Category: NBL NZ

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Harbour Breeze

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We finish off the series with the premiers, Harbour Breeze who went through undefeated, winning the grand final in style against the Waikato Wizards to make it a memorable condensed season.

SUMMARY:

Position: 1st
Wins: 5
Losses: 0

STATS:

Points: 74.0 (1st)
Rebounds: 41.6 (5th)
Assists: 16.3 (1st)
Steals: 13.7 (2nd)
Blocks: 5.0 (2nd)
FG%: 41.8 (1st)

It was hard to fault the machine that was Harbour Breeze, with the undefeated side storming through the competition and winning every match by double-digits on their way to the 18IN18 title. They had moments where they had to claw their way back into contention, but once in control, they hardly lost it from there, and throughly deserved the title with the most depth in the competition. They were the number one shooting team with a bullet, and had a five per cent greater accuracy from the field, as well as number one in assists, and second in steals and blocks. Offensively and defensively they were on their game, and really only lacked in the rebounds, but that was predominantly due to their work on the floor in winning the ball back, or denying the opposition from putting up shots.

RESULTS:

1: defeated Capital Swish by 23 points
2: defeated Otago Gold Rush by 11 points
3: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 22 points
4: defeated Waikato Wizards by 15 points
5: defeated Auckland Dream by 13 points
SF: defeated Capital Swish by 13 points
GF: defeated Waikato Wizards by 11 points

TOP TALENT:

Brooke Blair

There were no shortage of stars in the Harbour Breeze line-up, but one has to opt for the overall competition Most Valuable Player (MVP) in Blair. She was simply sensational, averaging 15 points – at a 47.9 per cent efficiency no less – that included 1.4 triples per game. She also knocked down about four assists, three rebounds and two steals per match, pulling out plenty of tricks all season. While her teammates had some huge games, Blair was a standout for her impact from start to finish and has a huge future.

OTHERS:

Ashleigh Kelman-Poto was the other part of the damaging duo with Blair, knocking down 15.4 points and picking up eight rebounds per game. Almost notching up a double-double average, she also had two steals, an assist and a block per match in a productive season, getting to the charity stripe regularly. Gabriella Fotu (10.1 points, 3.1 assists, 2.7 rebound sand 2.3 steals), Zara Jillings (6.3 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.7 steals and 2.4 assists), Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu (7.0 points, 6.6 rebounds) and Keeley Tini (8.0 points, 3.3 rebounds) were others who shared the load with points and working off the boards in the premiership season.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Waikato Wizards

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We continue with the runners-up, Waikato Wizards who went from losing on opening night to only dropping two more games for the season – both to Harbour Breeze including the grand final.

SUMMARY:

Position: 2nd
Wins: 3
Losses: 2

STATS:

Points: 64.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 41.7 (4th)
Assists: 11.4 (6th)
Steals: 13.1 (3rd)
Blocks: 5.4 (1st)
FG%: 36.3 (2nd)

Waikato Wizards were one of the top teams all season that had an unlucky loss to Auckland Dream on opening night, and then had a mix of tight wins, and commanding performances in their other results. Ultimately they fell short against Harbour Breeze twice, losing by 15 points in their fourth match, and then 11 in the grand final, but the Wizards showed they deserved to be the decider after holding off Otago Gold Rush by five points. They were the best defensive unit when it came to blocks, denying opposition teams with a massive 5.4 blocks per game, whilst also being the second highest scoring team, and second more accurate team, exemplifying why they finished in the top two.

RESULTS:

1: lost to Auckland Dream by 3 points
2: defeated Otago Gold Rush by 8 points
3: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 6 points
4: lost to Harbour Breeze by 15 points
5: defeated Capital Swish by 24 points
SF: defeated Otago Gold Rush by 5 points
GF: lost to Harbour Breeze by 11 points

TOP TALENT:

Ezra McGoldrick

Much like the other finals teams, it was hard to pick just one standout player, with all the starting players having an impact, as well as some off the bench. In the end, McGoldrick’s balance between scoring and offence was the difference, picking up 11.7 points per game, as well as 9.2 rebounds, 2.2 steals and 1.5 assists. In the first three she ranked second at the club, but it was another stat which made her one of the most unique players in the competition. Racking up a whopping 3.5 blocks per game, McGoldrick was the key reason why her side was the top blocking team in the league, and her defensive work around the boards made life difficult for opposition shooters.

