Tag: gabriella fotu

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

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

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.

Harbour Breeze into semis unbeaten as Dream wait for other results

HARBOUR Breeze have ended the regular season of the condensed New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition with an unbeaten record for five games, finishing atop the ladder ahead of the semi-finals. In a logjam of four other sides who sit with two wins, they were the clear standout all night against Auckland Dream, setting the tone with an impressive first term and running out 13-point winners. It means the Dream now have a nervous wait, needing Capital Swish to defeat Waikato Wizards tonight in order for the Dream to finish fourth, and take on the Breeze in the semis.

The game was almost over before it began with the Breeze jumping the Dream to start the match. Brooke Blair, Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Gabriella Fotu all shared around the points firing off eight straight in the opening two and a half minutes. It was not until the three-and-a-half minute mark when Auckland’s Casyn Buchman finally broke the drought, hitting a jumper then backing up with an impressive layup off a rebound and assist from Sharne Robati.

Unfortunately for the Dream, the fast start was not the only burst for the Breeze, who went on to score 12 of the next 14 points to end the term, starting with Blair’s second basket, as Blair (four), Zara Jillings (three) and Fotu (three) all were starting to capitalise. Robati was the only other scorer for the Dream, but a last second layup from Kelman-Poto had the quarter time margin at 20-6 in favour of the Breeze.

Blair was quick out of the blocks again in the third term with a jumper, extending the lead out to 16 before a drought-breaking layup from Buchman. Once again though the Breeze were in total control as Kelman-Poto and Bell both scored either side of Dream missed opportunities and the lead was out to 18. Arielle Williams-Mackey hit her first points off free throws midway through the term, but once again Blair was there with the talented shooter hitting double-figures already.

The teams traded baskets over the next few minutes but the Breeze held a commanding position, answering each challenge with one of their own. Jelena Vucinic managed to get busy in the term, but Kelman-Poto and Fotu were both in-form. By the time the half-time buzzer sounded, the Breeze were 17 points up, leading 35-18, but the Dream had stemmed the flow.

It would be the case for most of the second half with the Breeze having done enough to keep control, and both sides hit five points in the opening 90 seconds of the third term, with Williams-Mackey and Jillings both hitting long-range bombs with Kelman-Poto and Robati scoring either side of them. The Dream did have a sniff midway through the term as the 18-point deficit was cut back to just 10 after Amanda Wayment hit a jumper and Williams-Mackey and Katelin Noyer scored back-to-back triples.

Fotu was quick to arrest that momentum swing just 23 seconds later, and when Blair hit a three-pointer a couple of minutes later, the Breeze lead was back out to 14. Jillings and Fotu both continued to add to their totals despite the good term from Noyer, and a late free throw from Kelman-Poto meant the final break margin was the same as at the half, 52-35.

If there was any question of a comeback, Kelman-Poto and Blair soon put that to bed, hitting the first eight points of the quarter to blow the Breeze lead out to 25 points. To the Dream’s credit with the Breeze resting a number of players, they hit 14-straight points to come within 11, and four minutes on the clock. The Breeze steadied with important baskets from Kailahi-Fulu and Blair. Despite some late triples from Williams-Mackey and Buchman, it would only reduce the damage in the end, going down to the Breeze by 13 points, 72-59.

Harbour Breeze controlled most stats, shooting at a higher clip from the field (43 to 30 per cent) despite having two less attempts. They dominated the steals (8-4) and lead the assists (14-11) and rebounds (47-46), while the Dream had one less turnover (11-12) and actually scored more fast break points (13-9).

Kelman-Poto finished the match with a standout performance of 19 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, rivalled by Blair who put up 18 points – at 66 per cent accuracy from the field – as well as five rebounds and three assists. Fotu (13 points, five rebounds, four assist sand two steals) was impressive, while Kailhai-Fulu (nine points, four rebounds and three blocks) and Jillings (eight points, six rebounds and two steals) were both productive.

For the Dream, Robati had a day out with 15 points and nine rebounds, teaming up well with Buchman who had 15 points and seven rebounds herself. Williams-Mackey had the 13 points but shot just three of 12 from the field, including none of five from two-point range, also picking up two rebounds. Olivia Berry did not register a point, but she picked up 11 rebounds and three assists coming off the bench.

Harbour Breeze will now await the fourth placed semi-finalist who could be the Auckland Dream, or potentially Capital Swish if the Swish fall to the Wizards tonight.

