Tag: zoe richards

2021 NBL1 West wrap: Round 6

IN Round 6 of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 West there were a number of tight games across both the men’s and women’s divisions.

NBL1 West Women: Perry Lakes Hawks (61) defeated by Rockingham Flames (62)

It was a fiery battle between the two sides, but the Rockingham Flames managed to steal the win in an intense one-point win over the Perry Lakes Hawks. The East Perth Eagles burst out onto the scene early with four points, leading Rockingham to fire back with three points. A tight contest emerged between the two teams, as the scores were 14-19 heading through to the end of the first period. Heading into the second period, the Flames immediately took advantage and held onto the lead for the majority of the time, until a quick two-pointer saw the Hawks steal the lead 31-30.

The back and forth continued going into the second half, as Rockingham slowly began to get a stream of points on the board for the third period. An exciting final period was on the agenda, with a time-out called as the scores were 59-62, Rockingham’s way. Despite a last-minute two points from the Hawks, they were unable to get the win for themselves.

Rockingham had a stellar performance from the likes of Alex Ciabattoni (23 points, four assists, three rebounds and who steals), while Christina Boag (eight rebounds) and Paris Duffield both scored nine points. Zoe Richards also impressed with seven points, and four rebounds.. For the Hawks, Megan McKay was the clear standout with 21 points, 12 rebounds, four steals and three assists. Mia Satie had an incredible game with 10 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Madeline Dennis’ presence on the court was significant, also putting 10 points on the board for the Hawks.

Perth Redbacks secured a 16-point win against the East Perth Eagles, but were unable to get past the Rockingham Flames in a tight one-point game. The Rockingham Flames won against the Perry Lakes Hawks, as did the Eastern Suns when they played against them. The Willetton Tigers also got a win against the Cockburn Cougars.

NBL1 West Men: Geraldton Buccaneers (60) defeated by Lakeside Lightning (82)

A two-point shot from Geraldton set up the battle between these two teams. But even with an early start from Geraldton, Lakeside managed to pull an upset win. A two-pointer saw Lakeside continue with dominance in the first period, before the Buccaneers scored two point to end the first period. Two free throws from Lightning opened the beginning of the second term. The Buccaneers responded with two three-point jump shots and a two-point jump shot, the scores evenly close 24-26 going Lakeside’s way.

A time-out was called by the Lightning before the heated contest continued. Heading into the second half, both teams showed determination with the scores remaining close until the end of the third period. A two-pointer from Geraldton in the third terms’ final minutes put them in the lead 58-51. The final period saw the game start to turn, as the lead that Geraldton once have was now slipping away from their grip. It was a three-point jump shot from Lakeside Lightning that put the game out of reach for their opposition, leading to the final score of 62-80.

Corey Shervill was a force to be reckoned with on the court, as he amassed an impressive 29 points, four rebounds and two assists for the winners. Jack Isenbarger (14 points, five rebounds) and Kyle Armour (12 points, five rebounds and five assists) were also impressive, while Jarrad Prue racked up 23 rebounds – 16 defensive – to go with six points. For Geraldton, Dylan Myers lead the way with 16 points and five rebounds, while Titgyeth Kwajakwan (14 points, three assists and two rebounds) and Aaron Ralph (10 points, four rebounds and two assists) hit double-figure points.

Picture credit: NBL1

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NZNBL 18IN18 team review: Otago Gold Rush

WITH the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 competition done and dusted, we take a look back at each of the six teams, how they performed and some of the top talents who stood out across the condensed season.

We continue with the third placed Otago Gold Rush who just missed out on a grand final spot after winning three of their five games and then falling in the semi-final to Waikato Wizards.

SUMMARY:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 3
Losses: 2

STATS:

Points: 61.3 (4th)
Rebounds: 50.0 (1st)
Assists: 14.0 (3rd)
Steals: 11.2 (5th)
Blocks: 3.7 (3rd)
FG%: 35.1 (3rd)

Otago Gold Rush got on a roll after losing their first two games of the season to the sides that would eventually become the grand finalists. The Gold Rush looked almost out of it, but then managed to knock off Capital Swish by six points, and then keep the momentum going against reigning premiers Auckland Dream and the winless Canterbury Wildcats. While the Gold Rush were halted in their tracks at the semi-finals stage, they push the Wizards all the way in that game and showed why they were the top rebounding team all year. Aside from steals (ranked fifth) and points (fourth), they were in the top three for all the other key stats, and deserved their finishing position.