OTHERS:

Kayla Manuirirangi was the most dominant shooter on the team, averaging 15.8 points per game, and putting up almost two triples per match at a 31.3 per cent clip which helped. She was strong across the board with 3.3 rebounds and 2.3 steals. Others who stood out included Makayla Daysh (9.3 points, 9.9 rebounds), Arielle Parai (8.0 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.3 steals) and Matangiroa Flavell added 6.6 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.3 steals this season.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Otago Gold Rush

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We continue with the third placed Otago Gold Rush who just missed out on a grand final spot after winning three of their five games and then falling in the semi-final to Waikato Wizards.

SUMMARY:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 3
Losses: 2

STATS:

Points: 61.3 (4th)
Rebounds: 50.0 (1st)
Assists: 14.0 (3rd)
Steals: 11.2 (5th)
Blocks: 3.7 (3rd)
FG%: 35.1 (3rd)

Otago Gold Rush got on a roll after losing their first two games of the season to the sides that would eventually become the grand finalists. The Gold Rush looked almost out of it, but then managed to knock off Capital Swish by six points, and then keep the momentum going against reigning premiers Auckland Dream and the winless Canterbury Wildcats. While the Gold Rush were halted in their tracks at the semi-finals stage, they push the Wizards all the way in that game and showed why they were the top rebounding team all year. Aside from steals (ranked fifth) and points (fourth), they were in the top three for all the other key stats, and deserved their finishing position.

RESULTS:

1: lost to Harbour Breeze by 11 points
2: lost to Waikato Wizards by 8 points
3: defeated Capital Swish by 6 points
4: defeated Auckland Dream by 10 points
5: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 14 points
SF: lost to Waikato Wizards by 5 points

TOP TALENT:

Zoe Richards

Getting into the top three teams makes it a lot more difficult to pick a top star, but we have landed on Richards due to the fact she led the points and rebounds, and was equal top in the steals as well. Richards averaged a double-double of 13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds, as well as 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals, ranked in the top two across all those areas. She regularly took aim from long-range, and whilst her accuracy was at 22.7 per cent, she was accurate from inside the arc, and provided an all-round super performance for the Gold Rush.

OTHERS:

It is hard to look past three others who really could have easily been discussed as the top talent for the season. Te Araroa Sopoaga averaged 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals to be one of the most dynamic players going around. The Gold Rush had a couple of other dominant rebounders with Lisa Wallbutton (7.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals) always stepping up, while Savanna Handevidt (8.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals) also had an impressive season.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Capital Swish

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We continue with the fourth placed Capital Swish who won two of their first three games before dropping their last four games and bowing out in the semi-finals, but not before showing some impressive basketball.

SUMMARY:

Position: 4th
Wins: 2
Losses: 3

STATS:

Points: 60.3 (5th)
Rebounds: 44.5 (2nd)
Assists: 13.3 (4th)
Steals: 11.8 (4th)
Blocks: 3.5 (4th)
FG%: 35 (4th)

Capital Swish are a strong rebounding side, ranked second overall for boards in the 2020 season. Though they finished bottom three in all the other key areas, which ultimately resembled their eventual finishing position. The Swish were not too far off the two sides above them, but a last round loss to the Wizards saw them drop to fourth and have to take on the Harbour Breeze and lose for the second time by an identical margin of 13 points.