Picture: Photosport

Breeze secure top 18IN18 semi-finals spot with Wizards win

HARBOUR Breeze had already secured a spot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition coming into last night’s clash with Waikato Wizards, but a fourth straight win in the condensed season ensured they have top billing heading into the semi-finals. The Breeze won 72-57 in a dominant performance after a slow start, shaking off the first quarter rust from a whopping 13-point deficit to score 61- 24 after quarter time in an ominous message to their rivals.

The Breeze were strong favourites in the clash, though the Wizards were 2-1 from three games having only lost to Auckland Dream on opening night, and were looking to grab second spot with an upset win. The Wizards certainly had the hot hands of the two sides early with Esra McGoldrick and Kayla Manuirirangi helping their team race to a 5-0 lead in the opening two minutes with a massive block and defensive rebound from McGoldrick leading to a Jayzelee Waihi basket and a 7-0 lead.

It was not until the fourth minute of the first term that the undefeated Breeze got on the board through Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu following another made jumper from McGoldrick which made the maximum lead nine points. Ashleigh Kelman-Poto managed to cut it back to five for the Breeze, but once again McGoldrick was at it again, nailing a jumper. Brooke Blair hit her first points of the match at the midway point of the term after several misses, but the Wizards were firmly in control as each player was getting in on the act and had it not been for a Zara Jillings triple in the last nine seconds, the Breeze would have found themselves down more than the 13-point quarter time deficit.

There was little doubt that Harbour Breeze needed a response after being completely ambushed in the first term. In the 30 seconds either side of the break, Jillings had doubled her points with another triple, and then Blair was on the board with a jumper. Sensing the momentum was starting with the Breeze, Makayla Daysh got in with a crucial jumper off a second chance shot following numerous repeat efforts from herself – twice – as well as Waihi and McGoldrick in a 30-second passage of offensive play.

Trading baskets for a short time, the Breeze started to make their move by getting within single digits as Gabriella Fotu and Brooke Blair got busy. Following a Manuirirangi triple with two-and-a-half minutes on the clock, the Wizards led 35-24. Then in the blink of an eye, the Breeze showed why they are title favourites with Blair, Fotu and Kelman-Poto (twice) all scoring and by the time the clock ticked into the final minute of the half, just three points separated the sides. Waihi scored the final layup of the half to maintain a narrow five-point lead for the Wizards.

Unsurprisingly, the Breeze stepped up in the third term even more so as Blair and Kelman-Poto – who would end up being the most crucial Breeze players on the night – scoring in the opening minute. The scoring for both sides had largely dried up due to a number of misses and the opposition side was able to pick up the defensive board. But finally, Keeley Tini hit a game-tying triple with 6:04 on the clock. Both sides were 39-apiece and it was truly game on.

The Breeze were not going to take the foot off the pedal though, as they scored 10 consecutive points in that run starting and ending with Tini triples to lead by seven with three minutes to go in the third term. A late Kailahi-Fulu layup pushed the Breeze’s lead out to eight, and meant the Wizards had scored just three points in the quarter, the lowest quarter of the season, while the Breeze were back in control.

From there the Breeze knew what to do with Blair pushing the lead out to double-digits, and despite Waihi and McGoldrick managing to get within two baskets, the Breeze had the answers through Kelman-Poto and Fotu, with the former hitting nine of the next 11 points to blow out the lead to a match-winning 16 points.

McGoldrick continued her good form in the match trying all she could, but the Breeze were too strong. The closest the Wizards got after that opening blitz was 12 points after a McGoldrick jumper with 35 seconds on the clock, only for Tiarna Clarke to hit a triple with six seconds remaining and end what had been a massive comeback and performance from the Breeze.

Kelman-Poto hit a team-high 18 points, as well as eight rebounds – four offensive – for the Breeze, shooting at 72 per cent from the floor. Blair was not too far behind with 16 points herself, picking up four rebounds, five assists and three steals running the offence. Also productive was Kailahi-Fulu who picked up a double-double courtesy of 11 points and 10 rebounds, as well as a big block, while Fotu (eight points, three steals) and Jillings (six points, six assists, four rebounds and four steals) both playing well on transition.

For the Wizards, McGoldrick was the standout, hitting 20 points – though at 38 per cent accuracy – also picking up match-highs in rebounds (14) and blocks (six) to go with two assists and three steals in a dominant performance. Daysh assisted off the boards with 11 rebounds, two assists, two steals and a block along with six points, while Manuirirangi was the other key scorer thanks to 15 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in the loss.