RESULTS:

1: lost to Harbour Breeze by 11 points
2: lost to Waikato Wizards by 8 points
3: defeated Capital Swish by 6 points
4: defeated Auckland Dream by 10 points
5: defeated Canterbury Wildcats by 14 points
SF: lost to Waikato Wizards by 5 points

TOP TALENT:

Zoe Richards

Getting into the top three teams makes it a lot more difficult to pick a top star, but we have landed on Richards due to the fact she led the points and rebounds, and was equal top in the steals as well. Richards averaged a double-double of 13.0 points and 10.2 rebounds, as well as 1.8 assists and 1.8 steals, ranked in the top two across all those areas. She regularly took aim from long-range, and whilst her accuracy was at 22.7 per cent, she was accurate from inside the arc, and provided an all-round super performance for the Gold Rush.

OTHERS:

It is hard to look past three others who really could have easily been discussed as the top talent for the season. Te Araroa Sopoaga averaged 9.7 points, 5.2 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.5 steals to be one of the most dynamic players going around. The Gold Rush had a couple of other dominant rebounders with Lisa Wallbutton (7.0 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals) always stepping up, while Savanna Handevidt (8.8 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.8 steals) also had an impressive season.

Picture: Photosport

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

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.

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

Wizards conjure first win to hand Gold Rush consecutive losses

WAIKATO Wizards regrouped from a poor second quarter to completely turn around the game in the third and record a remarkable eight-point win over Otago Gold Rush in last night’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 18IN18 match. The Wizards conceded 27 points in a high-scoring second term to fall behind by six at half-time, before restricting their opponents to just five – the lowest conceded in the season – to regain control by four and win 63-55.

Having had plenty of time to regroup after an opening night loss to Auckland Dream, the Wizards did not waste any time with Alyssa Hirawani hitting a triple in the opening 10 seconds of the match to state her team’s intent. It took almost two minutes for the Gold Rush to reply with Zoe Richards getting to the basket with a layup. Te Araroa Sopoaga quickly followed and the Gold Rush were in front.

In what became a six-minute drought between their first and second baskets, Kayla Manuirirangi finally hit a jump shot, and when Esra McGoldrick scored back-to-back layups, all of a sudden the Wizards had a 6-0 run and were three points up. Sharing the points around with Natasha Lenden and Alana Paewai also scoring, the margin did get out to five points with 56 seconds left, before Fayreen Fualau hit a jump shot for the Gold Rush to cut the quarter time deficit to just three.

The second term built on the Gold Rush’s momentum, scoring the first eight points of the quarter to make it 10 consecutive points overall, including four from the hand of Lisa Wallbutton. The lead had stretched out to five before Paewai hit a two-point jumper two-and-a-half minutes into the quarter to break the Wizards drought, and then a second triple from Hirawani levelled the match not long after.

A third long-range make from Paewai had the Wizards up by three, then the Gold Rush made their move with Tara Clement nailing a long-range attempt of her own, then following up with a layup 30 seconds later. The teams were able to stay relatively close through the midpoint of the quarter, and five consecutive points from the Wizards with two minutes on the clock tied the scores yet again. The Gold Rush would have the last laugh though, adding 10 of the last 12 points for the half, with Wallbutton and Richards both adding three points each to hold a 37-31 lead at the main break.

Hirawani was proving to be a handful for the Gold Rush defence and she was first on the board a minute into the second half. Hayley Gray responded, but the Wizards again cut the deficit back to four after a Manuirirangi jump shot. Not allowing the deficit to grow more than five points, the Wizards finally managed back-to-back points from McGoldrick and Matangiroa Flavell to draw within a point with four-and-a-half minutes on the clock.

When Clement hit a layup for the Gold Rush to retake the lead after a brief stint with the Wizards in front, it would be the last score of the term for Otago, making just five for the entire quarter. Flavell would put her side back in front, and then the Wizards added the last five points of the quarter to lead 46-42 at the final change.

After such a low-scoring term, the Gold Rush came out hard with Wallbutton hitting her first jump shot attempt of the quarter to draw within two points, and the teams began trading baskets with the Wizards holding a narrow lead. Through the midpoint of the term, Makayla Daysh added three points and Manuirirangi another two, and the lead was out to seven. Back-to-back free throws by Savanna Handevidt for the Gold Rush gave them some hope, but Flavell’s long-range three just expanded the lead to eight with under six minutes left.

Handevidt came hard with a couple of makes in the last five minutes to get her team within four points, but Daysh was again busy, having a big quarter. Richards popped up again to get the Gold Rush within four, and then a series of misses from both sides resulted in the time ticking down. Deliberate fouling to save time cost the Gold Rush as Flavell and Manuirirangi made no mistake from the line, to end the game at 63-55.

