Tag: alana paewai

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

Wizards storm home against Swish to claim semi-final spot and extinguish Auckland’s Dream

WAIKATO Wizards have booked a semi-final spot in this year’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition following a dominant finish to their final match against Capital Swish. The two sides were level at half-time, but the Wizards – who needed a win to guarantee themselves a semi-final spot – piled on 45 points to 21 in a stunning second half to run away with the contest, winning 78-54 and leapfrogging both the Swish and Auckland Dream.

With a semi-final spot on the line, both teams were even across the first half, as Letava Whippy nailed her first two free throws for the opening points on the board for Capital Swish. In an immediate response, Kayla Manuirirangi hit a triple for her side to regain the lead, and the teams traded baskets over the first couple of minutes. Grace Simi Vaofusi and Matangiroa Flavell both produced impress jump shots, with reliable scorers Esra McGoldrick and Paris Lokotui also answering each other for the scores to be level midway through the term.

For every Wizards basket, the Swish answered and vice-versa. With 1:40 on the clock, Flavell nailed a three-point jump shot for the Wizards to go ahead, and Makayla Daysh scored one of two free throws in the final minute for a two-possession game. When the game looked to be winding down in the final 30 seconds, Grace Gordon hit an important step back jumper for the Swish and cut the quarter time deficit to just one with 24 seconds remaining.

Straight out of the blocks in the second term, Sariah Penese hit a triple for the Swish and they regained the lead. The game was busy with three-pointers in the first 12 minutes as Manuirirangi hit a three-point jumper of her own and the Wizards were back in front. The lead did not increase more than three points through the middle of the term, as Dalen Pilitati responded to another Manuirirangi jumper with a game-tying triple with 4:12 on the clock.

After the Wizards held the lead for most of the term, the Swish hit the front following four consecutive points from Jyordanna Davey and Whippy to move one point ahead with 2:35 remaining in the half. The teams again traded baskets, with the Wizards having a lot of late chances, and just as Alana Paewai put her side up by three with a long-range make, Davey answered with 26 seconds on the clock to tie the game at half-time.

Unlike the nail-biting first half, the second half was a complete counter contrast. The Wizards hit the front with a triple from Flavell after plenty of misses from both teams in the opening two minutes, only for Flavell’s three-pointer to be answered by Lokotui’s layup. Another dry spell over the next few minutes saw neither team able to capitalise, but then Daysh came onto court and made a layup and the following And-One chance, with Arielle Parai extending the Wizards’ advantage out to a game-high six points.

Vaofusi managed to cut it back to four with successful free throws six minutes into the term, and whilst the Swish were as close as two points with 1:45 on the clock, they could not seemingly hit the front. The final two baskets of the term went in favour of the Wizards with Jayzelee Waihi’s layup and Paewai’s triple putting it out to seven, before a single free throw from Lokotui with nine seconds on the clock reduced the Swish’s deficit to six at the final break.

Waikato Wizards used the momentum from the third term to storm away with the game in the final term as Waihi’s triple and a Zarya Poulava layup handing their side a double-digit lead for the first time in the game just a minute into the quarter. It triggered a dominant run of 13-straight points with Daysh scoring the last four of them and by the time she hit a jumper with 5:41 on the clock, the Wizards were out to a 19-point lead, 62-43 and it was game over.

To that point, the Swish had not scored, and in fact it took until 4:43 into the term for Davey to get to the basket with a layup, and by then the damage was done. Lilly Taulelei came on and hit some important points late, though the Wizards through Manuirirangi and Daysh did not stop pushing and the pair blew the lead way out to 26 points, with Lokotui’s final layup with 15 seconds on the clock putting the final Swish deficit at 24, and the Wizards booking a semi-final spot with a 78-54 victory.

The Wizards were just dominant across all areas, but the most telling stat was their ability to hurt the Swish on turnovers, scoring 33 points to 14 off the Swish’s 24-20 turnovers. The Wizards also smashed them in the rebounds (50-36), assists (15-8) and second chance points (18-7), whilst sitting at a higher percentage from the field (40 to 32 per cent), and nailing a whopping 10 triples to five.