Both teams have one match left as the final three matches get underway, starting with the Breeze’s huge clash with Auckland Dream tonight, while the Wizards take on Capital Swish tomorrow in what is effectively an elimination final for the loser.

Picture: Photosport

Breeze provides knockout blow for Wildcats in big win

FOR one team, the result meant staying undefeated from three games, while for the other, it was effectively a line through their playoff hopes, as Harbour Breeze produced an impressive 22-point win over Canterbury Wildcats in the New Zealand National Basketball League’s (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition last night. The result meant the former set itself up for a top two finish, while handing the Wildcats a fourth defeat and knocking them out of contention for the 2020 title.

After an agonisingly close loss the night before, Wildcats’ Brittany Richards was first on the board with a clever hookshot in the opening 30 seconds. Though in what would become a theme for the night, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Brooke Blair both added baskets in 30 seconds to quickly have the Breeze back on track. For each Wildcats basket, there were two Breeze baskets, as Gabriella Fotu and Blair – this time the latter had a three-pointer – countered out the Terai-Ma-Teata Elia jump shot to push the lead out to five just over two minutes into the match.

Both teams were making a number of turnovers with ball-in-hand and missing opportunities as the chances dried up over the next few minutes. Elia finally broke the drought off a Shea Crotty dime, but once again Blair was involved, getting it to Jessica Moors who produced perfect Breeze layup. The Wildcats kept trying, with Rosalia Samia and Richards both sinking shots, but the work of Keeley Tini with a triple and then a last second Kelman-Poto jumper handed the Breeze a six-point advantage at the first break.

Crotty was quick out of the blocks for the Wildcats to chew back the clock as Blair missed a couple of chances, but the Wildcats could not punish them from the charity stripe with both Samia and Elia only hitting one of two from the line. They had got to within two points before Fotu finally got the Breeze on the board, and it kick-started a run of eight consecutive points, the next six came from the red-hot Blair who found her range inside the arc.

In the space of a few minutes, the lead was out to double-digits and the Wildcats needed a response. Samia, Isabelle Cook and Crotty all quickly piled on baskets in the space of a minute, shaving seven points off the 10-point deficit. Kelman-Poto had returned to the court and made up for lost time with four consecutive points for the Breeze to blow it back out to 28-21, before Cook hit a timely jumper with 44 seconds on the clock. Many might have thought that would be it for the quarter, but instead it was the Blair show, as the talented shooter knocked down back-to-back triples in what was a remarkable double-digit quarter for the talent, her last second bomb making the half-time margin 11 points.

Both Blair and Kelman-Poto continued after the break and combined for seven of the first nine points, with every Wildcats basket immediately receiving a response from the Breeze. The Breeze duo dictated play for a lot of of the time, and despite a Gemma Etheredge triple midway through the term for the Wildcats, they could not get enough momentum to chew into the deficit.

The lead went out to as much as 17 points at one stage, with the Wildcats able to reel it in to 11, as long-range shooting from Lauryn Hippolite, Richards and Etheredge helped, but even the last minute triple from Etheredge could only cut the final break deficit to 10. Once again the Breeze scored seven of the first nine points of the final term. From there it was largely academic and more about how much the final margin would be, which eventuated into a 22-point difference between the teams, 81-59.

The Breeze were simply more accurate from the field, hitting 53 per cent of their chances to the Wildcats’ 40 per cent, though Canterbury hit seven of 20 three-pointers to keep themselves in the contest. The stats as a whole were fairly even, with the Breeze’s 6-1 blocks advantage the key, though they only won the assist count by four (17-13). The Wildcats won the rebound (35-34) and steal (17-16) counts, whilst both teams managed nine second chance points, though Canterbury had 27 turnovers to 22.

Blair shot a match-high 25 points, shooting at 64 per cent from the field, including eight of 10 from inside the arc. She also dished off six assists and had three steals in an impressive performance. Working in tandem with her was Kelman-Poto (18 points, nine rebounds) who was prolific at both ends of the court. Moors finished with double-digit points off the bench thanks to 10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Fotu (nine points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds) was also strong.

For the Wildcats, Samia managed a team-high 12 points, as well as three assists, two steals and two rebounds, but also six turnovers. Elia made the most of her chances with 11 points and a 100 per cent field goal percentage accompanying eight rebounds, three assists and four steals as the Wildcats’ best. Etheredge had seven points and seven rebounds, but only shot two of 10 from the field and had the five turnovers. Off the bench, Hippolite had six points and three rebounds, while Cook had seven points.

