Tag: hayley gray

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

Otago strikes Gold to remain in semis hunt with win over Swish

OTAGO Gold Rush remain in contention for a New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNL) 18IN18 semi-finals spot after toppling Capital Swish by 10 points. A night after Capitals Swish toppled reigning premiers Auckland Dream by that exact margin, the Swish were on the back foot, trying to get back into the game after falling as much as 15 points behind. While they won the last term, it was a case of too little, too late and the Gold Rush got up, 58-48.

Otago’s Zoe Richards started the night with the first basket, and quickly made it two after a response from Swish’s previous night hero, Grace Simi Vaofusi. The Gold Rush got out to a four-point lead with Lisa Wallbutton and then Richards (up to six points), either side of Letava Whippy free throws. Back-to-back baskets for the Swish through Lilly Taulelei and Grace Gordon resulted in their side hitting the front with four minutes on the clock.

A lower scoring second half of the term saw just seven points scoring, with four of them coming from Savanna Handevidt, with her last basket putting her team in front with 11 seconds remaining in the first term. That momentum carried into the second as Bronwyn Kjestrup, Wallbutton and Te Araroa Sopoaga all scored in the opening two-and-a-half-minutes, with Wallbutton adding both her free throws not long after. Since being 8-9 down late in the first term, the Gold Rush had scored 13-2 and were now 10 points up three minutes into the second.

Grace Gordon broke the drought for the Swish, scoring moments later, then Maia Jean Watene made it back-to-back baskets for the Swish since midway through the first quarter. Sensing the momentum was turning, Sopoaga took it upon herself to get aggressive at the basket, making three consecutive layups, and by the third time copped contact off Gordon and then made the And-One chance.

The lead was out to 13 points with three-and-a-half minutes left in the quarter when Handevidt hit a jumper, and despite Te Huinga Selby-Rickit making back-to-back jumpers for her side, the Swish were on the back foot. Taulelei and Selby-Rickit cut the deficit to seven in the final minute, with the latter now up to six points, before Tara Clement scored a timely layup with 15 seconds left on the clock for a nine-point lead at half-time.

The first basket of the second half was always going to be important, and it was Handevidt who hit one of her two free throws to make the margin double-digits. Watene responded two minutes into the quarter, before Richards and Hayley Gray – the latter was fouled whilst taking a long-range shot – blew the lead right out to a game-high 13 points. Samantha Jenkins responded for the Swish with a triple of her own, but despite the Swish getting within nine points, yet another triple, this time from Richards, as well as a layup from Handevidt had the margin back out 15.

With less than three minutes on the clock, the Swish needed to do something, and Taulelei hit a vital jump shot, but her side could not hit the range, with Olivia O’Neill the only other player to score in the final two minutes, extending the Gold Rush’s advantage out to 15 at the final break, 46-31.

Needing an immediate response, the Swish had one through Sariah Penesse‘s triple in the opening 12 seconds of the match. The deficit was back to 12, but for every move the Swish made, the Gold Rush had answers, be it long range bombs, or getting to the basket and heading to the charity stripe. When Clement hit a three-point jumper with four-and-a-half minutes on the clock, the game looked to be in the Gold Rush’s keeping.

Both sides held up defensively, and whilst the Gold Rush only hit two free throws in the final minutes – and the Swish piled on seven points – the job was done and Otago celebrated a season-defining 10-point win, 58-48 to remain in the semi-finals hunt.

The teams were fairly even in the shooting stats, though the Gold Rush got to the line three times as much as the Swish, with the latter having a whopping nine more personal fouls (20-11) and six more turnovers (25-19). The Gold Rush’s work off the boards was huge (rebounds 54-44), as well as capitalising on second chance points (12-6) and winning the assist (15-14), steal (11-9) and block (4-3) counts.

Sopoaga hit a match-high 15 points, as well as eight rebounds, while Richards also managed 11 points, eight rebounds, four assists and two blocks. Handevidt knocked down nine points, as well as six rebounds and four steals, while Wallbutton was productive off the bench, racking up a match-high 12 rebounds to accompany her even points and three assists.

For the Swish, Whippy was the dominant player off the boards with seven points, 11 rebounds six assists and four steals while Selby-Rickit was the other player who had an impact with eight points – six coming in that second term – as well as eight rebounds and two steals. Taulelei scored six points and six rebounds in another strong effort for the losing side.

The Gold Rush will have another chance to cause an upset when they go head-to-head with Auckland Dream tonight, while the Swish must defeat the Waikato Wizards on December 3 if they are to play in the semi-finals.