RESULTS:

1: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 13 points
2: lost to Harbour Breeze by 13 points
3: defeated Auckland Dream by 10 points
4: lost to Otago Gold Rush by 10 points
5: lost to Waikato Wizards by 13 points
SF: lost to Harbour Breeze by 13 points

TOP TALENT:

Letava Whippy

A phenomenally consistent effort in a low-scoring side, Whippy led the points, rebounds and assists, making this an easy choice. Spending no less than 31 minutes on court, Whippy showed off her work rate, only dropping into single-digit points once, and stepped up in the semi-final with a mammoth 17 points, 12 rebounds – eight defensive – six assists and five steals. The Swish had plenty of talent, but Whippy was by far the most consistent and fans could always rely on her impact off the boards. By the end of the 2020 season, Whippy finished with an average of 12.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 4.3 steals and 3.7 steals per game.

OTHERS:

There were plenty of supporting acts, with Paris Lokotui averaging 9.5 points and 7.5 rebounds, behind only Whippy and Te Huinga Selby-Rickett (5.2 points, 9.0 rebounds and 1.8 steals) in boards for the season. Others who averaged more than five in a statistical area include second highest points scorer, Grace Simi Vaofusi (10.7 points, 2.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals), and Sariah Penese (5.8 points, 1.8 rebounds). Overall the Swish put together a promising season, but not quite enough to knock off the top ranked Breeze, though the win over reigning champions Auckland Dream was a highlight.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Auckland Dream

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We continue with the fifth placed Auckland Dream who statistically matched up well compared to the rest of the competition, and started the season strongly before losing the last three games and missing out on finals.

SUMMARY:

Position: 5th
Wins: 2
Losses: 3

STATS:

Points: 63.0 (3rd)
Rebounds: 43.2 (3rd)
Assists: 14.4 (2nd)
Steals: 9.6 (6th)
Blocks: 3.0 (5th)
FG%: 34.1 (5th)

After winning the 3X3 Schick Cup, the Auckland Dream came into the 18IN18 tournament full of confidence as reigning premiers. Starting off with two consecutive wins, the Dream then dropped the last three matches to miss out on finals. Overall, they were always tight with their opponents, and showed that they could match them across the board, ranking in the top three for points, rebounds and assists. Unfortunately the areas they struggled were accuracy and the defensive aspects such as steals and blocks, but there was plenty to like about the Dream despite the disappointing finish.

RESULTS:

1: defeated Waikato Wizards by 3 points
2: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 15 points
3: lost to Capital Swish by 10 points
4: lost to Otago Gold Rush by 10 points
5: lost to Harbour Breeze by 13 points

TOP TALENT:

Sharne Robati

The Auckland Dream outfit had a really even contribution across the board and honestly, you could pick a number of top talents coming through. What was so impressive about Robati was her consistency throughout, never dropping below 14 points, and playing 22 minutes or more in ever game. She also hit eight or more rebounds in four of her five games, including a massive seven offensive rebounds against the Swish. Looking at the season as a whole, you could not fault her as she averaged 16.4 points and 8.2 rebounds.

OTHERS:

Arielle Williams-Mackey was a player who turned it on and could pile on the points in quick succession. Her long-range shooting was a treat, and she averaged 14.4 points, and 2.2 three-point makes in the season. Had her accuracy been a little higher, than she easily could have surpassed the 20 points per game. Casyn Buchman was the next most consistent, averaging the 11.2 points, 7.2 rebounds and 2.8 assists, but it was her work from the offensive boards that stood out, with 14 rebounds up that end for the season, giving her teammates second chance opportunities. Amanda Wayment was another reliable source off the boards, averaging 7.2 points and 8.4 rebounds.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Canterbury Wildcats

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We start with the last placed Canterbury Wildcats, who failed to get a win, but were the top defensive team in terms of steals, though struggled to score, with a season-high 63 points, and a season-low 42 points.

SUMMARY:

Position: 6th
Wins: 0
Losses: 5

STATS:

Points: 54.6 (6th)
Rebounds: 39.8 (6th)
Assists: 12.0 (5th)
Steals: 16.4 (1st)
Blocks: 0.8 (6th)
FG%: 30.8 (6th)

The stats tell a story of a young side developing, but that was ultimately just outclassed by opponents, Their best game came against eventual finalists Waikato Wizards, going down 63-69, while all the other losses were double-figure points. In terms of pure stats, they actually dominated the steals category, ranking a clear first in the competition, but were either fifth (assists) or sixth in every other key statistic.

