash, Mackay Meteorettes easily accounted for Cairns Dolphins courtesy of a massive first half. Keeping the visitors to just 24 points in the second half, the Meteorettes piled on 56 points themselves to lead by 32 at half-time. Cairns reduced the deficit to 24 by the final break, before the Meteorettes just poured on more in the final term with a 19-12 last quarter to win comfortably at home, 96-65.

Chelsea Brook was ridiculous picking up 23 rebounds Р16 defensive Рto go with her 32 points, four steals, two assists and two blocks. Skye Rees (21 points, eight rebounds and two steals), Courtney Virgo (16 points, nine rebounds) and Sara Storeshaw (13 points, four assists and two steals) were the other three double-figure scorers. For Cairns, Sarah Heard impressed with 19 points, seven rebounds and three assists, ahead of Leichlan Williams (16 points, seven rebounds and three blocks) and Felicity Crotty (12 points, six assists, four rebounds and three steals).

Rockhampton Cyclones handed Cairns Dolphins a second straight loss, winning by 20 points at Bravus Arena. The Cyclones scored 25-18 in the opening term to go up by seven, and edged ahead more at the next breaks. They led by nine at half-time and 13 by the final break, before scoring 20 to 13 in the last quarter to run out impressive 87-67 winners.

Annaliese Watkinson managed a game-high 25 points, paired with six rebounds and five assists. It was Lara McSpadden who stole the show though, recording 23 points and 16 rebounds in a double-double effort, while also collecting four assists and two steals. Tai Wakelin Fray (nine points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals) came close to a double-double for the Cyclones. Crotty (16 points, four steals and two assists) led the way, with Myra Donkin (14 points, two rebounds and three assists) and Emma Toombs (11 points, four rebounds) not far behind.

ROUND 12 RESULTS:

South West Metro Pirates (51) defeated by Townsville Flames (80)
Mackay Meteorettes (96) defeated Cairns Dolphins (65)
Rockhampton Cyclones (87) defeated Cairns Dolphins (67)

MEN’S:

Much like in the earlier women’s division game, the Townsville Heat mens side put South West Metro to the sword early with a dominant first half. They piled on 29 points to 14 in the first quarter to lead by 15 points, then extended that out to 21 by the main break. Maintaining that lead and adding one more by the final break saw them home and hosed, before the Pirates cut that point back in the last to go down by 21 points, 68-89.

Sam Froling (16 points, 12 rebounds and two assists) picked up a double-double for the Heat, as Jalen Patton-Croker (15 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Jackson Todd (15 points, four rebounds and two assists) both contributed plenty of points themselves. Keegan Tudehope was busy across all facets of the game with eight points, eight rebounds and six assists in the win. Jakobe Hunter (14 points, six rebounds) was the key player for the Pirates, as Ramy Kodi (11 points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Joel Matysek (11 points) were the other double-figure scorers.

Mackay Meteors took control early, overcame a Cairns Marlins fightback and then piled on the points in the third term to run out 19-point winners in a clash of big individual efforts. The Meteors raced out to a 13-point lead at quarter time, were cut back to just eight by the main break, and then blew out to 19 at the final change, to hold on by that margin in the end for a 98-79 triumph.

Harry Froling produced one of the performances of the season, dropping a ridiculous nine of 15 three-pointers, on his way to 40 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. He was far from the only eye-popping number-cruncher on his side, with Emmanuel Malou (12 points, 13 rebounds and five assists) picking up a double-double, and Jerron Jamerson (29 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals) nailing baskets from all areas on the floor. Anthony Fisher (18 points, two rebounds), Deba George (15 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) and Alex Loughton (13 points, four rebounds) were the key scorers in Cairns’ loss.

In by far the closest game of the round, Rockhampton Rockets overcame a disappointing first quarter to run over the top of Cairns Marlins and hand the Marlins their second consecutive loss of Round 12. The visitors dominated the opening stanza with a 27-15 opening term, before the Rockets clicked into gear. Only cutting into the lead by one at half-time, they reduced the deficit down to seven at the final break, then piled on 23 points to 13 in the last term to win by a narrow three points, 89-86.

Josh Wilcher (22 points, 15 assists, two rebounds and two steals) was phenomenal in picking passes on offence, teaming up with Kendall Stephens (21 points – five of eight from beyond the arc – and five rebounds) and Najeal Young (17 points, seven rebounds, six assists and four steals) in the win. For the losers, Fisher produced another big night with 24 points – five of six from three-point range – four rebounds and three assists. James Mitchell had 12 points, 14 rebounds and eight assists in an almost triple-double, while Loughton (17 points, five rebounds) and George (13 points, six assists and two rebounds) all hit double-figure points.

ROUND 12 RESULTS:

South West Metro Pirates (68) defeated by Townsville Flames (89)
Mackay Meteorettes (98) defeated Cairns Dolphins (79)
Rockhampton Cyclones (89) defeated Cairns Dolphins (86)

 

Picture credit: Kieron Place

Olympics review: Day 11 – Three of the higher four women’s seeds bow out in quarterfinals

THREE of the top four seeds following the group stage of the women’s basketball bowed out in upset quarter finals. Group winners, Spain and China both lost to France and Serbia who finished third and second in their respective groups, whilst Belgium – the highest finishing second side to earn a spot in the first pool – also bowed out, losing to Japan. The only result that went as expected was powerhouse United States rolling Australia in a battle of the top two nations in the world, but it ended up being a fizzer with a 24-point win going the way of the world number ones.