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: Otago Gold Rush

OTAGO Gold Rush are gearing up for the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Sal’s NBL 18IN18 competition which commences next week, after somewhat of an interrupted year given the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the delayed start to the season, General Manager Peter Drew explained that the players have been preparing for this moment all year and are excited to finally get out on court.

“The Gold Rush players are absolutely pumped for the 18in18. They’ve been training virtually every week since February, and for much of the year they weren’t sure if they would even get to play in 2020,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from the men’s side which reigned supreme in the NZNBL earlier in the year, Drew is excited about what his side could produce in the upcoming competition.

“They watched their male counterparts the Nuggets go on their incredible Sals NBL championship winning comeback to the NZNBL which inspired basketballers right across Otago, and really inspired the Gold Rush players to want to have their opportunity of trying to do similar. Now they have that chance and they are absolutely pumped for it,” he said.

Although excited to take the court, there is somewhat of a downside for having a postponed season with a number of the Gold Rush players at university and now having to manage their basketball schedule in terms of trainings and games along with their studies. However, they are determined to not let that get in the way of achieving their goals and playing some good basketball.

“We’ve been training all year, however 70 per cent of our team are university students and therefore many in the team are juggling NBL training with exams at the moment,” Drew said. “So that’s been a little tricky but we’re making the best of it. The group has come together really well and we’ll be ready to go full throttle in Auckland.”

There is no denying that it is an extremely heavy workload having to play 18 games in 18 days throwing up a number of problems in relation to player management and game plans, but that is something Drew has already taken into account, ahead of the upcoming season.

“This is a unique playing experience for the team and we’ve embraced the challenges that come with something that is different and challenging, but exciting. We have to do three separate trips from the south of NZ up to Auckland with Gold Rush players having to fly in from Dunedin, Invercargill, and Queenstown. Each time we fly in, our first game is on the same day we fly in,” Drew said.

“So we need to be ready to adapt immediately to a new playing environment, we need to get our eating plans carefully planned out in advance, get our travel timings planned between the hotel and stadium, and make sure we recover well after the game so that we can back up and play hard again the next day. It’s challenging, but we embrace that and are planning well for it.”

Not only is travel a huge factor to consider, but when building the team Drew also had to weigh up factors surrounding personnel to ensure that he could build a team that would be able to withstand the rigours of travel and frequent court time, which is no easy feat.

Drew pointed out the level of commitment and particularly the “personal commitments and sacrifices” some of the players have gone to, to ensure that they will be able to take the court for the Gold Rush. Some of the players have even opted to put a halt to their summer jobs or switched to night shifts in hope to represent Otago in the NZNBL.

“As an example, one of our players has put herself onto night shift in order to be able to get enough travel time. Some of our students have also decided to put their summer jobs on hold for a couple of weeks after exams finish so that they can take part in this unique opportunity. That is a significant financial sacrifice for them. So you can see how much it means to these players. They really want to be a part of this as it’s something that is special, unique, and ground-breaking for Women’s basketball in NZ.”

In terms of on court strengths, Drew highlighted that while Otago might not be a “team of superstars” their strengths lie with their speed and ability to “defend strongly.” He also touted the expertise of coach Gavin Briggs when it comes to executing a game plan and finding that “balance of youth and experience.”

Speaking of experience, it would be remiss not to acknowledge Tall Fern Zoe Richards who is set to suit up for Otago, while Drew also made mention of a couple of other exciting prospects preparing to take the court.

“In terms of experience and level of play, we have Zoe Richards who is a current Tall Fern, we have Lisa Wallbutton who has previously had a successful 10 year career with the Tall Ferns and is making a playing comeback this season, and we have Hayley Gray who was previously captain of the Canterbury Wildcats for back to back titles several years ago,” he said.

Although not willing to give away too much, when it came to divulging their game plan, Drew made it clear that Otago’s main goal is to “develop and refine [their] team plays and strategies.” On a personal level, Drew is determined to set high standards for the club and of course create a winning culture at Otago.

“We want to have a Gold Rush team that hopefully can win, but if they do lose, they are a team that makes it as difficult as possible for the opposition to beat them,” he said.

“Of course winning games is important to us up in Auckland, but really we just want to build this team and make them better, with an eye towards 2021 and 2022 for this team to hopefully really develop and reach its potential. We also want to set standards back in Otago for how we train and play so that young girls coming through can see that and become a part of a really positive and professional basketball culture.”

Given the condensed season there are only five games prior to the play-offs meaning the Gold Rush will have to put their best foot forward from the moment they step on the court if they are any chance to push for a finals tilt. With this in mind, it is very much a defence wins premierships mindset for the Gold Rush who are eager to get the season underway and show what they are capable of.