Tag: olivia bell

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: Photosport

Strong Harbour Breeze blows past Swish with dominant second half

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture: Photosport

NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Harbour Breeze

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

HARBOUR BREEZE FULL SQUAD:

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

Picture: Getty Images