China (70) defeated by Serbia (77)

Serbia produced a memorable fourth quarter performance to run over the top of China in a come-from-behind win by seven points. Going ahead by two at the first break and at half-time, Serbia found itself in trouble when the Group C leader piled on 25 points to 14 to open up a nine-point advantage with a quarter to play, Lucky for the European nation, it was up for the task, pouring on 28 points to 12 in the lat stanza to win, 77-70. The teams were even across the board with basically nothing separating them on most stats, though Serbia were cleaner with 10 less turnovers (13-23), whilst scoring far more points in the paint (42-26).

Jelena Brooks scored a team-high 18 points, while Sonja Vasic (16 points, 10 rebounds) picked up a double-double, and Ana Dabovic (13 points, six assists) was the key facilitator. For China, Shao Ting managed the 17 points, six rebounds and five assists in a big effort for the losing side, whilst Han Xu (15 points, seven rebounds) and Li Yueru (12 points, six rebounds) were also busy across the match.

Australia (55) defeated by United States (79)

The top two nations in the world clashed, and it was the unbeaten world number ones who came up trumps, with United States putting Australia to the sword to win by 24 points, and end a disappointing Olympics campaign for the Opals. From the first tip-off it was clear the United States were on a mission, and the Gold Medal favourites never looked liked losing, piling on 26 points to 12 in the first term, the United States led by 21 at the main break. That blew right out to 29 by the final break, before Australia grabbed some consolation points in the final term to win it, but still lose by 24, 55-79. The United States were far more accurate (45 to 30 per cent from the field), had more rebounds (44-38) and assists (24-17), and punished Australia on points from turnovers (20-11), with a 17-point run coming at one stage.

Breanna Stewart led the way with 23 points, five rebounds and three assists for the United States, teaming up well with the likes of Brittney Griner (15 points, eight rebounds) and A’ja Wilson (10 points, four rebounds). Sue Bird (nine points, five assists) and Chelsea Gray (seven points, eight assists) were the key facilitators in the victory. Leilani Mitchell led the Australians with 14 points, six assists and three rebounds, followed by Cayla George (11 points, seven rebounds) in what was the Opals lowest score since the 2000 Sydney Olympics.

Japan (86) defeated Belgium (85)

The tightest match of the quarter finals came in a thrilling come-from-behind win from Japan that could have gone either way. The home nation led at quarter time over Olympic Games debutants Belgium by three points, but then found themselves down by a point at the main break and seven with a quarter to play. Storming home in an entertaining last quarter, Japan hit the front with 16 seconds remaining courtesy of a tripe from Saki Hayashi to go up by one, and whilst Belgium chewed up the clock to get the ball to Kim Mestdagh for the buzzer-beating attempt, it did not go in and the home nation advanced through to the final four with a one-point victory, 86-85. Belgium was more efficient from the field (51 to 47 per cent), though Japan had more three-point makes (14-11). The home team was beaten in most statistical areas, but dug deep and just found a way to win in the end by getting to the line more often and converting.

Yuki Miyazawa was the standout with a whopping seven of 13 makes from beyond the arc to total 21 points, three rebounds and two assists, leading the way with Maki Takada (19 points, four rebounds and two assists) aiding well. Himawari (12 points, seven rebounds) and Rui Machida (10 points, 14 rebounds) were the other two key players on court for the Japanese. Emma Meesseman was undoubtedly a standout for Belgium, amassing a double-double of 25 points, 11 rebounds and six assists, doing the bulk of the work with Mestdagh (24 points – seven of 11 from long-range – seven rebounds and five assists), while Julie Allemand (11 points, eight assists and four rebounds) was also impressive.

Spain (64) defeated by France (67)

World number three Spain joined Australia and Canada on the sidelines as top four nations out of the Olympics, falling to the fifth ranked France in an entertaining three-point contest. The French led by five points at quarter time, six at half-time and seven by the final change, holding the Spanish at bay to set up a huge final term. Spain came home with a wet sail, winning the term 16-12, and even having a three-point attempt off the hand of Maite Cazorla with four seconds remaining to tie the game, but it was not to be with France picking up the rebound and securing the victory. France was simply more efficient from the field (49 to 34 per cent accuracy), and had more assists (20-12). Spain topped the rebounds (38-36), dominating the offensive count (17-5), but it was France who won the defensive count (31-21) which contributed to the narrow 67-64 victory.

Martine Johannes was the key scorer for France with 18 points, five rebounds and four assists, teaming up with other double-figure scorer Gabby Williams (11 points, four assists and three rebounds). Alix Duchet (eight points, five assists) was important in distributing the ball on offence. For Spain, Astou Ndour hit 16 points and 11 rebounds in a massive double-double effort, while Cazorla (12 points), and Cristina Ouvina (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) also contributed throughout the game.

 

Picture credit: Reuters/Brian Snyder

Olympics review: Day 9 – Opals dominate second half to narrowly secure final eight spot

AUSTRALIA left it late but managed to grab a quarter finals spot in the Tokyo Olympics thanks to a huge second half, whilst Japan, United States and China all won their respective clashes yesterday.

Nigeria (83) defeated by Japan (102)

Japan moved into second place in its group with a 19-point triumph over Nigeria in a high-scoring performance. The home nation piled on 30 points to 22 in the opening term, then extended the lead to 13 points by the main break. Another high scoring term of 33 points to Nigeria’s 19, the margin blew out to 27 with a quarter to play, before the loser hit back to cut the deficit back to under 20, but Japan still saluted, 102-83. Nigeria scored at 54 per cent from the field to Japan’s 49 per cent, and led the rebounds (37-33), but the Japanese nailed a remarkable 19 long-range jumpers, and dominated the assists (34-26), as well as capitalised on points from turnovers (33-12).

