Tag: izayah mauriohooho lea’afa

Broekhoff finds range to help Phoenix sink Hawks

RYAN Broekhoff has arrived in the National Basketball League (NBL). The NBA talent has been gradually building minutes working into the competition, but it was his impact that spurred the South East Melbourne Phoenix onto a massive win over Illawarra Hawks on the road last night. The Phoenix – looking to bounce back from its first loss in five games – also brought back Mitch Creek for the match, in a game that the visiting side dominated after quarter time. In a game attended by more than 2600 people at the WIN Entertainment Centre, it was the Broekhoff-led Phoenix who got up, 95-63.

Illawarra was fast out of the blocks on the night in front of home fans, piling on 25 points to 15 in the opening term and opening up a double-digit lead. That was about where it stopped for them though, as the Phoenix took control in the second term, restricting Illawarra to just 13 points, as they piled on 24 themselves to head into the main break with an one-point lead.

Despite the narrow margin, the momentum was all with the Phoenix and it showed in the second half, as the visitors put the foot down in the third with a whopping 30 points to just eight, winning the quarter by 22 and racing out to what was effectively an unassailable lead. They did not stop there however, also finishing the stronger of the sides with a dominant 26-17 final term using the rotations well, to run away with the 32-point thrashing.

The Phoenix were just more effective across the board, only having two more shots from the field (73-71), but nailing 36 of them (49 per cent efficiency) to the Hawks’ 16 (36 per cent). They also nailed 16 triples to four – largely thanks to Broekhoff’s seven of 11 – and won the rebound (46-37) assist (27-11), steal (7-5) and block (4-2) counts. Both teams had 11 turnovers, with the Hawks marginally ahead in capitalising from turnovers (18-15), but the Phoenix were ahead in points from the paint (34-30) and second chance points (13-10).

Broekhoff’s seven triples helped him to a total of 26 points, as well as six rebounds and one steal on the night from just 21 minutes of action. Creek played 21 minutes too, but put up just one of five from the field for a lowly two points, as well as two assists and one rebound. For the starters, Yannick Wetzell starred with 18 points, 11 rebounds – four offensive – five assists and three blocks, while back court duo Cameron Gliddon and Kyle Adnam were also busy.

Gliddon amassed 15 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals, while partner-in-crime Adnam finished with 14 points, seven rebounds and five assists. Ben Moore also reached double-figure points with 12, as well as six rebounds. Off the bench, Adam Gibson and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa combined for five points, but six rebounds and seven assists in the win.

For the Hawks, Justinian Jessup was a lone-hand on the scoring front, putting up a third of his team’s points with 21, whilst also notching up three rebounds for his troubles. Sam Froling had 10 points and 11 rebounds for a double-double as well as two steals and two blocks, while Deng Deng had the nine points and four rebounds off the bench in less than 10 minutes on court. Usually reliable shooters Justin Simon and Tyler Harvey combined four just seven points – two of 12 from the field – in what was a disappointing overall night for the Hawks.

The Illawarra Hawks will want to shake off the loss to front up against the out-of-form Adelaide 36ers in South Australia tomorrow night, whilst the Phoenix host the New Zealand Breakers on Sunday at John Cain Arena.

Picture credit: Brendon Thorne/Getty Images

Phoenix set franchise-record fourth straight win over stagnant Sixers

AFTER trailing for quite literally the entire game last night at John Cain Arena, the South East Melbourne Phoenix have earned a remarkable come from behind 96-89 win over the Adelaide 36ers, winning the contest with a superb overtime period and earning a four-game winning streak in the process – the longest ever in the franchise’s short history.

The undermanned Phoenix (Adam Gibson and Dane Pineau were back in the line-up) kept up with the 36ers throughout the first chunk of 10 minutes, trailing Adelaide by a mere five points with Yanni Wetzell putting together 12 first-quarter points. But a wide spread of scorers for Conner Henry’s 36ers side saw six individuals find the bottom of the net, the reason responsible for their lead in the second (25-20).

It was the visitors that came out of the first break hot though, with Adelaide putting seven-straight points on the board over the initial three minutes. However, the Phoenix’s firepower from the field was able to undo the initial damage that the 36ers had inflicted on the home side tying the quarter at 22 points each.

