Tag: jelena vucinic

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

Gold Rush win back-to-back games as Dream starts to fade

OTAGO Gold Rush are running hot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition, winning back-to-back games to level their condensed season at 2-2, whilst also handing reigning premiers Auckland Dream the same fate after downing them by 10 points last night. It was the third consecutive night with a 10-point differential between the sides, as Otago won 73-63 off the back of a dominant rebounding display.

Needing to start strong after their first loss a couple of nights ago, the Dream got off with the first basket to Amanda Wayment, and a triple to Sharne Robati. It would be Robati who scored seven of the first 11 points in the game, as Savanna Handevidt scored the only Gold Rush basket in the opening four minutes. The Dream were up 9-2 and looking hot from the get-go, but the next four points to Lisa Wallbutton settled the Gold Rush down.

Rionne Papa hit an an impressive hookshot with four minutes remaining in the term to extend the Dream’s lead out to five again, but back-to-back baskets – including a triple – from Otago’s Hannah Matahaere tied the scores. Olivia Berry put her side back in front, only for Tara Clement to hit a triple and regain the lead for the Gold Rush. From there, the Gold Rush managed to hold it for the rest of the term, as a second Clement triple in the final minute helped Otago lead 19-14 at the first break.

Straight out of the break it was Handevidt getting on the board and extending the Gold Rush’s lead out to seven, before Amanda Buck and Robati cut it to three in response. The teams traded baskets through Zoe Richards – who scored her first points of the night – and Wayment – though it was the red-hot Handevidt who hit the next five points and the Gold Rush raced to an eight-point lead with four minutes to play in the half.

A triple from Berry gave her side some hope, though both teams continually missed shots in the final few minutes of the second term. In fact it was just Jelena Vucinic with three free throws either side of the Berry basket that eventually counted, and the Dream were back within two points at half-time and it was game on.

Eight seconds into the third quarter and Bronwyn Kjestrup was on the board from a quick-fire jumper, followed by a Handevidt basket. Arielle Williams-Mackey had not been a factor in the first half, but she was quick on her long-range bomb to cut the deficit back to three within 90 seconds of the quarter. The Gold Rush seemed to do it the hard way with four points in the next couple of minutes, only for Casyn Buchman to land a three-pointer 20 seconds later and the seven-point lead was cut to four.

It was back to just one with another Williams-Mackey triple, though Matahaere responded in time as the term ticked past the midway point. It was not until the six-and-a-half-minute mark when the Dream hit the front following a third Williams-Mackey triple, and another Berry basket. Once again it was Clement who nailed a long-range attempt of her own to regain the Gold Rush the lead, though no sooner had she done that and Wayment had put the Dream back in front. It was a see-sawing contest to the end of the term, with the Dream in front with 1:45 on the clock, but the last six points of the quarter went to the Gold Rush to retake the lead by four at the final change.

Whilst many expected the Dream to come out firing in the last term, it was the Gold Rush that piled on the pressure early thanks to baskets from Kjestrup and Te Araroa Sopoaga, and the lead was out to nine. Robati, Williams-Mackey and Berry all struck back to continue their scoring run and reduce the deficit to three with 6:25 on the clock, though Richards hit back-to-back baskets through a layup and then jumper for the Gold Rush to be seven up with five minutes to play.

Katelin Noyer scored a crucial triple for the trailing side to get back within four points but each time the Dream got closer, the Gold Rush pulled away. They scored seven of the next eight points to go out to a 10-point lead and were never headed from there. Though the final two minutes from a frantic one, with the scores going from 66-56 to 73-63, as the Gold Rush maintained the rage and got up in a great performance to keep their semi-finals hopes alive and put doubt in Auckland’s chances.

Otago Gold Rush dominated the rebound count 56-39, whilst also capitalising on the second chance points (18-13) and having more points off the bench (25-20). Turnovers did hurt the winning side however, clocking up 24-18 which allowed the Dream to score off those turnovers, with just under half their score (28 points) come from Gold Rush turnovers. The assists were level and the Dream led the fast break points (13-11) and steals (11-9).