Both teams shot at 36 per cent from the field, with the Wizards hitting three more triples (6-3), which made up for a lack of rebounds. The Gold Rush dominated that statistic with 51-35, whilst also winning the assists (16-13) and second chance points (8-3). The massive difference was the Gold Rush’s excessive turnovers with double the amount (24-12), and the Wizards also had more steals (12-8) and blocks (6-2).

Manuirirangi finished with a match-high 14 points, as well as six rebounds and two steals, while Flavell had 11 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round performance. Hirawani reached double-figure points with 10 and two rebounds, while McGoldrick hit 10 points, six rebounds, two assists and three blocks off the bench.

For the Gold Rush, Richards was the only player to reach double-figures with 10 points and eight rebounds, thought Clement (nine points) and Wallbutton (nine points, seven rebounds, four assists and two steals) were strong off the bench. Handevidt (eight points, seven rebounds and three assists) did a bit of everything, while Gray (six points, seven rebounds) was solid off the boards.

The Wizards will look to make it two in a row tonight when they face the winless Canterbury Wildcats, while the Gold Rush will hope to get on the board on Saturday when they take on Capital Swish.

Picture: Photosport

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

NZNBL 18IN18 team preview: Otago Gold Rush

OTAGO Gold Rush are gearing up for the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Sal’s NBL 18IN18 competition which commences next week, after somewhat of an interrupted year given the COVID-19 pandemic. Despite the delayed start to the season, General Manager Peter Drew explained that the players have been preparing for this moment all year and are excited to finally get out on court.

“The Gold Rush players are absolutely pumped for the 18in18. They’ve been training virtually every week since February, and for much of the year they weren’t sure if they would even get to play in 2020,” he said.

Drawing inspiration from the men’s side which reigned supreme in the NZNBL earlier in the year, Drew is excited about what his side could produce in the upcoming competition.

“They watched their male counterparts the Nuggets go on their incredible Sals NBL championship winning comeback to the NZNBL which inspired basketballers right across Otago, and really inspired the Gold Rush players to want to have their opportunity of trying to do similar. Now they have that chance and they are absolutely pumped for it,” he said.

Although excited to take the court, there is somewhat of a downside for having a postponed season with a number of the Gold Rush players at university and now having to manage their basketball schedule in terms of trainings and games along with their studies. However, they are determined to not let that get in the way of achieving their goals and playing some good basketball.

“We’ve been training all year, however 70 per cent of our team are university students and therefore many in the team are juggling NBL training with exams at the moment,” Drew said. “So that’s been a little tricky but we’re making the best of it. The group has come together really well and we’ll be ready to go full throttle in Auckland.”

There is no denying that it is an extremely heavy workload having to play 18 games in 18 days throwing up a number of problems in relation to player management and game plans, but that is something Drew has already taken into account, ahead of the upcoming season.

“This is a unique playing experience for the team and we’ve embraced the challenges that come with something that is different and challenging, but exciting. We have to do three separate trips from the south of NZ up to Auckland with Gold Rush players having to fly in from Dunedin, Invercargill, and Queenstown. Each time we fly in, our first game is on the same day we fly in,” Drew said.

“So we need to be ready to adapt immediately to a new playing environment, we need to get our eating plans carefully planned out in advance, get our travel timings planned between the hotel and stadium, and make sure we recover well after the game so that we can back up and play hard again the next day. It’s challenging, but we embrace that and are planning well for it.”

Not only is travel a huge factor to consider, but when building the team Drew also had to weigh up factors surrounding personnel to ensure that he could build a team that would be able to withstand the rigours of travel and frequent court time, which is no easy feat.

Drew pointed out the level of commitment and particularly the “personal commitments and sacrifices” some of the players have gone to, to ensure that they will be able to take the court for the Gold Rush. Some of the players have even opted to put a halt to their summer jobs or switched to night shifts in hope to represent Otago in the NZNBL.

“As an example, one of our players has put herself onto night shift in order to be able to get enough travel time. Some of our students have also decided to put their summer jobs on hold for a couple of weeks after exams finish so that they can take part in this unique opportunity. That is a significant financial sacrifice for them. So you can see how much it means to these players. They really want to be a part of this as it’s something that is special, unique, and ground-breaking for Women’s basketball in NZ.”

In terms of on court strengths, Drew highlighted that while Otago might not be a “team of superstars” their strengths lie with their speed and ability to “defend strongly.” He also touted the expertise of coach Gavin Briggs when it comes to executing a game plan and finding that “balance of youth and experience.”

Speaking of experience, it would be remiss not to acknowledge Tall Fern Zoe Richards who is set to suit up for Otago, while Drew also made mention of a couple of other exciting prospects preparing to take the court.

“In terms of experience and level of play, we have Zoe Richards who is a current Tall Fern, we have Lisa Wallbutton who has previously had a successful 10 year career with the Tall Ferns and is making a playing comeback this season, and we have Hayley Gray who was previously captain of the Canterbury Wildcats for back to back titles several years ago,” he said.