Five Japanese players reached double-figure points, led by Saki Hayashi (23 points – seven of 11 from long-range – two rebounds and two assists). Yuki Miyazawa (19 points – five of eight from beyond the arc – and two rebounds) also found plenty of points, while Maki Takada (15 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Himawari Akaho (12 points, seven rebounds and five assists contributed in multiple ways. Victoria Macaulay (18 points) was the top scorer for Nigeria, with Oderah Chidom (13 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Ezinne Kalu (11 points, six assists and three rebounds) the other two key scorers in the loss.

France (82) defeated by United States (93)

The other Group B match which enabled Japan to grab second spot was the Gold Medal favourites United States holding off a determined France by 11 points. The French needed to keep the deficit to under 15 points to guarantee themselves a place in the next round, and they did just that with a hard-fought effort. Actually leading by three points at quarter time, the French fell behind by six at the main break, cut the deficit back to four at the final change, before falling away in the last as the world number ones piled on 22 points to 15 to win, 93-82. The United States shot at a higher efficiency from the field (56 to 45 per cent) and despite having less rebounds (30-34), had more assists (30-22) and more points in the paint (46-30).

A’ja Wilson topscored for the United States with 22 points, seven rebounds and three assists, teaming up well with Breanna Stewart (17 points, seven rebounds and seven assists). Tina Charles (15 points, five assists and two rebounds) and Brittney Griner (11 points, three rebounds) were the other two double-figure scorers. Endene Miyem (15 points, four rebounds) was one of six double-figure scorers for France, as Sandrine Gruda (12 points, six rebounds), Marine Johannes (11 points, seven assists and two rebounds) and Gabby Williams (10 points, five rebounds and three assists) contributed across the court.

China (74) defeated Belgium (62)

In a battle of the undefeated Group C teams, China grabbed top spot in the group with a 12-point win over Belgium. Whilst Belgium’s huge points differential – thanks to the massive win over Puerto Rico – ensured it would advance through to the next stage and avoid the three group winners, the second placed side still showed plenty of fight. Leading by four points at quarter time, Belgium found themselves down by a point at half-time, and then China crept away in the second half, outscoring Belgium 36 points to 25 to win by 12, 74-62. China scored at 52 per cent accuracy from the field compared to Belgium’s 41 per cent, including seven of 16 to just two of 18. They also led the rebounds (37-29) in the win.

In an even team performance, Li Yueru was the top scorer with 14 points, as well as eight assists and four rebounds. Li Meng had 11 points and seven rebounds, with Pan Zhenqi (10 points, three rebounds) and Yang Liwei (10 points, four assists) also busy. For Belgium, Emma Meesseman had a match-high 24 points in a huge effort, to accompany her seven rebounds and two assists. Julie Allemand (12 points, three rebounds and four assists) and Kim Mestdagh (12 points, five assists and two rebounds) were the other key scorers for the losing side.

Australia (96) defeated Puerto Rico (69)

Australia came back from a disappointing first half against lowly Puerto Rico to storm to a 27-point win and grab a quarter finals spot by the skin of their teeth. Despite needing to win by at least 25 points, the Opals trailed by two points at quarter time and only led by a point at half-time. The world number twos finally clicked into gear with a dominant 23-8 third term, before skating home with momentum in a 28-17 final stanza to just get over the line, 96-69. It was not without a cheeky last second three-point attempt from Puerto Rico, which, if it had gone in, would have eliminated the Opals. Australia scored at a higher clip from the field (46 to 38 per cent), had more rebounds (47-34) and assists (32-15), and less turnovers (12-17) which enabled the Opals to score more points from turnovers (20-8).

Marianna Tolo was enormous with a double-double of 26 points and 17 rebounds – seven offensive – as well as four assists. Cayla George (19 points, seven rebounds and five assists) and Jenna O’Hea (15 points, five rebounds and four assists) combined for seven of the Opals’ 12 three-point makes. Leilani Mitchell (12 points, six assists) and Ezi Magbegor (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) were the others to hit double-figure points. Jazmon Gwathmey (26 points, six rebounds and two assists) was the top scorer for Puerto Rico, while Pamela Rosado (13 points, three rebounds and three assists), Jennifer O’Neill (12 points, four rebounds and two assists) and Ali Gibson (10 points, six rebounds) were the others to impress in the loss.

 

The quarter finals are now decided, with the top two in the world going head-to-head in the United States and Australia, while Spain and France, China and Serbia and Japan and Belgium lock horns in the other quarter finals.

 

Picture credit: AP

Olympics review: Day 8 – Slovenian men and Spanish women secure pole positions in respective groups

SPAIN and Serbia secured their spots in the next round of the women’s basketball competition with wins to round out the preliminary stage of competition at the Tokyo Olympics, while the last men’s matches were run and done with Slovenia grabbing top spot in Group C, and Spain securing second.

MEN’S:

Argentina (97) defeated Japan (77)

Argentina finished up its group stage with a comfortable 20-point win over home nation Japan to secure a spot in the quarter finals. The South Americans took control early and opened up a 10-point lead at quarter time. Despite Japan hitting back in the second to reduce the deficit back to eight at half-time, Argentina took control in the second half and piled on 51 points to 39 to run out easy 97-77 victors. Leading the efficiency from the field (46 to 42 per cent) it was the South American’s ability to hit the three-pointers with 14 to six from beyond the arc. They also won the rebounds (48-39) and assists (27-16) in comprehensive fashion.

