Tag: olivia o’neill

Wizards dig deep to overcome Gold Rush in final term

AN impressive last quarter has helped Waikato Wizards overturn a final break deficit to defeat Otago Gold Rush and book their spot in the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 Grand Final. The Wizards were coming from behind at quarter time, flipped the script on their opponents in the second term to go in level at half-time, and then came from a point down at the final break to run over the top of the Gold Rush and win 68-63.

It was the Gold Rush who started off the game on top with Te Araroa Sopoaga and Savanna Handevidt both making shots in the opening two minutes. When Bronwyn Kjestrup secured both her free throws, the lead was out to six, and the Wizards had missed two chances and turned the ball over twice in the opening two-and-a-half minutes. Finally it was Ezra McGoldrick who drove to the basket and put up a nice layup.

The basket did not stop the early Otago dominance however, as the Gold Rush went on to add 12 of the first 14 points in the term, and with five and a half minutes down, the score was 12-2. Alana Paewai broke the drought for the Wizards, but the lead got out to as much as 13 points at one stage once Kjestrup and Sopoaga both added to their totals. Lucky for the Wizards, Kayla Manuirirangi and Zara Poulava added the last six points of the game to end the first term with a more manageable seven-point deficit.

The second term had a slow start to it with the teams trading baskets after the first 90 seconds through Manuirirangi and Zoe Richards, with the latter’s three-pointer her first score of the night. Parai was starting to help her side claw back the deficit from eight to three thanks to back-to-back jumpers, and then Manuirirangi continued her hot form with a couple of layups, and six minutes into the term, the Wizards were in front for the first time in the game.

McGoldrick and Jayzelee Waihi continued that momentum and the lead was out to five. Since the 17-4 start, the Wizards had turned the tables and scored 21-3 and were in firm control. Luckily Olivia O’Neill was able to arrest some of the momentum in the final three minutes, making back-to-back layups and a nice finish from Lisa Wallbutton put the Gold Rush back in front with 90 seconds on the clock. The lead got out to three points, but the last two baskets of the half went the way of the Wizards and for all the momentum swings, the sides went into half-time level at 28-apiece.

Straight out of half-time, it was the Gold Rush who started fast, piling on eight consecutive points including two triples to race to a 36-28 lead. At one stage it got out to as much as nine points with six minutes to go thanks to a Hayley Gray triple, but Parai matched that effort with a long-range bomb of her own, and McGoldrick finished an And-One chance to draw within three.

The teams traded chances throughout the term as neither side could take full advantage, but six consecutive points the way of the Wizards in the final two minutes had them up by three. Richards had something to say about that however, scoring back-to-back layups for the Gold Rush and handing her side the all-important lead in the last 30 seconds of the term.

The Gold Rush had the lead, but could not build too much momentum until O’Neill hit a crucial long-range jumper with 6:15 remaining in the match. That put the Gold Rush up 58-52, but six of the next seven points put the Wizards back within a points. The Gold Rush went up by three again thanks to free throws from Richards, but the momentum was about to turn.

Manurirangi hit a step back jumper to draw within one, then Parai put the side in front with 2:20 on the clock. Wallbutton responded with 85 seconds on the clock and the Gold Rush held a narrow 63-62 lead, but it would be their last score of the match. Manuirirangi replied immediately, and then a turnover and deliberate foul on her saw her put the lead out to three for the Wizards. Richards tried a long-range attempt, but it was picked up by Matangiroa Flavell off the defensive board, who was immediately fouled and sent to the charity stripe. She made not mistake, putting the last two points on the board with seven seconds left, ending the contest at 68-63.

Otago actually won a lot of the crucial stats, shooting at a higher 40 per cent clip from the field compared to the Wizards’ 37 per cent, and won the rebounds (44-39) and assists (13-9). Unfortunately, their ball use in transition saw the Gold Rush cough up 27 turnovers to 14, and the Wizards made them pay by scoring 26-8 off turnovers, which they gained through steals (18-13). The Wizards also had more contributions off their bench (24-16) and in second chance points (13-8) for the win.

Manuirirangi hit 18 points, and had two rebounds, two assists and two steals in the win, but it was McGoldrick, who chimed in with 13 points, seven rebounds, five blocks and two assists in a huge defensive effort, that was best-on. for the winners Coming off the bench, Parai had 14 points, six rebounds, five steals and two assists, while Makayla Daysh (four points, seven rebounds and three steals) was another strong defensive performer.

For the Gold Rush, Richards had 15 points and 14 rebounds in a huge double-double, also collecting two rebounds and two blocks in a best-on performance. Gray had 10 points and two assists, while Handevidt was strong off the boards to finish with seven points, seven rebounds and three steals. Also picking up their fair share of points was Kjestrup (eight points, two assists), Sopoaga (seven points, three rebounds, four assists and five steals) and O’Neill (eight points, three rebounds).

While the Gold Rush’s season comes to a close, the Wizards will now head to the grand final tonight to take on the undefeated Harbour Breeze.

Picture: Photosport

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