RESULTS:

1: lost to Auckland Dream by 15 points
2: lost to Capital Swish by 13 points
3: lost to Waikato Wizards by 6 points
4: lost to Harbour Breeze by 22 points
5: lost to Otago Gold Rush by 14 points

TOP TALENT:

Gemma Etheredge

Ranked first at the Wildcats for points, and second for rebounds, steals and assists, Etheredge was a clear standout in a disappointing winless season for Canterbury. She shot at 33 per cent from the field, finishing wiht 11.5 points, 9.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 3.0 steals. She only played the four games, but started strongly, putting up 17 points apiece in her opening two matches against the Wizards and Dream, while also recording six and 12 rebounds, and six and five assists in back-to-back big performances. Her rebounding was a feature of her game and she was a key cog in the unit early on.

OTHERS:

Tera-Ma-Teata Elia almost averaged a double-double thanks to her 8.8 points and 10.0 rebounds as well as 4.5 steals, while Brittany Richards (7.8 points, 4.2 rebounds), Rosalia Samia (7.6 points, 2.2 rebounds and 1.8 steals), Lauryn Hippolite (7.3 points, 2.0 rebounds) and Isabelle Cook (7.0 points) all contributed strongly. Captain Shea Crotty was strong on the defensive end with 4.4 steals to go with 5.0 points, 3.8 rebounds and 2.4 assists as the other player to reach five points per game this season.

Harbour Breeze go through 18IN18 season to claim title undefeated

IT was not always a Breeze, but there is little doubting that this year’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 premiers deserved the title, going through the condensed season undefeated. Harbour Breeze won all five regular season matches – two more than their nearest rivals – and then made no mistake in finals, finishing off the campaign with a controlling 70-59 triumph over Waikato Wizards.

From the get-go it was clear the favourites were up for the game, as Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu hit a jumper 14 seconds into the contest. While Jayzekee Waihi responded for the Wizards 20 seconds later, it would be the only basket in the first six minutes for the Wizards as the Breeze took control. Brooke Blair and Ashleigh Kelman-Poto continued their remarkable form this season adding three points apiece and the lead was already out to six just 1:41 into the match.

It would not be until there was 3:53 on the clock that the Wizards would score again – through a classy step back jumper from Arielle Parai – as the lead had got out to 11 points by that stage. Kelman-Poto was running hot in the term as everything she touched turned to gold, and when Gabriella Fotu nailed her jumper with 1:46 on the clock – to be the final score of the quarter – the Breeze were up by 12 and already looking home.

The Wizards started the second term promisingly enough, as Makayla Daysh hit one of two free throws, and Matangiroa Flavell made back-to-back layups as Blair hit one of two three-pointers for the Breeze. Another few minutes without too much scoring was eventually halted by Kayla Manuirirangi and Parai both hitting their shots and drawing the Wizards within eight. That did not last long though, as Tiarna Clarke responded with five consecutive points, though the work of Kelman-Poto to steal and assist was impressive.

Manuirirangi was having some sort of term by getting to the charity stripe, but for every point she manufactured for the Wizards, the Breeze had an answer. The next time it was Zara Jillings who sank a triple, and the lead was out to 14 points with less than two minutes in the half. It got out to as much as 15 at one stage, but some late free throws from Daysh and Paewai helped the Wizards cut the deficit to 12 by the half-time buzzer.

As she had at the start of the first half, Kailahi-Fulu was quick on the board, and she had her side’s first four points either side of Esra McGoldrick‘s layup. The pair were trading baskets, and soon Manuirirangi got involved with a couple herself, and along with Flavell’s three-point jumper, the lead had been cut from 14 to seven in less than 90 seconds.

