Tag: dalen pilitati

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

Swish storm home in final term flurry to end Dream run

CAPITAL Swish have announced themselves as a genuine title contender, defeating reigning champions Auckland Dream in the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition last night. The Swish came into the night with a 1-1 record having knocked off the Canterbury Wildcats, but lost to Harbour Breeze, while the Dream had also accounted for the Wildcats, as well as Waikato Wizards on opening night.

For the majority of the contest there was not much between them, but a sensational final term and the last seven points of the night went to the Swish, to celebrate a remarkable win. A big last term from Grace Simi Vaofusi – scoring 12 of her team’s 27 points – and a double-double from Letava Whippy were massive differences, leaving the Dream needing to regroup ahead of their final two matches and giving the Swish the upper hand when it came to a top two place in the semi-finals.

From the opening tip-off it was clear the Swish were not going to be pushovers, as Vaofusi and Maia Jean Watene both scored baskets in the opening two minutes whilst the usually reliable Amanda Wayment missed free throws, and three of her teammates also missed jump shot opportunities. Instead it was Wayment who got on the board as the time ticked down with eight on the clock, making the layup to make their fourth shot attempt through a layup, drawing contact and this time producing the And-One chance.

Wayment scored her side’s first five points of the match, as she levelled the scores following Whippy’s 50 per cent strike from the free throw line. Then Sharne Robati put her team in front with a couple of successful free throws, but it proved only temporary as Paris Lokotui and Watene got involved for the Swish to regain the lead. Arielle Williams-Mackey – who was he most prolific scorer in the opening two matches for the Dream – finally got on the board with a long-range bomb, and the teams traded blows.The Swish were a little more accurate later in the term to score seven of the last nine points, with Sariah Penese‘s last minute layup putting her side up by four at the first break, 16-12.

That momentum carried into the second with Vaofusi again having a red-hot start putting up the first four points of the quarter to blow the lead out to eight points and an upset was brewing. Casyn Buchman settled the nerves for the Dream with a vital layup, but again the Swish responded with the next five points including back-to-back layups through Dalen Pilitati and Jyodanna Davey respectively for the lead to hit double-figures midway through the quarter.

Needing a response, the Dream got it through a triple from Robati, an Olivia Berry layup and then four points from Williams-Mackey through free throws and a layup to roar back to within two points in an 9-0 run. Vaofusi halted that with an important basket, and a Pilitati triple following a Williams-Mackey layup and the Swish were back out to a five-point buffer. A last minute jumper from Rionne Papa cut the Dream’s deficit to three at half-time with the Swish up, 30-27.

Entering the third term, both teams traded baskets one after the other and each team the Swish managed to get some momentum, the Dream pegged them back. Whippy was providing plenty of resistance close to the basket, getting the layup, copping the contact and slotting the And-One chance to extend it out to six points, only for a Buchman triple to start a remarkable dream run of 12 consecutive points. Papa and Williams- Mackey added four of those each, and from a six-point deficit, the Dream were suddenly ahead by six points.

Despite it looking like the Dream were going to run away with the contest, Whippy and Lokotui had other ideas with back-to-back baskets before Taulelei hit the game-leveller with just over two minutes on the clock. Buchman responded with a triple, but was countered by Grace Gordon with a long-range success of her own. By the three quarter time buzzer, the teams could not be split at 49-apiece.

Initially Wayment hit the first jumper of the final term to hand her team the lead, but the next seven points of the game went the way of the Swish. The momentum-swinging contest went back the other way, as the Dream came from a five-point deficit to hit eight consecutive points of their own and lead by three with just over five minutes remaining. Back-to-back triples for the Swish just provided some breathing space, as Vaofusi and Lokotui were on song.

Williams-Mackey would produce a layup and then follow up with the And-One chance with 67 seconds left on the clock and her team just three points down. Only 22 seconds later, Te Huinga Selby-Rickett would score her first points of the night to extend the lead out to five for the Swish, and back-to-back three-point attempts went begging from Williams-Mackey and Buchman which proved costly. Gordon and Vaofusi had the final say of the contest, scoring the last five points of the game to lock in a 10-point victory 76-66.

The Swish were far more accurate from the field, hitting three more chances from six less shots, shooting at 42 per cent compared to 34 per cent. They also won the rebounds (52-47) and blocks (3-2), but were level in assists and second chance points, while the Dream had three less turnovers (15-18) and and an additional steal (11-10).

Vaofusi hit 21 points, and had four assists, three steals, two rebounds and a block in a big performance, but it was Whippy who notched up a stunning double-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds, five assists, four steals and one block. Lokotui had a big last term to finish with eight points and six rebounds, while Gordon (eight points, four rebounds) and Davey (seven points, three rebounds) were prominent off the bench.

For the Dream, Williams-Mackey finished with a team-high 16 points, accompanying two rebounds, two assists and one steal, while Robati had the most impact, shooting at a higher clip of 42 per cent to finish with 15 points. Robati also had nine rebounds – seven offensive two assists and two steals on the night. Buchman (13 points, six rebounds) and Papa (10 points, three rebounds and one steal) reached double-figure points, while Wayment (seven points, eight rebounds) provided support off the boards.

The Swish have the chance to back up with a match against Otago Gold Rush tonight, before the Dream return tomorrow night hoping to bounce back, also against the Gold Rush.

Picture: Photosport