Luis Scola racked up a double-double with some eye-catching long-range shooting, making up five of eight from beyond the arc, to finish with 23 points and 10 rebounds in the win. Facundo Campazzo (17 points – five of nine from three-point range – 11 assists and seven rebounds) almost helped himself to a triple-double, while Gabriel Deck (16 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Marcos Delia (14 points, seven rebounds) were also consistent. Yudai Baba was one of five Japanese players to reach double-figure points despite the loss, with the Melbourne United talent recording 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Yuta Watanabe (17 points, nine rebounds) and Rui Hatchimura (13 points, 11 rebounds and two assists) were also dominant players off the boards.

Spain (87) defeated by Slovenia (95)

In a battle of the two undefeated sides, Slovenia grabbed top spot and avoided playing USA, France or Australia in the next stage of the Olympics, defeating Spain by eight points in a thrilling contest. The Spanish started the stronger of the teams, leading by four points at quarter time, before the Slovenians started to whittle the deficit back. It was down to three at half-time and two at the final break, before finishing the stronger of the sides with a 27-17 last quarter to win 95-87. Slovenia shot at a higher clip from he field (42 to 38 per cent), with more rebounds (51-41) and points in the paint (34-22), whilst Spain hit 16-12 three-pointers in defeat.

Luca Doncic came close to a triple-double in another outstanding effort, making 12 points and despite being inaccurate from the field – just two of seven – he had 14 rebounds and nine assists for his troubles. Vlatko Cancar (22 points, two rebounds) had the most points in the game, while Mike Tobey (16 points, 14 rebounds and three assists) picked up a double-double and Klemen Prepelic (15 points, three assists and two rebounds) was also lively. Ricky Rubio managed 18 points, nine assists and three rebounds for Spain, while Alberto Abalde (14 points, four rebounds) and Rudy Fernandez (12 points, five rebounds) were both solid.

The quarter finals draw was also decided with the eight teams qualified. Each of the three group winners – France, Australia and Slovenia – along with the highest ranked second side United States – were drawn against the other two group runners-up in Italy and Spain, whilst third placed Germany and Argentina also finished in the top eight. France will take on Italy, Slovenia will face Germany, Australia will meet Argentina, and in the biggest clash, United States will lock horns with Spain.

WOMEN’S:

Canada (66) defeated by Spain (76)

Spain concluded its group stage undefeated with a 10-point victory over Canada, officially knocking the North Americans out of the next stage of competition. The Spanish were on top from the first whistle, taking a 10-point lead into quarter time credit to their 23-13 quarter. That was the key difference in the game, though Canada cut the deficit back to six by the main break. Spain again got on top to win the third term 20-13 and blow it out to a 13-point advantage with a quarter to play, before Canada again hit back in the last quarter to win it 19-16 and put up a fight, but not enough as Spain won 76-66. The Spanish shot at a far higher 59 to 34 per cent from the field, and had the same amount of rebounds (34) despite being dominated off the offensive boards (12-1) by the Canadians. Spain easily won the assist count (29-14), and capitalised on points from turnovers (26-14) despite having three more turnovers (21-18).

Astou Ndour was the key scorer for Spain, putting up 20 points and 11 rebounds in a double-double effort. Cristina Ouvina (15 points, seven assists and two rebounds) and Alba Torrens (12 points, four rebounds and four assists) were the other two key Spaniards, with Queralt Casas (eight points, five assists and three rebounds) and Laura Gil (eight points, seven rebounds and five assists). Kia Nurse led the way for Canada with 14 points – four of seven from beyond the arc – two rebounds and two assists. Natalie Achonwa (11 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Laeticia Amihere (10 points, six rebounds) also reached double-figures.

Korea (61) defeated by Serbia (65)

It was a closer game than many predicted but Serbia did what Serbia needed to do, and picked up the victory against Korea. Firing on all cylinders early, Serbia led 17-10 at the first break and then extended the lead to eight by half-time. The underdogs hit back in the second half to reduce it back to six by the final break, and kept charging in the last to actually lead by three points with four minutes remaining, but could not score in the last four minutes, as Serbia scored the last seven points of the match to win, 65-61. Serbia shot at a higher clip from the field (40 to 32 per cent) and despite only nailing two of 13 from long-range, still did enough to produce the win.

Aleksandra Crvendakic led the way for scoring with 15 points, as well as picking up seven rebounds and four assists. Tina Krajsinik (14 points, six rebounds), Yvonne Anderson (12 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Jelena Brooks (11 points, three rebounds) were the other double-figure scorers for Serbia. It was a two-player show for Korea with Jihyun Park and Danbi Kim combining for 32 points, 13 rebounds and eight assists. Park finished with 17 points, seven rebounds and five assists and Kim had 15 points, six rebounds and three assists, as Ji Su Park came close to a double-double courtesy of her 15 points, 11 rebounds and five assists.

Picture credit: AP

2021 NZNBL team review: Wellington Saints

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series concludes with Wellington Saints.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 1st
Wins: 18
Losses: 2

KEY STATS:

Points: 96.2 (1st)
Rebounds: 36 (5th)
Assists: 17.8 (3rd)
Steals: 8.7 (1st)
Blocks: 3.7 (eq. 1st)
Field Goal %: 51.3 (1st)

KEY PLAYERS:

Dion Prewster

The captain led from the front all season and put up team-highs in points (18.2) and assists (5.0) to be crowned the NZNBL’s Most Valuable Player (MVP). His overall consistent effort – which also included 5.6 rebounds (third from the Saints) and 1.4 steals (second), showed he was able to accumulate stats across the board. He shot at 34.2 per cent from outside the arc, and 55.4 per cent from in it, doing most of his damage there and forcing his way to the foul line. He finished off at 82.9 per cent when shooting free throws to worry the opposition. Prewster only had single-digit points twice in the season, and both came with less than 20 minutes on court. In the overtime thriller against Hawkes Bay Hawks, Prewster put up 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, whilst earning himself a triple-double in the first semi-final. There, he managed 12 points, 10 rebounds and 10 assists in a remarkable effort that capped off a year where he had four games of 30-plus points.