The Wizards were coming, but Clarke was awake to that, ending the run midway through the term with a layup, then Olivia Bell secured one herself, and finished with the And-One chance. As Kelman-Poto got back into the action, the lead again stretched out to 13, and while the likes of Parai and Daysh continued to press, the Breeze continued to control momentum. The lead got out to 15 points in favour of the Breeze, but scoring the last four points of the term, the Wizards had actually won the term and brought it back to 11.

Back-to-back baskets to Daysh early in the fourth had some wondering if there was life in a comeback as the margin went back to seven. It got as little as three with six minutes on the clock as McGoldrick’s hot form in the second half continued. The Breeze momentum had come to a grinding halt, and they had only scored one basket in the first four minutes of the final term.

Yet again it was Kelman-Poto and Clarke who stepped up at the opportune time to give their side some breathing space, as the pair piled on the next six points. Manuirirangi added five more points to her total to ensure her side remained in the contest, but it would be the last scores for the Wizards as Clarke (three) and Blair (two) rounded out the match, and the season with the last 1:42 consisting of some missed opportunities, but ultimately the best side won on the night, and for the season.

Harbour Breeze were slick on the defence, dominating the steals (14-6) and making the most of some poor turnovers from the Wizards. Waikato had 27 turnovers to 15, and the Breeze made them pay, scoring almost half of their score (32 points) from turnovers, to the Wizards’ six. The Wizards had more rebounds (53-44), but the Breeze collected more assists (14-12) and had more second chance points (13-9) and contribution off the bench (22-10), also hitting 40 per cent of their three-point chances.

Kelman-Poto was a standout for the winners, racking up a double-double of 18 points, 14 rebounds, six steals, three assists and one block without a turnover on the night. Clarke came off the bench for 16 points, five assists and three steals, while Blair managed the 10 points – though inaccurate at 4-17 from the field – as well as four rebounds, three assists and a steal. Kailahi-Fulu (eight points, nine rebounds) was impressive off the boards for the winners, while Fotu (seven points) also shared in the points.

For the Wizards, Manuirirangi was the highest points scorer, hitting 15, as well as two assists, but also had six turnovers. McGoldrick finished with a double-double herself of 11 points, 12 rebounds and five blocks, while Daysh came close thanks to 10 points and nine rebounds. Flavell (seven points, dive rebounds) and Waihi (six points, four rebounds were also productive, while Parai starred coming off the bench, contributing seven points, eight rebounds, two assists and two steals.

With the season done and dusted, both teams will be pleased with the performances they put in throughout the season and will begin the planning for a hopefully more normal, 2021 season.

Picture: Photosport

Wizards dig deep to overcome Gold Rush in final term

AN impressive last quarter has helped Waikato Wizards overturn a final break deficit to defeat Otago Gold Rush and book their spot in the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 Grand Final. The Wizards were coming from behind at quarter time, flipped the script on their opponents in the second term to go in level at half-time, and then came from a point down at the final break to run over the top of the Gold Rush and win 68-63.

It was the Gold Rush who started off the game on top with Te Araroa Sopoaga and Savanna Handevidt both making shots in the opening two minutes. When Bronwyn Kjestrup secured both her free throws, the lead was out to six, and the Wizards had missed two chances and turned the ball over twice in the opening two-and-a-half minutes. Finally it was Ezra McGoldrick who drove to the basket and put up a nice layup.

The basket did not stop the early Otago dominance however, as the Gold Rush went on to add 12 of the first 14 points in the term, and with five and a half minutes down, the score was 12-2. Alana Paewai broke the drought for the Wizards, but the lead got out to as much as 13 points at one stage once Kjestrup and Sopoaga both added to their totals. Lucky for the Wizards, Kayla Manuirirangi and Zara Poulava added the last six points of the game to end the first term with a more manageable seven-point deficit.

The second term had a slow start to it with the teams trading baskets after the first 90 seconds through Manuirirangi and Zoe Richards, with the latter’s three-pointer her first score of the night. Parai was starting to help her side claw back the deficit from eight to three thanks to back-to-back jumpers, and then Manuirirangi continued her hot form with a couple of layups, and six minutes into the term, the Wizards were in front for the first time in the game.