Harbour Breeze now rest up until back-to-back games against Waikato Wildcats and Auckland Dream next Monday and Tuesday, whilst the final Canterbury Wildcats game will take place on the last night of competition on December 3, against Otago Gold Rush.

Picture: Photosport

Breeze dig deep in final term to blow away plucky Gold Rush

THEY did not have it all their own way, but one of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 title favourites in Harbour Breeze were able to maintain their intensity for longer and step up when it counted to post an important win over Otago Gold Rush. The 11-point win (58-47) allowed the Breeze to move to 2-0 for the season and join Auckland Dream as the other undefeated team thus far in the condensed season, needing all four quarters to finally shake off the fresh Gold Rush.

Coming off an impressive win the night before, Harbour Breeze started with a triple 90 seconds into the contest off the hot hands of Ashleigh Kelman-Poto to get them going. Zoe Richards responded a minute later to become the first official Gold Rush scorer in the 2020 season. A mistake-riddled first term saw few shots being made and a number of fouls being handed out, before Savanna Handevidt produced back-to-back free throws to nudge her team ahead 4-3. Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu responded a mere five seconds later off another foul, and midway through the term, the score was 5-4 in favour of the Breeze.

It picked up a little more in the final three minutes as Gabriella Fotu hit an important layup, but Tara Clement and Richards responded again and Gold Rush had the lead back. Clement’s two free throws extended that to three, which was quickly negated by an impressive Keeley Tini triple with less than two minutes on the clock. Scoring five consecutive points, the Gold Rush looked to be in firm control at 15-10 with 28 seconds remaining on the clock.

Unfortunately for the Gold Rush, a two-point jumper by Olivia Bell with two seconds on the clock, and then another layup, this time from Jessica Moors in the first 15 seconds of the second term cut the deficit to just one. Once again scoring was scarce in the first half of the quarter, as Kailahi-Fulu put her second lot of points on the board to tie the scores for the Breeze, before Moors got to the basket to hand her team the lead midway through the quarter.

Another 90 seconds off the clock and neither team could score credit to the defensive pressure, before Kelman-Poto headed to the charity stripe and pushed the Breeze’s lead out to a two-possession game. Richards and Te Araroa Sopoaga responded, with the latter’s three-pointer with 99 seconds left in the term hitting the front, only for Tini and then Foty to respond and the Breeze were back in front by free at half-time.

Not willing to let the game slip, the Gold Rush had the first eight points on the board, with Richards contributing four and not allowing the Breeze a score in the first three and a half minutes. Though as the good teams tend to do, the Breeze – this time through Fotu – found a way – and back-to-back layups from Fotu gave her side the lead in the blink of an eye.

A few minutes later Brooke Blair scored her first points of the night after a big evening the night before thanks to a three-pointer, but the Gold Rush kept coming. The teams traded blows with Tini, Tiarna Clarke and Kailahi-Fulu all adding baskets to push the lead out to a game-high six points. Not much in it at the final break, a Lisa Wallbutton layup with 10 seconds to go, an cut it to three, but it could have been even tighter with Wallbutton missing the And-One chance, then picking up the offensive rebounds but missing the jump shot allowing Moors to hold onto possession in the dying seconds.

Handevidt scored the first point of the final term with one of her two free throws, but the second miss would hurt as Fotu continued her hot streak with another couple of baskets and the lead was back out to six. Unlike the first three quarters, there was plenty of scoring in the first few minutes as Wallbutton hit back-to-back baskets either side of a Zara Jillings miss, and the Gold Rush were within two.

A series of attempts from Richards – where she picked up three offensive rebounds, had two shots and passed two other opportunities off – could not yield a score, and then Fotu drove the dagger in further with a great pass to an open Tini who nailed a triple and the lead was out to five with six minutes on the clock.

The Gold Rush again came hard, getting within two points with four minutes on the clock, but Blair was beginning to become a problem, answering each opposition basket with one of her own. When she dished off a dime to Tini for another three-pointer, the game was looking out of reach for the underdogs. It was fitting that after another series of chances from the Gold Rush that could not result in scoreboard pressure, it was Blair and Tini, off deliberate fouls, that officially put the final nail in the coffin as the lead went out to 12. A Richards jump shot in the last 10 seconds cut the final margin to 11, but it was the Breeze standing up in the final five minutes of the game that was the difference.

Tini’s long-range game yielded her the most points with 15, which saw her make four of seven from long range and pick up two rebounds off the bench. Fotu was a standout with 11 points and seven rebounds, while Blair was clean with a big second half including 11 points, three rebounds and three steals. Jillings’ shooting might have been off – none of 10 chances from the field – but she still was a solid contributor with seven rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Kelman-Poto (five points, six rebounds and three blocks) and Kailahi-Fulu (seven points, four rebounds and two steals) were both impressive.