Taane Samuel

The other All-Star 5 member for the 2021 season was Samuel, who was able to impress out of the front court, averaging 16.5 points and 3.8 rebounds. He shot at 43.8 per cent from outside the arc in a deadly accurate display, and 54.8 per cent from the field, showcasing his overall shooting characteristics. He earned a spot on the All-Star side for his accuracy, but also averaged 1.5 steals per game. After a quiet couple of games to start the season, Samuel only had two more games in single-digits, with eight games recording 20-plus points, including the grand final (26). His season-high came against Hawkes Bay Hawks mid-season when he put up 33 points and four rebounds, showing he was the Hawks’ Achilles heal.

Kerwin Roach Jr

Seemingly underrated all season, Roach Jr was the only Saints player to score double-figure points in every single match. He had 20-plus points in six matches, of which four of those came in the last month of the season. He averaged the second most points (17.7), rebounds (5.9) and assists (4.3) in his side, as well as the most steals (1.7) to be a terrific asset for the premiers. He only shot at 33 per cent from long-range which hurt a little, but he had such a high-volume of shots, he was always able to put up big numbers. Roach Jr further put an exclamation mark on his season, with a 16-point, seven-rebound and three-assist game in the grand final to earn the match’s MVP honour.

Tohi Smith-Milner

Coming out of the five spot, Smith-Milner was a menace for opposition sides, leading the Saints for rebounds (6.8) but still putting up plenty of points (14.5) to be fourth overall on his side. He was the fourth player (with the three above) to play – and start – in all 20 games, which made him very difficult to contain. Shooting at 34,4 per cent from outside the arc, Smith-Milner was able to hit his free throws when he went to the line (75.4 per cent) and was at greater than half of his field goal attempts (52.9 per cent). He only dipped into single digits five times, including in the first two games, but unfortunately two of them were in the last three games, including a nine-point grand final. He stepped up in a big way against his former team Auckland Huskies in the first final however, putting up 30 points and nine rebounds in a season-high for him. His best game came against Taranaki Mountainairs on July 2, recording a massive 25 points, 15 rebounds, three assists and two steals in that win over the bottom side.

OTHERS:

Two other big men who had the next most points traditionally coming off the bench were Leon Henry (9.0 points, 5.2 rebounds and 1.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (8.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 1.4 blocks), while Troy McLean took the court in every game starting on the bench, for 4.3 points and 1.4 rebounds from limited minutes.

SUMMARY:

There is not much to say for the Wellington Saints given their success of winning the 2021 NZNBL premiership tells the story. The minor premiers became the overall premiers, dropping just two games in total on their way to glory with four players starting every game, and consistency that was crucial throughout the year.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Giddey storms into the NBA after being drafted by Thunder

AUSTRALIAN teen sensation Josh Giddey is the latest young gun from Down Under set to light up the National Basketball Association (NBA) stage after being selected at Pick 6 in today’s NBA Draft. The Oklahoma City Thunder selected Giddey, who in turn became the highest Australian ever drafted directly out of the National Basketball League (NBL).

Plying his trade with Adelaide 36ers after a stellar junior career that included representing the green and gold on the international stage, Giddey averaged 10.9 points, 7.5 assists and 7.4 rebounds per game in the 2020/21 NBL season. He recorded back-to-back triple doubles, the only Australian in NBL history to achieve the feat, catapulting him into draft lottery contention.

Following on from the success of his NBL Rookie of the Year predecessor in LaMelo Ball (who won the subsequent NBA Rookie of the Year), Giddey said it was an unbelievable feeling to hear his name called out so early in the draft.

“It’s a dream come true so to be taken by the Thunder and to have them want me on their team it makes me feel really special and I couldn’t be happier,” Giddey said. “The Australian basketball community is really tight. So, to have those guys by my side and supporting me through this whole process has been really good for me.”

Giddey said the success of Ball and fellow NBL Next Star, R.J. Hampton allowed the Australian league to be broadcast on the international stage and show the worthiness of the competition in comparison to the NBA.

“Watching LaMelo and R.J. Hampton go through that same process and see how well their game translated from the NBL to the NBA gave me confidence going in that hopefully I can do something a little bit similar,” Giddey said.

“Lucky enough I did, I landed in a good spot and having LaMelo and R.J. with the attention they brought from America to Australia was big, and I was just lucky enough that the limelight was still on me at the time.

“They had so much attention on the league and it allowed me to go in there with lots of eyes on it so it was a good time for me to enter the league.”

NBL Commissioner Jeremy Loeliger said the league was thrilled that Giddey would take his basketball to the next level by living out his dream and entering the NBA.

“The entire NBL family congratulates Josh Giddey on being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder with the sixth selection,” Loeliger said. “This is the culmination of years of hard work from Josh and it is a day he and his family will never forget. Josh is a fantastic ambassador for Australian basketball and we have no doubt he will do us proud on the NBA stage.

“It is also a landmark day for Australian basketball and the NBL, as we further validate ourselves as a league that provides strong and legitimate pathways to the NBA. ”

Picture credit: Mark Brake/Getty Images

Olympics review: Day 5 – Spain complete double as Slovenia and Canada grab wins

SLOVENIA and Spain both booked their spots in the next stage of the men’s basketball at the Tokyo Olympics ahead of their final round clash, whilst Canada kept its hopes alive of remaining in the hunt in the women’s basketball, as Spain moved to 2-0 in the group.