Manuirirangi had a team-high 18 points, but also collected two rebounds, two assists and one steal. It was the work of Daysh that earned best-on honours, racking up 12 rebounds – eight offensive – to go with 16 points in a big effort. Waihi had 13 points, three rebounds, two assist sand two steals, whilst McGoldrick was not as effective from the field (one from nine for five points) but had nine rebounds, four steals, two assists and one block. Paewai’s contribution off the bench of 14 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals was impressive, while Poulava picked up nine rebounds – five offensive – as well as three assists and two steals in 14 minutes.

For the Swish, Whippy racked up 15 points, six rebounds and a steal, teaming up with Lokotui (10 points, five rebounds, two assists, four steals and a block) on the offensive end. Te Huinga Selby-Rickett missed all five field goal chances, but she did record nine rebounds as well as two steals and two blocks. Taulelei (three points, six rebounds) and Davey (eight points, three blocks) both provided some strong defensive pressure in the loss.

With one game remaining in the season, both teams will play finals, as the Wizards currently sit second and the Swish in fourth.

Picture: Photosport

Wizards conjure first win to hand Gold Rush consecutive losses

WAIKATO Wizards regrouped from a poor second quarter to completely turn around the game in the third and record a remarkable eight-point win over Otago Gold Rush in last night’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 match. The Wizards conceded 27 points in a high-scoring second term to fall behind by six at half-time, before restricting their opponents to just five – the lowest conceded in the season – to regain control by four and win 63-55.

Having had plenty of time to regroup after an opening night loss to Auckland Dream, the Wizards did not waste any time with Alyssa Hirawani hitting a triple in the opening 10 seconds of the match to state her team’s intent. It took almost two minutes for the Gold Rush to reply with Zoe Richards getting to the basket with a layup. Te Araroa Sopoaga quickly followed and the Gold Rush were in front.

In what became a six-minute drought between their first and second baskets, Kayla Manuirirangi finally hit a jump shot, and when Esra McGoldrick scored back-to-back layups, all of a sudden the Wizards had a 6-0 run and were three points up. Sharing the points around with Natasha Lenden and Alana Paewai also scoring, the margin did get out to five points with 56 seconds left, before Fayreen Fualau hit a jump shot for the Gold Rush to cut the quarter time deficit to just three.

The second term built on the Gold Rush’s momentum, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to make it 10 consecutive points overall, including four from the hand of Lisa Wallbutton. The lead had stretched out to five before Paewai hit a two-point jumper two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter to break the Wizards drought, and then a second triple from Hirawani levelled the match not long after.

A third long-range make from Paewai had the Wizards up by three, then the Gold Rush made their move with Tara Clement nailing a long-range attempt of her own, then following up with a layup 30 seconds later. The teams were able to stay relatively close through the midpoint of the quarter, and five consecutive points from the Wizards with two minutes on the clock tied the scores yet again. The Gold Rush would have the last laugh though, adding 10 of the last 12 points for the half, with Wallbutton and Richards both adding three points each to hold a 37-31 lead at the main break.

Hirawani was proving to be a handful for the Gold Rush defence and she was first on the board a minute into the second half. Hayley Gray responded, but the Wizards again cut the deficit back to four after a Manuirirangi jump shot. Not allowing the deficit to grow more than five points, the Wizards finally managed back-to-back points from McGoldrick and Matangiroa Flavell to draw within a point with four-and-a-half minutes on the clock.

When Clement hit a layup for the Gold Rush to retake the lead after a brief stint with the Wizards in front, it would be the last score of the term for Otago, making just five for the entire quarter. Flavell would put her side back in front, and then the Wizards added the last five points of the quarter to lead 46-42 at the final change.

After such a low-scoring term, the Gold Rush came out hard with Wallbutton hitting her first jump shot attempt of the quarter to draw within two points, and the teams began trading baskets with the Wizards holding a narrow lead. Through the midpoint of the term, Makayla Daysh added three points and Manuirirangi another two, and the lead was out to seven. Back-to-back free throws by Savanna Handevidt for the Gold Rush gave them some hope, but Flavell’s long-range three just expanded the lead to eight with under six minutes left.

Handevidt came hard with a couple of makes in the last five minutes to get her team within four points, but Daysh was again busy, having a big quarter. Richards popped up again to get the Gold Rush within four, and then a series of misses from both sides resulted in the time ticking down. Deliberate fouling to save time cost the Gold Rush as Flavell and Manuirirangi made no mistake from the line, to end the game at 63-55.

