SOUTHLAND Sharks and AUCKLAND Dream have claimed their respective New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Schick 3X3 Cups over the weekend, with the Sharks winning the male title and the Dream taking out the female title.
Auckland Dream won in a nail-biting final 18-16 over Harbour Breeze to claim the title, with both sides winning all six games leading into the final. The Dream had topped Pool A and then defeated their Pool opponents NZ Select in the semi-finals, whilst Breeze topped Pool B by defeating Otago Gold Rush in the other semi. The two teams were the standout sides in the women’s draw, always looking like the teams to beat, with the Dream winning their two finals by a combined 14 points, whilst the Breeze did not quite have it like their namesake, winning with a combined eight points.
In the end, just two points separated the sides in the decider, with a two-point successful make from Casyn Buchman the difference with just six seconds left on the clock. To that point, the momentum had ebbed and flowed with the Breeze taking control early, before the Dream hit back through young star, Arielle Williams-Mackey. She helped her side to get back into it, before the experienced Amanda Wayment drew it, and Buchman finished it off.
Along with the injured Darci Finnigan who twisted her knee in the semi-final, the quartet was overcome the obstacle of limited minutes for their teammate in the decider to post the win and secure the title after being the fourth seeds heading into the tournament. For the Breeze, Ella Fotu, Brooke Blair, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu tried hard and almost got there after a sensational tournament, but just fell short in the end.
In the men’s competition, Southland Sharks defied the odds to topple one of the tournament favourites in Hawke’s Bay Hawks in the final. Like the women’s final, just two points separated the sides as the Sharks got up 21-19 to secure the title. Seeded fifth at the event, the Sharks won two of their four Pool games in Pool B to finish third on the overall table behind Auckland Huskies and Franklin Bulls, while the Hawks also finished third with two wins from four games, behind Tasman Suns and Otago Nuggets.
Finals are a different ball game, particularly knockout finals, with the Suns defeated by the seventh placed NZ Select Team which faced the Hawks who belted the Bulls 21-12 in their quarter final. The Hawks overcame the NZ Select Team by three points to advance to the final, whilst on the other side, the Sharks toppled the Nuggets by three points, then defeated the top of the table Huskies by four points to reach the decider.
Remarkably the match went blow-for-blow right up until 19 apiece and everything relying on the last basket. Two stars of New Zealand basketball in Derone Raukawa and Hyrum Harris were superb on either end, whilst Dom Kelman-Poto backed up his great work from the NZNBL Men’s competition with another big effort this tournament. It was Alonzo Burton who sank the game winner to end what was the most remarkable finals.
Harris, Kelman-Poto, Burton and Alex Pledger celebrated the 21-19 victory, having done it the hard way after the Pool stage of the competition. For Raukawa, Ethan Rusbatch, Everard Bartlett and Taane Samuel – who had all backed up from their NZNBL efforts – it was so close, yet so far, falling short of a title but having had a lot of fun along the way in the 3×3 tournament.