For the Gold Rush, Richards hit 12 points, and could have been even more with just six of 18 from the field, but she was able to record eight rebounds, two assists and three steals on the night. Wallbutton off the bench was a standout with 10 points and 13 rebounds, while Sopoaga notched up eight points – only one from eight from the field – and had seven assists, five rebounds and two blocks. Handevidt also stood tall around the basket with seven rebounds to accompany her nine points.

The Gold Rush will look to bounce back tonight when they take on the similarly placed 0-1 Waikato Wizards, while the Breeze now set their sights on Canterbury Wildcats on Thursday.

Picture credit: Photosport

Strong Harbour Breeze blows past Swish with dominant second half

AN impressive second half from one of the title contenders in Harbour Breeze has seen the Breeze dominate Capital Swish thanks to their fresh legs coming into the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 tournament for their first match. After the sides were all square at half-time, the Breeze came out with more vigour in the second half, piling on 50 points to 27 to run out 88-65 winners and tip-off their season on the right note.

After an impressive win the night before against Canterbury Wildcats, the Swish looked to started strongly, and whilst they missed a couple of chances early, Grace Simi Vaofusi quickly put a score on the board to counter that of opponent, Tiarna Clarke. The teams were neck-and-neck throughout the opening half and the first term was no different as Zara Jillings got on the board with back-to-back free throws, before Lateva Whippy produced a nice two-point layup to tie the scores.

The first bit of separation came following back-to-back baskets to the Breeze with a three-pointer from Ashleigh Kelman-Poto hitting the mark, then Brooke Blair produced a successful jump shot for a 9-4 lead. Then it became the Swish’s turn to take control, as Whippy, Vaofusi and then Dalen Pillitati all adding points on the board in what became a 10-0 run for the side to go out to a 14-9 advantage.

Following a Blair basket after Jessica Moore free throws, the lead was cut to three, before Pillati hit a three-point jumper for a four-point advantage the way of the Swish. Gabrielle Fotu responded with 40 seconds on the clock and Blair again stepped up with a layup to tie the scores, then pick up a late basket off a Te Huinga Selby-Rickit miss for a 19-19 first term.

The second term mirrored the first early as neither side could gain any real momentum as both defences were forcing misses or turnovers. It took a special Maia Jean Watene turnaround jumper four minutes into the quarter to provide the major highlight early. After that increased the Swish lead to four, the Breeze stepped up with a 7-0 run to regain the lead back with just over four minutes to play.

Blair was becoming a problem for the Swish, as she hit five points either side of an important Selby-Rickit basket, and in mirroring the first term, the Breeze this time skipped out to a six-point advantage with two minutes to play after consecutive jump shots from Keeley Tini and Olivia Bell for a 35-29 lead. Despite Vaofusi stepping up twice herself in the last couple of minutes, Tini and Bell continued to apply the scoreboard pressure. Luckily for the Swish, Paris Lokotui – who had an impressive game the night before – stepped up in the last 50 seconds for the last five points of the game including a long-range make that tied the game at half-time with seconds remaining.

There was no separating the sides at the half, but the moment the teams stepped out on court in the third term, there was a clear separation as the fresh legs of the Breeze had a frenzied approach and could not miss. Gabriella Fotu, Kelman-Poto, Blair and Jillins had piled on 10 points in the first two minutes compared for a 48-38 lead. By comparison, the Swish went 0-5 from the field to start the second half.

It took until a Vaofusi layup in the third minute for the Swish, but the early damage was done. Both teams went into a bit of a scoring drought, but the Breeze added three more points over the next three minutes as the Swish had to wait until Whippy hit successful free throws with just under five minutes remaining for their next score.

Another 5-0 run to the Breeze and the lead had blown out to 14 with just under three minutes remaining in the quarter. Every Swish basket came with a response, and the 16-point lead at the break including an And-One chance from Tini to all but seal the match with that performance.

The Swish would need something special in the final term to turn it around and Lokotui tried early with the first points of the last quarter more than two minutes in, but like the story in the third term, was immediately countered by a Kelman-Poto triple. Blair free throws a minute later and then a Kelman-Poto layup pushed the lead out to a match-high 21 points. From there, the Swish could never get within 18 points, as the Breeze kept responding and had it as much as 24 points at one stage, with the final triple at the 25-second mark of the last term ending the match with a 23-point victory, 88-65.

