Tag: maia jean watene

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.

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

Swish storm home in final term flurry to end Dream run

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: Photosport

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

Swish second half hands Wildcats a second loss

CAPITAL Swish have kick-started their 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 season on the right note with a 13-point victory over Canterbury Wildcats last night. The Wildcats were handed their second consecutive loss on the weekend following their defeat at the hands of Auckland Dream the night before, and despite a strong first half, were overrun by a fresh Swish outfit as the side got up 55-42.

Capital Swish started the game on fire with Maia Jean Watene scoring the first points of the game, and after a couple of misses from the Wildcats, Sariah Penese made good on two free throws. Brittany Richards returned the favour from the charity stripe not long after to get her team on the board, before Watene and Paris Lokotui pushed the margin out to five in the first half of the quarter.

Terai-Ma-Teata Elia stepped up at a crucial point with five points in the space of 19 seconds to level the match at the four and a half minute mark, before Emily Knight and Katherine Jones helped it become a 9-0 run in favour of the Wildcats. Letava Whippy soon ended that run with a triple to cut the deficit to one point, then Lokotui and Te Huinga Selby-Rickit scored in the final 80 seconds to give the Swish a three-point lead at the break.

Richards scored an important basket in the opening minute of the second term, but Selby-Rickit quickly countered that with a jump shot of her own. The teams traded blows and also missed a number of opportunities with defensive pressure mounting. Isabella Luhetoa found her range from outside the arc, tying the scores with just over four minutes into the term. Elia helped her team gain the lead, but it was only four 22 seconds until Penese dropped another triple for the Swish to regain the advantage at 22-21.

Another triple, this time to Grace Simi Vaofusi, had the Swish out to a four-point lead, but the last two baskets of the term, went to the Wildcats and Samia and Knight to be exact. A couple of late turnovers in the final 40 seconds hurt the Swish as the teams headed into the break all-square at 25-25 after a low-scoring half.

Samia was the first out of the blocks in the second half, securing one of two free throws for her Wildcats team to edge ahead, but Whippy and Penese quickly added points to go a basket up. The lead grew to four until Luhetoa sank a triple midway through the quarter to draw within a point again, but the Swish answered through Whippy and Selby-Rickit to go out to a five-point lead.

A successful free throw and lay up from Samia cut the deficit to two with just under four minutes on the clock, but back-to-back baskets from Penese and Whippy extended it back out to the largest margin of the game with a six-point advantage. Luhetoa put up a triple with 19 seconds on the clock to draw within three, and it looked to be the last basket of the game, before a sensational buzzer beater by Lokotui gave the Swish a five-point lead at the last break, and most importantly the confidence to go on with it.

Lokotui and Watene both made successful two-pointers either side of a Samaia triple after an opening first few minutes that yielded no scores. By the mid-part of the term, the game looked over as Vaofusi and Taulelei successfully hit a combined five points and the lead had blown out to 11, and while Richards and Elia tried their best late in the contest, the work of Lokotui and Selby-Rickit was too much, as the pair combined for their team’s runaway win, 55-42.

The teams were fairly even, but as the tale of the tape has suggested the last couple of nights, the more accurate team got up with the Swish having one less attempt from the field, but making 22 baskets compared to 16, and recording higher numbers from inside and outside the arc. They also led the rebounds (52-48), assists (13-9), blocks (3-1) and second chance points (12-6), though the Wildcats had one more steal (13-12) and one less turnover (21-22).

In an even team performance, Lokotui sank 14 points and had 13 rebounds in an impressive double-double performance, while Selby-Rickit also impressed off the bench with eight points, 10 rebounds and four steals. Whippy led from the front with 10 points, nine rebounds, three assists and four steals in an all-court performance, while Penese (nine points, five rebounds and three assists) and Watene (six points, seven rebounds and two assists) both impacted the match.

For the Wildcats, Samia hit 11 points, three rebounds and two steals, while Elia was the standout player on the losing side thanks to nine points, 13 rebounds and four steals. Shea Crotty did not hit one of her six field goal attempts, but she did pick up seven rebounds, three assists and five steals, while Richards finished with seven points and seven rebounds. Coming off the bench, Luhetoa had nine points and three rebounds, while Knight helped herself to four points and six rebounds.

Capital Swish back up tonight’s performance against Harbour Breeze tomorrow night, while the Wildcats now will look to turn around their 0-2 start to the season in their next match against Waikato Wizards who also lost their first match, when the teams face off on Wednesday, November 25.

Picture: Shane Wenzlick / Photosport