McGoldrick and Jayzelee Waihi continued that momentum and the lead was out to five. Since the 17-4 start, the Wizards had turned the tables and scored 21-3 and were in firm control. Luckily Olivia O’Neill was able to arrest some of the momentum in the final three minutes, making back-to-back layups and a nice finish from Lisa Wallbutton put the Gold Rush back in front with 90 seconds on the clock. The lead got out to three points, but the last two baskets of the half went the way of the Wizards and for all the momentum swings, the sides went into half-time level at 28-apiece.

Straight out of half-time, it was the Gold Rush who started fast, piling on eight consecutive points including two triples to race to a 36-28 lead. At one stage it got out to as much as nine points with six minutes to go thanks to a Hayley Gray triple, but Parai matched that effort with a long-range bomb of her own, and McGoldrick finished an And-One chance to draw within three.

The teams traded chances throughout the term as neither side could take full advantage, but six consecutive points the way of the Wizards in the final two minutes had them up by three. Richards had something to say about that however, scoring back-to-back layups for the Gold Rush and handing her side the all-important lead in the last 30 seconds of the term.

The Gold Rush had the lead, but could not build too much momentum until O’Neill hit a crucial long-range jumper with 6:15 remaining in the match. That put the Gold Rush up 58-52, but six of the next seven points put the Wizards back within a points. The Gold Rush went up by three again thanks to free throws from Richards, but the momentum was about to turn.

Manurirangi hit a step back jumper to draw within one, then Parai put the side in front with 2:20 on the clock. Wallbutton responded with 85 seconds on the clock and the Gold Rush held a narrow 63-62 lead, but it would be their last score of the match. Manuirirangi replied immediately, and then a turnover and deliberate foul on her saw her put the lead out to three for the Wizards. Richards tried a long-range attempt, but it was picked up by Matangiroa Flavell off the defensive board, who was immediately fouled and sent to the charity stripe. She made not mistake, putting the last two points on the board with seven seconds left, ending the contest at 68-63.

Otago actually won a lot of the crucial stats, shooting at a higher 40 per cent clip from the field compared to the Wizards’ 37 per cent, and won the rebounds (44-39) and assists (13-9). Unfortunately, their ball use in transition saw the Gold Rush cough up 27 turnovers to 14, and the Wizards made them pay by scoring 26-8 off turnovers, which they gained through steals (18-13). The Wizards also had more contributions off their bench (24-16) and in second chance points (13-8) for the win.

Manuirirangi hit 18 points, and had two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win, but it was McGoldrick, who chimed in with 13 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and two assists in a huge defensive effort, that was best-on. for the winners Coming off the bench, Parai had 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and two assists, while Makayla Daysh (four points, seven rebounds and three steals) was another strong defensive performer.

For the Gold Rush, Richards had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a huge double-double, also collecting two rebounds and two blocks in a best-on performance. Gray had 10 points and two assists, while Handevidt was strong off the boards to finish with seven points, seven rebounds and three steals. Also picking up their fair share of points was Kjestrup (eight points, two assists), Sopoaga (seven points, three rebounds, four assists and five steals) and O’Neill (eight points, three rebounds).

While the Gold Rush’s season comes to a close, the Wizards will now head to the grand final tonight to take on the undefeated Harbour Breeze.

Picture: Photosport

First half dominance cements Breeze grand final spot

A DOMINANT 44-23 first half all but consolidated Harbour Breeze’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 Grand Final spot, defeating Capital Swish in the first of two semi-finals. The Breeze won their sixth straight game, this time against the Swish 77-64, to advance through to the big dance, where they will await the winner of Waikato Wizards and Otago Gold Rush tomorrow.

Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu was the first on the board, getting to the basket and scoring a layup in the opening 20 seconds. It was soon matched by her opponent, Grace Simi Vaofusi not long after, and then Vaofusi doubled her score in response to a Brooke Blair basket. Then it all turned into a one-sided affair. Gabriella Fotu hit a jumper, and Ashleigh Kelman-Poto recored back-to-back baskets, and at one stage the Breeze were out to a seven-point lead after an 8-1 run.

The Swish clawed their way back to within three after back-to-back baskets from Te Huinga Selby-Rickett and Letava Whippy, but again the Breeze had the answers, with Kelman-Poto having a starring first term. Another 13-2 run in favour of the Breeze had the title favourites up by as much as 14, which ended up being the quarter time deficit, as both Sariah Penese and Keeley Tini hit both their free throws to end the term.

The news did not get any better for the Swish at the start of the second term as Zara Jillings nailed a three-pointer 90 seconds into the contest. Kelman-Poto continued her hot start and answered each Swish score with points of her own, and the Breeze kept the Swish at arms-length. At one stage Whippy had drawn the Swish back within 14 points, but the Breeze stepped up once again to score nine consecutive points and blow the margin out to 23. Luckily Lilly Taulelei and Whippy both scored in the final minute to add some respectability to the scoreboard, but a dying seconds layup from Fotu made the Breeze half-time lead 19 points.

The Swish needed a massive response to be any chance in the game, and they were quick out of the blocks in the second term as Selby-Rickett, Whippy, Paris Lokotui and Maia Jean Watene all scored to cut the deficit back to 11. Blair was quick to end the drought with a three-pointer, but the Swish were making a game of it. For the first time since the first term, the Swish were within single-digits thanks to a Penese triple midway through the quarter. The Breeze managed to steady in the second half of the term, with Olivia Bell‘s jumper in the final minute putting the advantage out to 11 points.

Bell was also the first scorer of the final term, but Whippy ensured the Swish were not going to go away, but the Breeze just had all the answers. Able to keep in touch with them, the Swish traded blows from long-range with Vaofusi hitting a three-point jump shot in between Tini’s triples, and in the final few minutes, the Breeze were doing enough to hold off the Swish. Each basket had a response and despite Whippy, Vaofusi and Selby-Rickett’s best efforts late in the game, the likes of Tini and Bell were standing up well coming off the bench. When the final buzzer sounded, the margin was 13 points with the Breeze getting up. 77-64.

It was the playmaking efforts of the Breeze that was the difference, picking up 21 assists to 14, and scoring 25 points from turnovers. The bench also stood tall with 25 points to 12, and shot at 51 per cent from inside the arc compared to the Swish’s 37 per cent. The Swish did have a number of wins in the stats, leading the rebounds (44-40), steals (16-15) and second chance points (19-10).

Kelman-Poto led the way for the Breeze by putting up 16 points, seven rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks in an all-round solid game. Fotu (12 points, six assists, three steals and two rebounds) and Jillings (12 points, four rebounds, four steals and two assists) both had sustained impact, while Tini made the most of her minutes, picking up 15 points in as many minutes, also collecting six boards in the process. Brooke Blair finished with a quieter six points, but still had four rebounds and five assists in the win.

For the Swish, Whippy was the star, racking up a double-double of 17 points and 12 rebounds, as well as six assists and five steals in a clear best-on performance. Lokotui was also strong with 14 points, seven rebounds and three steals, while Selby-Rickett had eight points, six rebounds and two steals. Vaofusi recored the 11 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, but it would not be enough.

The loss ends the Swish’s season, while the Breeze have a day off to find out their opponent for the NZNBL 18IN18 Grand Final.

Gold Rush grab second as 18IN18 season wraps up

OTAGO Gold Rush have capped off their strong 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season by grabbing second spot on the ladder in the 18IN18 competition following a commanding 72-58 win over Canterbury Wildcats. The winless Wildcats were always going to finish bottom after an 0-4 start, but the Gold Rush needed a win to secure second spot, which they did so thanks to a 14-point triumph.