MEN’S BASKETBALL:

Slovenia (116) defeated Japan (81)

Slovenia has completely dismantled home nation Japan in a 35-point win to set up an undefeated clash with Spain for top spot in Group C. Having earned the right to progress through to the next stage, it was a convincing win from the Slovenians, who won every quarter by at least four points. They lead by 12 at half-time and extended the lead to 16 at the final break, before showing no mercy in the final term with a last stanza belting of 36-17 to run away 116-81 winners. The largest margin of the game got to 38, with as many as 16 consecutive points at one stage. Slovenia was more efficient from the field (54 to 32 per cent) and destroyed the home nation in the rebounds (37-24) and assists (27-15), with most of their dominance coming in the paint (54-28) and off second chance points (18-12).

Luka Doncic had another big game with 25 points, seven rebounds and seven assists in 26 minutes, teaming up well with Zoran Dragic who posted 24 points, four rebounds and two assists. Klemen Prepelic (12 points, four rebounds and five assists), Vlatko Cancar (16 points, three rebounds) and Jaka Blazic (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) all hit double-figure points, with every player on the team putting up some points in a well-rounded team effort. For the Japanese, it was no surprise to see Rui Hachimura leading the way with a huge 34 points, seven rebounds and three assists, but Yuta Watanabe was the only other major scorer with 17 points, seven rebounds and two assists, while Makoto Hiejima finished with 10 points and three rebounds.

Spain (81) defeated Argentina (71)

In the late game last night, Spain remained undefeated to book its spot in the next stage with a 10-point win over Argentina. Trailing by five points at quarter time, the Spanish got back on top in the second term to score 20 points to nine and hit the front by six at half-time. From there, they held off their South American opponents, winning both of the remaining quarters by two, and posting the 81-71 win. Spain shot at a higher clip from the field (53 to 43 per cent) and had more assists (17-13) and less turnovers (20-24), though Argentina had more rebounds (35-30) and matched them in most other areas across the board.

Ricky Rubio was a one-man scoring machine for Spain, winning the game off his own hand with a massive five of six from beyond the arc to total 26 points, as well as five rebounds and four assists. Sergio Llull finished with the 10 points, while Pau Gasol (nine points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Victor Claver (nine points, two rebounds) were the next highest scorers in an otherwise even team spread. For Argentina, Nicholas Laprovittola caught fire from outside the arc, nailing five of nine from long-range and finishing with 27 points, four assists and two rebounds. Luis Scola (13 points, two rebounds) and Facundo Campazzo (10 points, four rebounds and three assists) were the other double-figure scorers.

WOMEN’S BASKETBALL:

Canada (74) defeated Republic of Korea (53)

In the battle of the Round 1 losers, Canada kept its hopes of progressing through to the next stage alive following a 21-point victory over Korea. In a strong defensive performance, the Canadians kept their opponents to 15 points and under in each quarter, whilst scoring 16 or more points in every quarter. Leading by eight points at the final break, Canada poured on 25 points to 14 in the last, to win 74-53. Neither team shot particularly well (39 to 34 per cent), but the Canadians dominated the rebounds (54 to 32), as well as making the most of points in the paint (40-30) and second chance points (15-6).

Bridget Carleton put up 18 points, seven rebounds and four assists in the win, as Natalie Achonwa (14 points, 10 rebounds and five assists) managed a double-double. Kayla Alexander (10 points, four assists and two rebounds), Shay Colley (nine points, seven rebounds) and Kia Nurse (nine points, four rebounds) were also lively. Ji Su Park (15 points, 11 rebounds and two assists) was the dominant player for the losers recording a double-double, whilst Danbi Kim (11 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Leeseul Kang (11 points, four rebounds) also hit double-figure points.

Spain (85) defeated Serbia (70)

In the other Group A match, Spain put itself in best position for the next stage with a 15-point victory over Serbia. Following their less-than-convincing narrow win over Korea in the opening game, Spain was much ore consistent in the second half, coming from a point down at quarter time and three at the half to post the victory. Spain took the lead by one heading into the final break, then stormed away with a 26-12 final term to run out an 85-70 winner. Serbia had more rebounds (40-34), but the Spanish were more accurate from the field (48 to 43 per cent), and also had more assists (22-20) and less turnovers (10-12). The final 15-point difference was the largest of the game.

Alba Torrens was a standout with her shooting, putting up three of eight from beyond the arc to finish with a game-high 25 points, as well as three assists. Astou Ndour came close to a double-double of 20 points and nine rebounds, while Maite Cazorla (17 points, two assists) and Christina Ouvina (10 points, eight rebounds, eight assists) were also strong, the latter agonisingly close to a rare triple-double. Jelena Brooks managed 16 points and four rebounds for Serbia, with Yvonne Anderson (15 points, eight rebounds and four assists), Sonja Vasic (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Tina Krajisnik (11 points, four rebounds) the other double-figure scorers.

 

Picture credit: Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

2021 NZNBL team review: Hawkes Bay Hawks

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Hawkes Bay Hawks.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 2nd
Wins: 14
Losses: 6

KEY STATS:

Points: 92.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 37.7 (3rd)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 8.0 (4th)
Blocks: 3.1 (2nd)
Field Goal %: 47.4 (4th)

KEY PLAYERS:

Devondrick Walker

A shooting machine, Walker was a sensational and reliable player throughout the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, putting up 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals throughout the year. Walker led his team in points, and was second in both assists and steals, showcasing his ball-handling skills. Nailing 70 of his 164 three-point attempts, the long-range shooter averaged 42.7 per cent from beyond the arc, always dangerous when lining up for the jumper. When he did occasionally get to the free throw line, he converted 84.6 per cent of the time. Walker put up double-digits in all bar two games he was on court, and amassed 20-plus scores in 11 games. In his last three outings, Walker had his most prolific games of the year – two of which were finals – in his final three matches to put up an average of 33 points and six rebounds across the three games.