Although not willing to give away too much, when it came to divulging their game plan, Drew made it clear that Otago’s main goal is to “develop and refine [their] team plays and strategies.” On a personal level, Drew is determined to set high standards for the club and of course create a winning culture at Otago.

“We want to have a Gold Rush team that hopefully can win, but if they do lose, they are a team that makes it as difficult as possible for the opposition to beat them,” he said.

“Of course winning games is important to us up in Auckland, but really we just want to build this team and make them better, with an eye towards 2021 and 2022 for this team to hopefully really develop and reach its potential. We also want to set standards back in Otago for how we train and play so that young girls coming through can see that and become a part of a really positive and professional basketball culture.”

Given the condensed season there are only five games prior to the play-offs meaning the Gold Rush will have to put their best foot forward from the moment they step on the court if they are any chance to push for a finals tilt. With this in mind, it is very much a defence wins premierships mindset for the Gold Rush who are eager to get the season underway and show what they are capable of.

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Women’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the women’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There is just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Women’s Pool A:

Auckland Dream
Bay of Plenty Blaze
Canterbury Wildcats
Northland Phoenix
NZ Select Women

Women’s Pool B:

Capital Swish
Harbour Breeze
Otago Gold Rush
Taranaki Thunder
Waikato Wizards

There are a number of past and present Tall Ferns competing in the 3×3 Cup which is set to make it a highly competitive event. In terms of the groups, Auckland Dream, Bay of Plenty Blaze and Northland Phoenix will take part in Pool A. Canterbury Wildcats are also in the group, alongside the fancied NZ Select team.

In Pool B, Otago Gold Rush and Taranaki Thunder have some exciting talent, with Harbour Breeze a real contender. Waikato Wizards and Capital Swish round out the five-team group which will give the competitors their first taste of basketball ahead of the full five-a-side competition later in the month.

Lisa Wallbutton is the name that jumps off the page when looking at the team lists, with the former Tall Fern returning to the court to lead Otago Gold Rush. She suits up alongside Aleisha Ruske, Tara Clement and Zoe Richards forming a strong quartet for the upcoming Cup.

Brooke Blair and Ella Fotu provide some international experience to the side. Blair had come through the College program and spent time in Queensland of late, but will be one to watch in the competition. Fotu is familiar with the 3×3 format given her appearance at the 2013 World Cup, and will help provide great experience for other teammates, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu.

One player who is as exciting as they come is teenager Isabelle Cook. Representing Taranaki Thunder, Cook is a high school success story and a national representative at junior level. She is one who will stand out on the court and support the likes of Vanessa Weir, Teghan Ngatai and Jenna Kensington.

The other key team to highlight includes Northland Phoenix with the ever-experienced Terai Sadler leading the way. She has played at international level for the Cook Islands, and is more than equipped to handle the 3×3 format. She is joined at the Phoenix by Leiana Cameron-Tana.

Among other players to keep an eye on is college returnee Darci Finnigan who is an impressive guard set to run out for Auckland Dream. Kayla Manuirirangi is another college talent who dominated from long range and will be an asset for Waikato Wizards, whilst Sariah Penese (Capital Swish) is a similar talent who has plenty of upside on the court. Chelseah Savage is a playmaker with her deft passes and ability to put up big numbers, and will be a key player in the Bay of Plenty Blaze attack.

TEAMS:

Auckland Dream:

Amanda Wayment
Arielle Williams
Casyn Buchman
Darci Finnigan

Bay of Plenty Blaze:

Awatea Leach
Chelseah Savage
Laura Kuka
Waiata Jennings

Canterbury Rams:

Emma Trolove
Lauryn Hippolite
Rosalia Mira Samia
Tessa Morrison

Capital Swish:

D’stani Foley
Grace Vaofusi
Jacinta Beckley
Sariah Penese

Harbour Breeze:

Ashleigh Kelman-Poto
Brooke Blair
Gabriella Fotu
Jazz Kailahi-Fulu

Northland Phoenix:

Leiana Cameron-Tana
Sophie Tua
Terai Sadler
Teuila Faalogo

NZ Select Women:

Jessica Moors
Melika Samia
Tanaka Gapare
Tiarna Clarke

Otago Gold Rush:

Aleisha Ruske
Lisa Wallbutton
Tara Clement
Zoe Richards

Taranaki Thunder:

Isabelle Margaret Cook
Jenna Kensington
Teghan Ngatai
Vanessa Weir

Waikato Wizards:

Kayla Manuirirangi
Makayla Daysh
Matangiroa Flavell
Zarya Poulava