As Adelaide still maintained a five-point advantage at the end of the opening half, they could credit it to their ridiculous 58 per cent field goal efficiency, while South East Melbourne was sitting at around 40 per cent on their end (shooting 11 points from the free throw line on 11 attempts). Furthermore, Adelaide moved the ball extraordinarily well with 11 assists compared to the Phoenix’s five, but the hosts led in categories like second chance points and points scored from turnovers.

Again, the Phoenix were sluggish to start a period, this time the third, giving up an 11-2 run in favour of their opponents, which saw Adelaide’s margin balloon quickly out to double digits once again as Josh Giddey and Daniel Johnson continued to run amuck in the paint.

Some key plays created by Pineau late in the third marked the end of another comeback run by South East Melbourne, pulling the deficit back to three points (59-62) after 30 minutes of play, with Ben Moore starting to become a nuisance for the 36ers with 13 points and six rebounds at three quarter time.

The fourth was more level in terms of scoring production from both teams, and the game would hang in the balance heading into the final minutes. South East Melbourne completed their comeback efforts following a triple off of Kyle Adnam and a layup by Wetzell with less than 20 seconds on the clock.

New revealed Adelaide import Brandon Paul missed a chance to win the game in the final second after settling for a contested three, and the result would mean a session of overtime for the two sides.

A 12-2 run to start overtime for the Phoenix was more than ideal and to make matters worse for the 36ers, a rolled ankle from Giddey saw the youngster miss out the last two minutes of the game.

Thanks to their late run, South East Melbourne were able to attain a much-needed victory off the back of what has been an eventful last few weeks – and without team leading scorer Mitchell Creek.

All signs pointed to Adelaide being the superior of the two sides leading the way in statistics such as shooting (52 to 44 per cent), assists (16-15), bench points (30-21) and fast break points (7-2). But the Phoenix hung around to earn a plus-seven in rebounding, turnovers and free throws, therefore willing themselves back into the game.

Key players for the Phoenix included Moore, who accounted for 23 points, 10 rebounds and five assists as well as Wetzell having 22 points, six rebounds and four assists. Adnam and Cameron Gliddon each accounted for double digits, whereas Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was a standout with 10 points in 26 minutes of court time, including some valuable defensive plays late in the game.

For Adelaide, Paul was their major scorer with 20 points and three assists, while the one-two punch of Giddey and Johnson was kept to relatively harmless numbers. Giddey had himself a full game with 15 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists before his premature exit, whereas Johnson also had 15 points, but a small contribution on the glass with three rebounds.

Moving on from their win last night the Phoenix have no further outings in Round 10 but will have their form tested a week from now when they face off with Melbourne United. Adelaide will try to recuperate and head back to the drawing board as they will need to try and steal an away win from the Cairns Taipans, however, many answers await following the potential injury of Giddey and if there will be a period of rest associated with the outcome.

Franchise record efficiency earns Phoenix NBL Cup runners up honours

THE South East Melbourne Phoenix have won three in a row for the first time since the start of the season and have secured second place on the NBL Cup ladder after their 14-point victory over the New Zealand Breakers (103-89). Setting a franchise record of 63 per cent shooting from the field, they won all four quarters on the back of five players scoring double figures. An ominous sign for the competition with players like Keifer Sykes, Adam Gibson, Kendall Stephens, and Dane Pineau still to come back in.

Injuries have also affected the Breakers with Corey Webster, Rob Loe, and Lamar Patterson missing, while new signings in Jeremy Kendle and William McDowell-White are not yet available. Despite these absences on either side, both outfits have been playing some of their best basketball this season.

The first matchup between these sides in 13 months kicked off in an efficiently high-octane fashion with the Phoenix leading 29-23 at the first break.

The anticipated matchup of Finn Delany and Mitch Creek was ignited early with plays at both ends providing some quality basketball, but the work of Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa was what stood out in early proceedings. He drew two charges and dropped a pair of threes and has quickly become one of the biggest improvers during the NBL Cup.

The Phoenix did not take care of the ball as much as they would have liked, but 5-8 from deep which included a missed three-quarter court buzzer-beater was what gave them the edge. With each quarter giving South East Melbourne something to play for, they were reluctant to drop a point and managed to hold out the Breakers in the second to lead 53-46 at half time.