Despite the large margin on the scoreboard, there was not a great deal to separate the teams with the Breeze ahead marginally in rebounds (46-45), assists (19-16), steals (15-12) and second chance points (12-9). In what has become a broken record all season, the most accurate side got up, with the Breeze hitting 45 per cent of their shots from the field, including 54 per cent from two-point range, compared to the Swish’s 34 per cent in both. The Swish also had six more turnovers (26-20) which proved costly.

Blair was the standout shooter for the Breeze, hitting 19 points at 66 per cent efficiency, including 100 per cent from inside the arc, while picking up four assists and two rebounds. Kelman-Poto hit two of her three chances from outside the arc for 14 points and six rebounds, while Tini (10 points, three rebounds) and Fotu (11 points, five assists and two steals) also ensured there were plenty of points flowing from the bench. Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu might have only added four points in the match, but was crucial off the boards with 11 to accompany her two steaks, while Jillings had seven rebounds with eight points and two assists.

For the Swish, Vaofusi tried hard throughout the match, hitting a team-high 18 points, as well as five rebounds and five steals across 26 minutes, while Whippy (12 points, 10 rebounds, six assists and four steals) led from the front in a double-double performance. Unfortunately that also included eight turnovers, but Lokotui had double-figure points as well with 11, along wiht eight rebounds and three assists. Coming off the bench, Selby-Rickit (five points, 10 rebounds, two assists and two blocks) and Lilly Taulelei (eight points, five rebounds) both provided a presence off the boards.

Tomorrow night the Breeze will lock horns with Otago Gold Rush in a bid to go back-to-back and match Auckland Dream in their strong start, while the Swish become the first side with a 1-1 record and will now rest up until Friday, when they take on the Dream.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Harbour Breeze

ONE of the title contenders in this year’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Sal’s NBL 18IN18 competition, Harbour Breeze are determined to light up the court when competition tips off next week.

Harbour Breeze CEO John Hunt said the club would play “fast pace, exciting and skilled basketball” throughout the 2020 season and he was excited by the team possibilities. Whilst there were a number of top omissions out of the side from last year, he said the inclusions had plenty of talent that could perform at the level.

“We have lost four of our top players from 2019 (Penina Davidson to Melbourne Boomers; Yume Negishi returned to Japan; Tayla Dalton to St. Mary’s and Emme Shearer to Portland) and Ashleigh Karaitiana will also be playing for the Boomers,” Hunt said. “We have added Ella Fotu, Zara Jillings, Olivia Bell, Tiarna Clarke and Jess Moors.”

Karaitiana was one who was expected to suit up this season, but after an impressive Queensland State League (QSL) competition, she was offered a contract with the Melbourne Boomers. Given the two competitions clash, the Tall Black talent had to commit to the Boomers and play under international coach Guy Molloy.

“We added Ashleigh Karaitiana to the squad in 2020 but unfortunately the delayed season means that Ashleigh will be playing for the Melbourne Boomers in the ANBL,” Hunt said.

Focusing on the squad for the year ahead, Hunt said he was looking forward to the inclusion of Fotu, as well as Jillings and Bell given their US College experience. Indeed Fotu is no stranger to elite competitions, competing for the Tall Ferns throughout last year and debuted for Harbour Breeze way back in 2013 as a 16-year-old. Now 24, Fotu looms as a dangerous guard for the Breeze in the upcoming competition.

Jillings is an exciting 22-year-old center who gained vital court minutes for Fordham in the NCAA. She came off the bench for an average of a point and a couple of rebounds from 9.7 minutes, making he most of her chances, and showing she was not afraid to shoot from deep. Bell represented North Dakota State and also played through the five spot, averaging 4.6 points and 3.3 rebounds per game. Bell spent time with the Breeze a couple of seasons ago, averaging a couple of points in limited minutes.

Looking back at the overall team performance in 2019, the team won eight of a possible 12 games, including four of five on the road. Whilst the entire 18IN18 competition will be held in the one venue, expect the Breeze to be amongst the top competitors.

HARBOUR BREEZE FULL SQUAD:

Olivia Bell
Brooke Blair
Tiarna Clarke
Gabriella Fotu
Zara Jillings
Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu
Ashleigh Kelman-Poto
Jessica Moors
Waiaria Putaranui-Henderson
Keeley Tini
Luye (Lily) Murphy
Safenunuivao Te Nana-Williams
Leata Te Nana-Williams

Picture: Getty Images