Handevidt scored at 60 per cent from the field, hitting six of 10 for 15 points, as well as nine rebounds – five offensive – and three steals. Teaming up well was Sopoaga who ended her night with 19 points, and had contribution off the boards with six rebounds and also seven assists in a starring role. Richards picked up 14 rebounds to go with her nine points, while Clement’s three triples totalled her entire nine points, as well as four rebounds and two steals, as Wallbutton (eight points, 10 rebounds) came close to a double-double.

For the Dream, Robati led all-comers with 15 points, as well as eight rebounds and two assists, while Williams-Mackey managed 13 points despite hitting just four of 20 from the field – all of which were long-range bombs. Buchman had seven points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals in an all-round game, while Wayment picked up six points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Off the bench Berry had 10 points and two steals.

Just four matches remain in the NZNZBL 18IN18 competition, with the Dream taking on the undefeated Harbour Breeze tomorrow night to try and remain in the semi-final hunt, while the Gold Rush lock horns with Canterbury Wildcats on Thursday in the final night of the condensed regular season.

Dream start to the 18IN18 season for Auckland

AUCKLAND Dream have built on the momentum of their dying seconds winner against Waikato Wizards to secure a more comfortable victory over Canterbury Wildcats only 24 hours later. The New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 tournament has gone exactly to plan thus far for the Dream, who have won their first two games of five in the condensed competition, earning a hard earned rest. Starting strong to lead by 13 points at half-time, they were able to maintain the age and get up by 15 in a thrilling contest.

The Wildcats were the first team on the board in the match, with Terai-Ma-Teata Elia dropping both free throws in the opening minute. That was soon countered by a red-hot Casyn Buchman who hit a triple, grabbed a defensive board off a Rosalia Samia long-range attempt, then made another two-pointer to grab her team the early lead. It set the tone for the Dream’s intensity as game one winner, Arielle Mackey-Williams got on the board, as did the Wildcats’ Brittany Richards for a high-scoring opening few minutes.

Leading by just a point four minutes in, the Dream started to take control and notched up back-to-back layups from Olivia Berry and Amanda Wayment, before a crucial Gemma Etheredge jumper reduced the deficit to four with just under two minutes left. Six seconds later, Jelena Vucinic drilled a triple off a Buchman assist, and despite both teams having chances, the margin was seven at the first break with the Dream ahead, 15-8.

The Dream certainly had the momentum heading into the second term, and Sharne Robati was quick on the trigger to grab four points in the opening 80 seconds, as Shea Crotty, Richards and Samia had multiple chances from long-range but could not get it happening despite consecutive boards. Wayment soon grabbed one and Robarti had scored the first six points for her side in the term, with only a Richards basket in between. For all the attacking nature of the Wildcats, it was Wayment who extended the lead out to 13 after two and a half minutes.

The high-scoring opening few minutes slowed a little as both teams had settled down defensively in the term, but for everything the Wildcats threw at the Dream, the in-form side had the answers. An Ekka basket was matched by Robati, and then a Wayment jump shot and Rionne Papa free-throw extended the lead out to 15. Etheredge quickly replied by Williams-Mackey went to work building towards another big performance with five consecutive points and handing her side an 18-point lead. The Wildcats had all the scoring in the final two minutes of the term thanks to a Katherine Jones triple and two success Etheredge free throws, but they still trailed by 13 points.

The Wildcats needed a spark in the second half and Richards and Elia were quick on the board, but back-to-back triples by Robati and Buchman either side of a Samia layup drove the dagger further in. Every challenge by Canterbury was suitably answered, with Etheredge becoming a problem close to the basket, but the likes of Robati and Vucinic standing up, with Buchman creating on offence. The Wildcats could not seem to get a crucial jump shot, instead Etheredge kept getting to the line and making the most of it.

Unfortunately for Canterbury, they could only get within 13 points, as the pairing of Williams-Mackey and Waynment were back on after a rest in the last couple of minutes and having an immediate impact. Jones put the deficit to within 14 with a minute to play, but a late Williams-Mackey basket extended it out to 16 at the final break.