Delany was leading the charge for New Zealand as he made his way to 13 first-half points, but 13 from Ben Moore and 12 from Creek on perfect field shooting was pivotal to their edge in the game. Offensive efficiency was key in their lead, but they were still giving up the ball too much as coach Simon Mitchell pleaded with his troops to restrict their scoring from turnovers.

With the game still in the balance, the Breakers had to reverse their second-half history as they had only won one of their last nine.

Tai Webster was set on being the man to step up and knocked down two triples to start the third. On his next attacking foray, he committed an offensive foul and had to sit down with four fouls. From there, the Phoenix extended their lead with their attack on the paint. They would make shots inside or draw the foul or draw the defence and kick it to their shooters on the outside.

They led 78-65 at the final break but despite their lead, coach Mitchell was not happy and implored his team to think beyond just winning quarters but playing basketball that would take them deep into the season.

Mostly sloppy back and forth basketball in the final quarter did not see any significant change in the margin as South East Melbourne won the final quarter to give them the maximum seven points to put them outright second on the NBL Cup ladder. It was just the second time that a side won all four quarters and the game, with the other being New Zealand.

Creek had 21 points, four rebounds, and four assists, while Kyle Adnam had 21 points and seven assists and were the key contributors to go with Yannick Wetzell (15 points) and Cam Gliddon (10 points, four rebounds, four assists).

The Phoenix scored 48 points in the paint and tried to expose the undermanned Breakers line up inside. Thanks to 17 points from Moore, their bench outscored New Zealand’s by 19 points as they opted to go with a six-player rotation with just two other players playing six minutes or less.

Being notably undermanned themselves, Creek said his side did a fantastic job to finish second in the NBL Cup having had their “backs against the wall”.

“Guys out injured, guys stepping up, replacement players, Ryan [Broekhoff] coming in with 14 days of sitting on a couch essentially, so proud of the guys and what they’ve been able to achieve,” he said. “We’ve all gone through a lot of adversity to be here, it’s nice to get a bit of prize money that’s fantastic, the beers will taste good tonight, but we’ve got to get back into it”.

Delany (24 points, six rebounds, three assists, 40 minutes) and Tom Abercrombie (23 points) both shot at 60 per cent and kept the Breakers competitive, while Webster managed 16 points and five assists, but eight turnovers.

The Phoenix look ahead to the 36ers on Saturday having pushed their way into outright fourth, while the Breakers will face the Bullets on the same night.

Sydney make statement NBL Cup win with victory over Phoenix

IN a battle of two mid-table teams the Sydney Kings reigned supreme after quelling the South East Melbourne Phoenix last night at John Cain Arena, 91-85, edging closer to the top of the NBL Cup standings and silencing the home crowd in the process.

Surprisingly given that these two teams had not faced off with each other yet this season, both sides kept their opponent’s offenses relatively harmless throughout the opening term with neither squad able to score 20 points. But at the end of the first 10 minutes, after a put back Brad Newley dunk to give his side momentum the Kings led 19-14.

Bouncing back from a sluggish first quarter, the Phoenix hit back hard with a 33-24 second term and led at half time 47-43 as a result, while Mitchell Creek found some of his rhythm leading into the main break.

The seesawing trend of one-sided quarters followed the Kings and the Phoenix into the second half with Sydney outscoring South East Melbourne by 12 points and re-establishing the lead for the first time since the start of the second period, leading 73-65 at three-quarter time.

But Simon Mitchell had a few hidden cards up his sleeve and New Zealand would be the common denominator. The production rate of Yanni Wetzell, Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa and Reuben Te Rangi would skyrocket in the second half and it proved to be one of the most important events of the game.

However, with the Phoenix’s supporting cast trying their best to get their side back into the contest in the fourth, Sydney were too well-rounded in the long run and more specifically in the paint as the Kings’ frontcourt were well versed in converting from in close.

Ultimately after 40 minutes capped off by solid second halves from Dejan Vasiljevic and Casper Ware, Sydney emerged triumphant in their first clash against the Phoenix of NBL21 by six points and have now pushed closer to the top of the NBL Cup standings.