Hyrum Harris

The well-balanced talent had another strong season backing up his 2020 year by leading his team in rebounds (8.1), assists (4.0) and steals (2.1), being the key facilitator for the Sharks like he was for the Jets last season. Again Harris fell short of a premiership medal, finishing runner-up for the second consecutive season, but he did everything he could during the year. He shot at 55.4 per cent from the field, and whilst his free throw shooting was down (just 66.7 per cent efficiency), he was still able to contribute across the court. Harris ended the year with 12 double-digit points games, including a run of five consecutive matches mid-season. His two finals saw outings of 19 and 22 points, both being double-doubles. In total, Harris managed six double-doubles, and stepped up when needed.

Ethan Rusbatch

The ever-reliable Rusbatch played all bar one game, and started in each of them, averaging 16.8 points per match to be second in his team behind Walker. He also managed the 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Rusbatch shot at a high 38.7 per cent from long-range to combine well with Walker from beyond the arc, and he managed an 81.8 per cent efficiency when he got to the charity stripe. His consistency was remarkable, with a run of 15 consecutive games in double-digits. Unfortunately his grand final (four points) was a quiet one, but overall he contributed to the team with seven rebounds. At one point in the season he had a five-game streak of 20 or more points, with his season high of 36 coming against Otago Nuggets on June 12, with a whooping nine of 15 triples in that game.

Rhys Vague

Whilst Vague played a few less games than the others (16, including 15 starting), he still did his part off the boards to be second overall behind Harris in rebounds (7.0), and fifth overall for points (12.0). He played his role each and every week, and shot at 36.8 per cent from outside the arc and 48.6 per cent overall, though support off the boards was his main job. When he got to the line, Vague hit three quarters of his free throws to be a reliable option there. Of his 16 games, 10 were in double-figure points, and he had the one double-double against Manawatu Jets on June 20, when he picked up 11 points and 12 rebounds, though he had an outlying 25-point game (the only match about 20 points) along with eight rebounds and five assists, against Otago Nuggets on June 12, dominating with Rusbatch.

OTHERS:

He was one of the more dominant players in 2020, and whilst Derone Raukawa was not as dominant in 2021, he still contributed 12.3 points, 3.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals. The two players coming off the bench with good numbers were Jonathan Janssen (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds).

SUMMARY:

The Hawkes Bay Hawks came within a basket of winning the overall prize, having the better of the Wellington Saints midway through the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, but could ultimately not finish the job. Nonetheless they can be proud with their efforts after not dropping a game at home all season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Olympics review: Day 4 – Boomers remain undefeated as US get on the board with dominant win

FRANCE and Australia remained the only undefeated teams after two rounds in the men’s basketball top two pools, with the United States getting on the board in a big way, and Germany keeping its hopes of progressing to the next stage alive.

Men’s:

Nigeria (92) defeated by Germany (99)

Germany set up a tantalising final group match with Australia after running away with a seven-point win over Nigeria thanks to a dominant final term. Following the loss over Italy, the Germans led by three points at quarter time, but Nigeria – searching for its first win of the Olympics – drew level by the main break. Neither team could be split with a 24-apiece third term, before Germany pulled away in the last, piling on 25 points to 18 to win, 99-92. They led the rebounds by seven (35-28), and were more accurate from the field (54 to 51 per cent), though Nigeria had more assists (22-19) and less turnovers (18-20), with double the steals (12-6).

Johannes Voigtmann led the way for Germany with 19 points, and seven rebounds, while it was Maodo Lo who was the facilitator, picking up 13 points and nine assists – though nine turnovers – as well as two rebounds. Moritz Wagner (17 points, three rebounds), Danilo Barthel (14 points, two assists) and Johannes Thiemann (nine points, 10 rebounds) were the other key Germans. Jordan Nwora was a lone hand on the scoring front for Nigeria, putting up 33 points – including seven of 12 from beyond the arc – and collecting seven rebounds and two assists. Miye Oni (15 points – five of six from long-range – and two rebounds) was the other double-figure scorer for the losing side.

USA (120) defeated Iran (66)

After a poor start to their Olympic campaign, the United States were finally able to celebrate an emphatic win, giving the fans some relief that the team formerly referred to as the “Dream Team” was not as bad as Iran. The United States had 60 points to 30 on the board by half-time and never looked like losing with another 60 points to 36 in the second half, to run away with the dominant 54-point win, 120-66. The United States had double the assists (34-17) and only six turnovers, dominating most statistics such as the shooting percentage (55 to 37 per cent) and long-range makes (19-9), as well as steals (10-3) and blocks (10-1).

Damian Lillard picked up 21 points, all of which were three-pointers (seven of 13), as well as five assists to be one of six double-figure scorers. Devin Booker (16 points, four rebounds), Jayson Tatum (14 points, four rebounds and two assists), Zach Lavine (13 points, eight assists and four rebounds) and Kevin Durant (10 points, five rebounds and five assists) all got in on the scoring act in a real team effort. Hamed Haddadi (14 points, seven rebounds) was the best for Iran, with Mohammad Jamshidijafarabadi (14 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Navid Rezaeifar (13 points, two rebounds and two assists) the other double-figure scorers in the loss.