Wayment was first on the board in the final term to all but end the contest. Emily Knight got her first points of the game for the Wildcats, as her second basket drove her team to within 12 points for the first time in two quarters. When Etheredge made a jump shot with 97 seconds left in the match, the deficit was still a tough ask, and then Mackey-Williams decided that was enough of that, draining back-to-back triples to put the final nail in the coffin. Despite Etheredge’s best work – sinking a triple in response, Wayment’s last basket in the final 30 seconds secured the 66-51 victory.

The Dream were once again the more efficient team on offence, shooting at 42 per cent compared to 26 from the field, and the Wildcats drained just three of 26 triples, compared to the Dream six of 15, showing their determination to look to secure baskets from close range. The rebound count was even, with the Wildcats ahead, as well as making the most of 19 second chance points thanks to their healthy work off the offensive boards. The Dream led the assist count (15-9), as well as the steals (14-13), blocks (2-0) and crucially, had four less turnover s (19-23).

Mackey-Williams backed up her game-winning performance on night one with a match-high 19 points, as well as five rebounds, one assist and two steals. Robarti had 14 points, five rebounds and two assists, while the best player coming off the bench was clearly Wayment, who had 13 points and 13 rebounds – including a massive eight offensive – to go with three assists and two blocks. Buchman played a crucial role with seven rebounds and four assists to go with her eight points.

For the Wildcats, Etheredge was by far the best player, dropping team-highs in points (17) and rebounds (12), particularly damaging off the offensive boards with nine. She also got to the free-throw line for 10 chances, making eight of them, and had three assists and two steals. Elia was the other double-digit scorer with 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three steals, while Samia (five points, five rebounds and three steals) and Jones (six points, six rebounds) also tried hard across the board.

Now the Wildcats look to bounce back against Capital Swish tonight, while Auckland Dream earn a week’s break before also taking on the Swish next Friday, November 27.

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Auckland Dream

AUCKLAND Dream head into the condensed New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition in rare company. The Dream are coming off a title already in the Schick 3X3 Cup played over the weekend and will hope to add more silverware to the trophy cabinet when the game expands out to the full court five-player traditional game.

The four players involved in 3×3 Cup glory were Amanda Wayment, Arielle Williams-Mackey, Casyn Buchman and Darci Finnigan. Whilst Finnigan twisted her knee in the semi-final and had limited minutes in the 3×3 final, it is expected she should be right to go when the season tips off later this week. All four will play crucial roles in the team success, along with a list that will no doubt provide plenty of highlights throughout the year.

Wayment spent her college days at Brigham Young University in the West Coast Conference of the NCAA. The Cougars were the same college Tall Black and fellow Dream talent Kalani Purcell played at before graduating a year earlier in 2017. The 185cm forward is an athlete who will provide great leadership to the team having captained her college team in her senior year.

Fellow College talent Buchman returns to the Dream after playing there in 2019, averaging the 7.9 points from 19.9 minutes, shooting at an accurate 58.6 per cent. She also picked up the 3.2 rebounds, equally capable off the boards at either end, and is as tough as they come. Meanwhile 18-year-old Williams-Mackey is one to watch as a big-game player as she showed in the 3×3 final, with her accurate shooting and clutch baskets.

The turnaround between the 3×3 Cup and opening night of the NZNBL season is not long, with the Dream first up against Waikato Wizards on Thursday. Led by Tall Ferns assistant coach, Aik Ho the Dream have the talent to go deep in the 18-day tournament. There have been some crucial omissions from last year’s team in Tall Ferns talents, Natalie Taylor, Charmian Mellars and Jordan Hunter alongside Purcell, but other internationals to replace them in Katelin Noyer and Jelena Vucinic.

Both are coming off impressive college seasons, and added to the fact the exciting Sharne Robati will also run around for Auckland makes it a dream team. Rionne Papa and Tania Uluheua round out the 10-player squad, with the team one to watch in 2021 and hopeful of hitting the ground running from night one against the Wizards.

2020 Auckland Dream Full Team List:

Amanda Buck
Amanda Wayment
Casyn Buchman
Darci Finnigan
Jelena Vucinic
Sharne Pupuke-Robati
Rionne Papa
Arielle Williams-Mackey
Tania Uluheua
Katelin Noyer