Sydney was superior in multiple facets in the game, most noticeably their 52 per cent shooting from the field. It was one of their most accurate nights to date in NBL21 as it dwarfed South East Melbourne’s 41 per cent conversion rate. The Kings’ plus-seven on the boards (41-34 in rebounding) and the 14 assists were also major boosters in their win, despite turning the ball over 18 times. While the Phoenix led in second chance points and points scored from forced turnovers, it was not enough to get themselves over the line in front of the home crowd.

Vasiljevic has on numerous occasions led the Kings in scoring during his rookie NBL season, and last night was no different with the 23-year-old pulling together 19 points and four rebounds in the win. Furthermore, Jordan Hunter was also instrumental, scoring 15 and also securing four rebounds, whereas Ware and Shaun Bruce waltzed away with double digits for scoring putting up 11 and 10 points respectively. Off the bench with 13 points and six rebounds was Newley, who has had nothing short of an eventful season to this point.

South East Melbourne’s leader in Creek had a substantial outing with 22 points, nine rebounds and three assists, while Wetzell finished with 16 points and five rebounds. Te Rangi ended with 13 points and Kyle Adnam amassed 10 points and four assists of his own, as Le’afa had himself a ball with 15 points and five rebounds, including three triples.

The Phoenix will compete in Wednesday’s closer against Melbourne United in the hotly contested Throwdown, whereas Sydney will get five days to recover for their derby game as well against the Illawarra Hawks on Thursday, who still remain a formidable side.

Vodanovich claims NZNBL MVP as All-Star Five announced

TOM Vodanovich was announced as the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) last night after taking home the award at last night’s awards ceremony ahead of the Finals Series. Manawatu Jets’ Vodanovich polled 101 votes to finish four votes clear of Jordan Ngatai (Otago Nuggets, 97) who was a further vote clear of Derone Raukawa (Taranaki Mountainairs, 96).

The MVP Award was determined by votes from each coach after every game of the regular season and finalised once a panel of 11 people – including the seven head coaches – cast their final votes. The Manawatu Jets big man averaged 21.9 points (ranked third in the league) and 10.4 rebounds (ranked fourth) off 31.8 minutes, as well as two assists and one steal per game. Vodanovich told the New Zealand (NZ) NBL website he was honoured to be named as this year’s MVP.

“Just playing in this league has been awesome,” Vodanovich said. “People have come from all over the country and competed week in and out, and proven that there is some excellent talent here, so to pick up this is an absolute honour, especially with the calibre of players we have here.”

Along with the MVP, the League’s All-Star Five was announced, which unsurprisingly featured all three of Vodanovich, Ngatai and Raukawa. Joining the trio in there were Raukawa’s teammate Marcel Jones, and Auckland Huskies’ Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa. A couple more awards handed out to players were Youth Player of the Year (Taane Samuels – Manawatu Jets) and Defensive Player of the Year (shared by Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Otago Nuggets’ Jarrod Kenny).

Off the court, Nuggets’ coach Brent Matehaere won Coach of the Year for guiding his team to the minor premiership, while Canterbury Rams’ General Manager Caleb Harrison won the Team General Manager of the Year. Franklin Bulls’ social media team also received plaudits for its work, recognised as providing the League’s best social media content.

Sal’s NBL League General Manager, Justin Nelson said it was a fantastic night to celebrate the effort put in by all teams, players, coaches and staff on and off the court to make it happen.

“It has been a huge effort by the seven teams and all the players and coaches to be here for this year’s competition, so to be recognised by their peers is testament to what each award winner has achieved,” he said.

“Tom won a close race for the MVP, it’s an award that is mostly decided by the coaches, so congratulations to him, while what a night for the Nuggets with three award winners on their return to the Sal’s NBL.

“I’m also really pleased for Caleb Harrison. “He works very hard as an outstanding General Manager in the league and as a result we continue to see the Canterbury Rams take great strides forward as a professional organisation.”

Huskies snatch seventh win to stay in touch with top three

A HUGE ladder-defining Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown contest ensued on Wednesday night as the Canterbury Rams took on the Auckland Huskies with no winner in clear sight until the last few minutes when the Huskies emerged victorious. From the very beginning, the Rams enforced their dominance by killing the Huskies for rebounds. Both teams came into the game looking just a little sloppy, with silly fouls, thoughtless turnovers and questionable shots, yet the rhythm of the game was quickly about to change as Auckland got the points, 90-81.