Italy (83) defeated by Australia (86)

A third quarter flurry from Australia has helped the Boomers grab a vital three-point win over Italy and put themselves in best position to grab top spot in in the Pool stage. The Boomers trailed by a point at quarter time, before stepping up in the third to win the quarter 21-17 and lead by three at the final break, which ended up being the final margin, 86-83. Italy had a higher scoring clip (50 to 46 per cent) but Australia dominated the rebounds (44-30) and assists (26-16), with the Boomers capitalising on their second chance points (17-5).

Jock Landale topscored for the winners with 18, as well as seven rebounds and two assists in the win. Fellow big man Aron Baynes had 14 points and seven rebounds, hitting two of three from long-range. Patty Mills finished with the 16 points, and despite being inaccurate for him (six of 17 from the field), he had six rebounds and five assists in the victory. Joe Ingles (14 points – four of nine triples – four rebounds and five assists) and Nick Kay (15 points, seven rebounds and two assists) were the other double-figure scorers. For Italy, Simone Fontecchio (22 points, four rebounds) and Nico Mannion (21 points, seven assists and three rebounds) teamed up for the majority of the points, while Achille Polonara finished with 12 points and seven rebounds.

Czech Republic (77) defeated by France (97)

France remained undefeated in Pool A with a strong 20-point win over the Czech Republic in the late match. The Czech Republic started off strongly, racing out to a six-point lead at the first break, but France not only caught up, but powered past them over the next two quarters with a 27-point turnaround. Winning the second term 29-12 and the third quarter 26-16 put them up by 21, before the Czechs won the last quarter by a point to make it an even 20-point loss, 77-97. France shot more efficiency from the field (56 to 53 per cent), had more rebounds (35-26) and assists (27-24), in what was otherwise a fair even game outside the shooting and rebounding.

Evan Fournier picked up a match-high 21 points, as well as three assists and two rebounds to lead the way for his team. Nando de Colo (17 points, eight assists) and Thomas Heurtel (11 points, seven assists and two rebounds) were both terrific facilitators for the French, while Vincent Poirer (14 points, five rebounds) also reached double-figure points. Jan Vesely was the topscorer for the losing side with 19, also collecting five rebounds and three assists, as Tomas Satoransky (14 points, 10 assists) and Ondrej Balvin (18 points, eight rebounds) were lively, and Patrick Auda (14 points, two rebounds) also hit double-figure points.

Picture credit: Mike Ehrmann/Getty Images

2021 NZNBL team review: Southland Sharks

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Southland Sharks.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 13
Losses: 6

KEY STATS:

Points: 91.3 (3rd)
Rebounds: 37.1 (4th)
Assists: 19.4 (1st)
Steals: 8.3 (3rd)
Blocks: 2.4 (7th)
Field Goal %: 48.3 (2nd)

KEY PLAYERS:

Dom Kelman-Poto

After an impressive year last season in the NZNBL, Kelman-Poto took his game to another level in 2021, making the NZNBL All-Star 5 and being a dominant player across the board. The Sharks’ big man finished with an average of 18.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, topping his side in points and rebounds in what was an overall even effort. He shot at 29.6 per cent from long-range, but capitalised 65.2 per cent of the time from the charity stripe. Kelman-Poto only had two games with single-digit points, and racked up 10 or more rebounds on seven occasions. His last four games were sensational in the Sharks run to the Final Four, with an average of 26.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in that time. His best effort was 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Canterbury Rams on July 15.

Josh Cunningham

The other big man to team up in tandem with Kelman-Poto was Cunningham, who had a consistent season to be second to his All-Star teammate in both points (14.6) and rebounds (8.2). He finished third overall for the Sharks with assists (2.6), and still managed a steal per game. His field goal percentage was better than half (53.3 per cent) and he scored 67.4 per cent from the free throw line in 2021. Cunningham was the only other player with Kelman-Poto to start in all 19 games, and he had double-figure points in 14 of them. Recording 20-plus points in six matches, Cunningham’s top performance came against the Auckland Huskies on June 26 when he put up 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Courtney Belger

Whilst Kelman-Poto and Cunningham were the rebounding machines, Belger was the facilitator, with the American import averaging a competition-high 5.5 assists per games. Not only did his pinpoint passes into the paint and around the arc, but Belger went to town himself, averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, as well as leading his side in steals (1.8). His shooting percentage was lower (46.2 per cent from the field), but Belger was ultra-reliable from the line, making 69 of his 82 free throws at 84.1 per cent. In his 19 games, Belger had some highs and lows, with 13 games in double-digit points, and two of those were 20-plus. He picked up two double-doubles for the season, with his best dime performance coming against Manawatu Jets on June 11 (22 points, 11 assists), but his best overall performance being a 23-point, eight-rebound and five-assist effort against Canterbury Rams on July 2.

Brayden Inger

Whilst there was plenty of depth at the club, Inger was another valued member of the starting side, standing up in 18 of the 19 games – and coming off the bench in the other. He averaged 14.4 points to rank third at the club for that stat, in the same position for rebounds (4.6). Also averaging a steal per game, Inger was important on transition, and shot a team-high 56 triples at 40.3 per cent, showcasing his deadly long-range accuracy. He picked up double-digit points in all bar four games, and three of those came in the first five matches. His best performance was arguably a 27-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort against Nelson Giants on May 23, though there were plenty of solid efforts throughout 2021.

OTHERS:

Rounding out the starting five, Alonzo Burton picked up 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals, with a host of bench players coming on to provide important roles. The two standouts off the pine were Toby Gillooly (8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) and Sione Helu (6.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists).

SUMMARY:

The Southland Sharks had a really impressive season, with a consistent starting five, something that was symbolic of the top three sides. Whilst not as dominant at home as the top two teams, the Sharks came agonisingly close to reaching the NZNBL final, and will be well placed for another crack at it next season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL