The stage has been set for today’s Grand Finals of the Basketball New Zealand Under 23 National Championships Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua. Waikato will face off against Tauranga for the Women’s title, while the men’s title will be contested between Waikato Country and Canterbury.
It will be hard to pick against Waikato in the women’s final, after they demolished Tauranga in pool play 87-40, only one day ago. For Tauranga to have a legitimate chance, they will need a performance from Daysh and Rogers that closely emulates their semi-final output (55 combined points to only nine in pool play). Waikato will have to work out how to best deal with the size of Daysh, and will probably look to try and keep the pace of the game up as much as possible. Charlisse Leger-Walker has been a handful to stop over the entire tournament (averaging over 26 points per game) and shows absolutely zero signs of slowing down now, despite being the youngest player involved.
Though closer in terms of talent, the Waikato Country vs Canterbury final on the men’s side could present a similar conundrum. Canterbury is likely to be the team here that will try to keep the pace up. A variety of players will likely be sent at Hyrum Harris (24 points per game) in an effort to tire him out. Canterbury will have hopes that Taylor Britt and James Cawthorn can generate some points at their end (averaging 38 points per game as a duo), and regain the gold medal that the team last won in 2015.
The girls’ Grand Final will be at 3pm, at Te Rauparaha Arena, Porirua. The men’s Grand Final will follow at 4:45pm. Free entry. The games will also be streamed on www.BasketballTV.Kiwi
Women’s Semi-Final Recaps:
• Waikato vs Canterbury
It was always going to be an uphill battle for the underdog team from Canterbury, qualifying in fourth place for the semi-finals after a one point win earlier in the day against Porirua. Waikato Coach, Anthony Corban, was taking no chances, and even after a 26 point win over Canterbury in pool play, had reinforcements in the form of Hayley Ellis and Kaylee Smiler arrive.
The first quarter looked like Corban knew something, as Canterbury showed no fear, answering every Waikato run with one of their own as the teams entered the first break only separated by two points. The second quarter threw a spanner in Canterbury’s plan, as Tessa Stewart-Morrison picked up her third foul, and Josh Thompson had to get creative with how he managed this. Waikato jumped on this opportunity, going on a 14-0 run over the last four minutes of the half, and building a healthy 45-30 lead.
Stewart-Morrison and Kendal Hastie gave Canterbury some life in the third, going on a quick 7-0 run to get the lead inside of double figures. Charlisse Leger-Walker led her team back in response, pushing the Waikato lead out to 22 points just before the end of the quarter. Lucy Brown caught fire from behind the arc, but this was not enough to stop the Waikato onslaught, as they pulled away to win by exactly the same margin that they did in their first meeting at the tournament.
Waikato, 91: C. Leger-Walker 40 points, 5 steals; K. Smiler 16 points; Z. Poulava 10 points
Canterbury, 65: L. Brown 18 points; C. Grice 14 points, 10 rebounds; K. Hastie 12 points; T. Stewart-Morrison 11 points
• Otago vs Tauranga
In the pool game between these two teams, Otago was victorious, so could be assumed to have the advantage in this more meaningful game. Early on, the game certainly looked to be heading this way, with Otago able to nose ahead of Tauranga. This did not last long, as Briarley Rogers heated up in a major way from behind the arc, pushing Tauranga up by ten points in the second quarter.
Two threes from Otago Captain, Jeanie Pattinson, briefly cut the Tauranga lead inside of ten, but Makayla Daysh was too big to slow down, hitting on nine of her ten shots to keep Tauranga’s score ticking over. Rogers then pulled her Tauranga team well and truly clear in the final quarter, hitting on three shots from behind the arc, as she scored fifteen in the period, helping her team outscore Otago 28-14 in the fourth quarter. The offensive explosion helped Tauranga rate above Otago in every shooting percentage category, most notably overall, where they hit on 45% of their shots in comparison to Otago’s 26%.
Tauranga, 82: B. Rogers 30 points; M. Daysh 25 points, 10 rebounds
Otago, 56: J. Pattinson 21 points
2017 U23 Men’s Semi-Final Recaps:
• Otago vs Waikato Country
In somewhat of a surprise Otago found themselves in the Semi-final round, despite dropping a pool game to Hutt Valley at the beginning of the tournament. They certainly showed their inclusion wasn’t a fluke early in the game, as Richard Rodger and Josh Aitcheson opened the scoring for the underdogs, with Hamish Robertson and Tom Davison helping to close out the first quarter with Otago up five (19-24).
Waikato Country had the better of the second quarter though, as Hyrum Harris and Jayden Bezzant scored 13 as a pair to move ahead by six, 48-42. A 13-0 run for Waikato Country across the middle portion of the third quarter made it look like this game was over, as they suddenly jumped ahead by eighteen points (47-65). A flurry of three point bombs by Aitcheson and Robertson briefly cut the Otago deficit down to seven, before Waikato Country closed out the quarter on a quick run to lead by 13.
Darcy Knox looked to be the hero for Otago, hitting two threes in a row after a Harris turnover, and suddenly we had a four-point game with just under seven minutes remaining. Bezzant and Harris again took turns answering for Waikato Country, and made sure that this time it was ‘game over’, with Otago falling behind by 21 points before being able to score another basket very late in the piece.
Waikato Country, 106: H. Harris 26 points, 25 rebounds; J. Bezzant 18 points, 8 assists; J. Taylor 17 points; J. Schuster 11 points; T. Wetere 10 points; T. Green 10 points
Otago 81: J. Aitcheson 22 points; H. Robertson 14 points; D. Knox 11 points, 9 rebounds; B. Hayman 11 points; R. Rodger 10 points, 8 rebounds
• Canterbury vs Hutt Valley
This game started with a huge hiss and a roar, with Theo Johnson and James Cawthorn exchanging three point buckets for their teams in their respective opening possessions. The game continued in much the same vein, with Hutt Valley pulling ever so slightly away 22-26 at the end of one. A quick five-point swing for Canterbury to open the second quarter saw them take the lead by one, before Theo Johnson immediately grabbed it back with a tough finish inside. Canterbury went cold for a while, and Jamal Mikaio pushed the Hutt Valley lead out to nine with a three-point bucket. Taylor Britt, and the two Williams brothers (Ben and Josiah) kept Canterbury in the game, and entering the second half down 40-46, after neither team could hang on to the ball after timeouts to set up offensive plays in the final 15 seconds.
It took less than three minutes for Canterbury to regain the lead after the break, with a beautiful Britt dish finding Ben Bowie down the lane for an uncontested layup. Canterbury Coach Dave Langrell felt that “the guys came out a bit insular in the first half, and had a lot of nervous energy. We had more talk and energy which helped our defense improve in the second half.” Canterbury was able to turn the rebounding advantage their way, using their speed and positioning to keep the caroms from bouncing Hutt Valley’s way.
Tied 54-54 in the third quarter, Canterbury started to pull away, A Nico Buckrell three gave Hutt Valley a very brief respite, but a Ben Williams three immediately answered, as Canterbury entered the fourth quarter up 68-61. The long full court passes that initially drew comparisons from the commentator to an Aaron Rodgers’ Hail Mary began to get tipped away as Canterbury worked hard to get back on defense. Sam Smith hit a pair of huge threes, which pushed the Canterbury lead out to 13 points with five minutes to play. This was it, as Hutt Valley could not get close than eleven points the rest of the way.
Canterbury, 92: T. Britt 30 points; B. Bowie 17 points; S. Smith 14 points
Hutt Valley, 79: J. Stubbins 15 points; C. Stephen 12 points; J. Mikaio 11 points; T. Johnson 11 points; N. Buckrell 11 points
Go HERE for more on the tournament including links to draw and results.