CANTERBURY RAMS 15 | 25 | 17 | 24 (81)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 18 | 31 | 15 | 26 (90)


What did not change was that with every shot, red jerseys swamped the glass but the Huskies were finding their way into the driving lane with ease. Nice interior passing and remaining patient near the basket was how the Rams kept it close for the start of the quarter. It was the Huskies’ strong defensive plays that saw Auckland begin to lead, extending to a three-point margin that would provide a buffer for the rest of the match.

Rams’ Thomas Webley had the play of the game, and maybe the season, as the quarter nearly closed. It was a jab-step crossover so deadly that it knocked the defender to the ground, closing in to slam it over a Huskies defender. Five seconds later, he swatted Jaylen Gerrand‘s ball – a 10-second clip that Webley might hold onto for a while.

But Gerrand came out streaky in the second, with back-to-back to back made threes, helping the Huskies to lead by nine. His value only increased when every defending Ram had one eye on the ball and one on Gerrand, leading the Huskies to knock down easy jumpers.

The Rams’ strategy was the exact opposite – they attacked the rim in nearly every possession. This is easier when you have someone like Taylor Britt, a player so quick on the dribble that he can beat his man or find the open one. But after running a play just like that, Britt hit his already injured elbow into a defender diving for a rebound. Britt crashed to the floor holding his elbow but would get back up a few seconds later. A timeout was called, and the Rams’ chances for a comeback felt increasingly slim, but as the timeout ended Britt re-took the floor and ran the first play for the Rams. A moment that would act as a turning point in the game, the Rams had time to reflect on it as they went back into the locker room down by nine at half-time.

With smart passing, aggression in the lane and immaculate defence, it was like the Rams just started the game again. Within two minutes of the second half beginning they were back within a basket. Finally after a 8-0 run coming out of half-time, the Huskies called a time out but it was too late – that 8-0 run became a 10-0 run, and before you knew it, the game looked like it was for a championship or bust. Diving on loose balls, scrambling for rebounds and piercing passes were just some of the things that made this quarter remarkable. Gerrand was able to stabilise the game for the Huskies with a flashy layup but the intensity did not waver. It was a hotly contested game, with both teams arguing with the referees on almost every call.

Quintin Bailey was instrumental in not allowing any easy baskets under the rim. Yet the same went for opposing big man, Leon Henry. Both teams were forced to settle for jump shots, especially in the third quarter. The tough battle continued, with Webley forced to exit the game for a blood rule though the origin of the blood was unknown. The third quarter would end 57- 64 as the Huskies had survived the comeback and were now battling with their head just above water in the fourth.

That burning resilience shown by the Rams in the third had clearly taken its toll, with the side allowing far too many close rim shots early. The Huskies, noticing this opportunity, directed all of their plays towards the rim to block the Rams and limit scoring opportunities. But fatigue hurt the Rams in more than one place, with Britt’s lighting quick moves slowing down as the game went on. Britt is not just the leading playmaker for the Rams, but is also a barometer for the team, meaning as his foot came off the pedal so did the rest of the Rams’.

Lucky for the cellar dwellers, the Huskies also went through the same issue in the latter stages of the game. Huskies coach, Kevin Braswell tried to counter this by running a zone on the other side of the floor, and the strategy worked as the Huskies hit back-to-back threes to bring the lead to nine with over five minutes to go. The hot hands would not leave the Huskies as that lead became 10, then 12 and then finally back to nine, to sound the horn as the Huskies won 90-81.

Tohi Smith-Milner (22 points) and Henry (13 points, 12 rebounds) both finished with double doubles on the night, while Gerrand was the Huskies’ top scorer thanks to 26 points and two rebounds. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (17 points, nine assists and four rebounds) and Reuben Fitzgerald (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the rams, Britt helped himself to a team-high 19 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Alex Talma (15 points, 11 rebounds) picked up a double-double. Toby Gillooly stepped up to recorded 16 points, eight rebounds and three assists, while Bailey (13 points, six rebounds) was prominent off the bench.

Each team has one remaining game in the regular Sal’s NBL season and play on Saturday evening with the Rams to face the Franklin Bulls and Huskies to matchup against the Manawatu Jets in the final game of the night.