Scoring the opening basket of the game and never surrendering the lead, the Gold Rush set the tone from the start, and kept the Wildcats to single-digit points in two of the four quarters. It was Hayley Gray and Te Araroa Sopoaga who nailed back-to-back jumpers for an early 4-0 lead. Emily Knight got her side on the board, but a layup from Zoe Richards – who would put in a sensational performance on the night – grabbed her first points in response.

Soon the lead extended as Tara Clement and Richards pushed it out to eight midway through the quarter, and with 4:43 on the clock, the score was 11-2 and the game was looking like a blowout. Luckily for the Wildcats, Katherine Jones hit a crucial triple, and that triggered eight straight points for the underdogs to get within one, but as the game would have it, never hit the front. Instead, Olivia O’Neill steadied by converting a layup And-One chance, and then Richards extended the lead out in response to Shea Crotty‘s triple for the Wildcats. As soon as the lead had got out to seven, Crotty hit another three, and Tiana Placid nailed a two-point jumper in the dying seconds to draw the Wildcats to within two at the first break.

In a repeat of the first term, Gray was the first on the board for the Gold Rush, extending the lead out to four in the opening minute. Once again a fast start was putting Otago on top as Richards and then Lisa Wallbutton added points for a 7-0 start to the quarter. Placid scored her side’s first points midway through the term, but Fayreen Fualau provided support, and Richards did the rest, going on a scoring spree with six straight points being amongst a 16-2 run in the first eight minutes.

With two minutes on the clock, Canterbury was staring down the barrel of a single-basket quarter, but luckily a late hookshot from Isabelle Cook, and then a triple with 50 seconds later saved her side from being completely out of it, and the deficit was 11 points at the half, 36-25.

Just as the game looked to be passing the Wildcats by, Knight, Gemma Etheredge and Brittany Richards all put points on the board as the losing side scored the first seven points of the second half. The celebrations were short lived as Bronwyn Kjestrup and Savanna Handevidt hit their first shots, but again Knight and Rosalia Samia came to the party and the deficit was back to four.

For all of Otago’s dominance earlier, it was still very much game on. The Wildcats were keeping it in single digits, though the Gold Rush were threatening to run away with the contest. At one stage Etheredge’s free throws had dragged Canterbury to within three points, but the Gold Rush again pulled away with Handevidt and Clement taking control, and with the last basket of the quarter, the Gold Rush were up by seven at the final break.

Unfortunately for the Wildcats, the Gold Rush came good on their threat to run away with the contest in the final term, as Zoe Richards hit the first jumper, and when Gray nailed a jumper four minutes into the term, the the Gold Rush were up by 12. Fualau hit some late points, and with time the enemy for the Wildcats, they just ran out of it, and the Gold Rush did enough to secure the win by 14 points.

The Gold Rush were simply too good across the board with a 49 per cent clip from the field compared to the Wildcats’ 30 per cent, though the latter had the same amount of three-point attempts as two-pointers (36) whilst the Gold Rush only had six long-range attempts but nailed three of them. They also won the rebound (50-39), block (3-0) and bench points (29-22), though the Wildcats were on top in the assists (16-14), steals (20-15) and second chance points (17-15). Remarkably, Canterbury also had less turnovers (24-31) and made the Gold Rush pay with 32 points from turnovers to Otago’s 18.

Zoe Richards was dominant with 21 points, nine rebounds and five steals, hitting two of the Gold Rush’s three triples. Clement came off the bench for 12 points, three rebounds and two steals, while the likes of Wallbutton (10 rebounds, three assists and three steals), Sopoaga (six points, five rebounds and six assists) and Kjestrup (five rebounds, two steals) all had impacts off the boards.

For the Wildcats, Crotty and Knight both scored a team-high 11 points, whilst Etheredge was crucial thanks to 11 rebounds, six steals and three assists to go with five points. Brittany Richards had four points and five rebounds, while Cook came off the bench for 10 points, two rebounds and two assists.

Otago Gold Rush now takes on Waikato Wizards tomorrow night for a place in the grand final against the winner of undefeated Harbour Breeze and Capital Swish tonight.

Picture: Photosport