Both teams shot at 36 per cent from the field, with the Wizards hitting three more triples (6-3), which made up for a lack of rebounds. The Gold Rush dominated that statistic with 51-35, whilst also winning the assists (16-13) and second chance points (8-3). The massive difference was the Gold Rush’s excessive turnovers with double the amount (24-12), and the Wizards also had more steals (12-8) and blocks (6-2).

Manuirirangi finished with a match-high 14 points, as well as six rebounds and two steals, while Flavell had 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round performance. Hirawani reached double-figure points with 10 and two rebounds, while McGoldrick hit 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three blocks off the bench.

For the Gold Rush, Richards was the only player to reach double-figures with 10 points and eight rebounds, thought Clement (nine points) and Wallbutton (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) were strong off the bench. Handevidt (eight points, seven rebounds and three assists) did a bit of everything, while Gray (six points, seven rebounds) was solid off the boards.

The Wizards will look to make it two in a row tonight when they face the winless Canterbury Wildcats, while the Gold Rush will hope to get on the board on Saturday when they take on Capital Swish.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Waikato Wizards

THE next team in focus is Waikato Wizards who are preparing for the upcoming New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Sal’s NBL 18IN18 competition which will see a fast paced, action packed 18 days of basketball action. Community Basketball Manager for the Wizards, Anthony Corban shed some light on what preparation has been like and what it means for the side to actually take the court in 2020.

With a relatively new format seeing teams fly in and fly out of venues on a tight turn around, Corban has commended Basketball New Zealand’s overall efforts to get the season up and running and ability to overcome the logistics to ensure a women’s season became a reality rather than a dream.

“The NZ NBL and Basketball New Zealand has to be commended for making a women’s NBL happen in 2020,” he said. “Many thought it was in the too hard basket. “But a committed staff and board at BBNZ, along with great team representatives have made this happen. “Any opportunity to promote women’s basketball is fantastic.”

Boasting a young core group of players, Corban is simply excited to see what they can produce throughout the competition. He also made mention of a couple of key players expected to light up the court for the Wizards. One name that stood out in particular was that of Tall Fern Matangiroa (Pep) Flavell who impressed throughout 2019 albeit in different colours but will be a valuable addition to the Wizards.

“We are a young group this year, so just looking forward to getting them on the court and competing,” he said. “We have some really exciting guards in our team. Kayla Manuirirangi, Pep Flavell, Alyssa Hirawani are three guards that will excite.”

“We have the best age group women’s programme here in New Zealand so look out for the young contenders Jay Waihi, Breeje Schuler and Alana Paewai,” Corban stated. “We’ve also managed to strengthen our forward line-up with Maka Daysh in our group. As traditionally we have played small ball.”

Given the number of guards in the team it is no surprise that the Wizards overall game style will focus on them and using every inch of space out on court to create continuous forward forays and open up avenues to the basket. In saying that however, Corban also mentioned that they will not be a one trick-pony and have a couple of tricks up their sleeves to keep their opponents guessing.

“Traditionally we have played a guard orientated style of basketball. “Using the width of the court and creating space for others. “We will be doing that and also utilising the strength of our forward line up. “Game scouts will see our style vary each game,” he said.

It has been an unconventional and unprecedented year to say the least which has filtered into the sports world, with Corban labelling the year as “tough” however through adversity comes opportunity something that Community Basketball Manager noted in regards to building the squad for the upcoming season.

“We have lost six of our squad to USA Colleges. (It) has meant a change in coaching and training techniques. However it presents our 17 & Under players with an opportunity to step up and play alongside our veterans,” Corban said.

When asked about their main intention for the season the obvious answer was to make it to the semi-finals however, Corban also had a few other factors in mind – most importantly the notion to support women’s basketball and continue the sports growth in New Zealand.

“Support this league and provide a good spectacle for women’s basketball. We are like most of the other teams a little under prepared due to the 2020 COVID  issues however we will make the most of this,” he said. “A semi-final appearance is the intention of every team.”

Waikato Wizards kick off the season on Thursday 19 against Auckland Dream at 7:30pm (local time).

Roster

Matangiroa Flavell
Ari Parai
Kelcy Ballantyne
Courtney Wilson
Natasha Lenden
Reese Anderson