Capital and Waitakere Victors of the Aon Under 15 National Basketball Championships

The Pulman Arena hosted the Aon Under 15 National Basketball Championships this week, with the Grand Final games being played today. Wellington’s Capital Gold team won the girls title, while Waitakere West won the boys’ title.

Aon Nationals Under 15 Girls’ Grand Final: Capital Gold vs Tauranga

Capital Gold were the clear favourites heading in to the Grand Final. They easily rolled through all challengers in the group stage. The knockout games were a bit tougher for Capital, with Coach Nixon Penese’s team progressing in a quarter-final against Waikato 68-51, and then a semi-final against Harbour A 59-49 where they grabbed the lead in the second quarter, and never relinquished it.

Tauranga had a much tougher road of it to the Grand Final – dropping one of their pool games (to Harbour A, 78-42). Their quarter-final match against the Hibiscus Coast was a very tense affair, before they escaped 86-84. Hawkes Bay was next up in the semi-final, with Tauranga able to build a twenty-point lead in the first quarter. They were never feeling threatened from there and cruised to a 73-56 win.

In the Grand Final, Tauranga started perfectly, utilising pressure defence to force turnovers, as they built an early five-point lead. This was about the end of the good news for the underdogs, as Capital Gold used their ruthless efficiency to take, and then make, their own eight-point lead at the end of the first quarter. Christina Wen impressed by scoring three straight lay-ups, as well as snagging two steals as Capital pulled ahead.

Things kept on the same trajectory in the second quarter, as Capital won that 28-14. They headed into half-time with a massive 22-point edge. When able to complete a defensive stop, Tauranga was able to force Capital in to some tough shot attempts. Tauranga nearly always struggled to keep their opponents from snagging multiple second chance opportunities though, with Tayla-Kei Rahui-Laulau having 11 offensive rebounds herself. Holding possession was another issue for Tony Webster’s team – as they gave away 43 turnovers to Capital. These two concerns contributed to Capital having 99 shot attempts to only 57 for Tauranga. Even with the better shooting percentage for Tauranga, they could not overcome the sheer amount of scoring opportunities Capital was able to manufacture.

Despite Tyler Burton, Te Ahikaa Bidois and Taiana Day shooting a combined 15/25 from the field for Tauranga, the rebounding edge Capital had was too stark – with Rahui-Laulau, Gina Manila and Christina Wen all registering double-doubles in points and rebounds. After successfully staving off their challengers from Tauranga, an elated Capital team celebrated in unison at half court.

Final Score:

• Capital Gold, 86: T. Rahui-Laulau 15 points, 15 rebounds; C. Wen 14 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals; G. Manila 13 points, 10 rebounds, 5 steals
• Tauranga, 58: T. Burton 13 points; T. Day 12 points, 9 rebounds; T. Bidois 12 points

Girls’ Final Team Placings:
• 1st Capital Gold
• 2nd Tauranga A
• 3rd Harbour A
• 4th Hawkes Bay
• 5th Auckland Premier
• 6th Waikato
• 7th Hibiscus Coast
• 8th Otago
• 9th Taranaki
• 10th Rotorua
• 11th Waitaha Red
• 12th Counties Manukau
• 13th Tasman
• 14th Southland
• 15th Manawatu
• 16th Capital Black
• 17th Waitaha Black
• 18th Auckland Reserves
• 19th Tauranga B
• 20th Harbour B

Girls’ Tournament Team:
• Savannah Cook – Auckland
• Janina Buot – Capital Gold
• Florence Dallow – Harbour
• Raedeen Blake – Hawkes Bay
• Janke Pretorius – Hibiscus Coast
• Libby Briggs – Otago
• Alana Paewai – Waikato
• Jyordanna Davey – Capital Gold
• Taiana Day – Tauranga A
• Vitolia Tuilave – Tauranga A

Girls’ Most Valuable Player:
• Jyordanna Davey – Capital Gold

Girls’ Third Place Final Officials:
• Rachael Harris
• Trinity Hart

Girls’ Final Officials:
• Alex Poupoasa
• Mikayla Ludlow

Aon Nationals Under 15 Boys’ Grand Final: Waitakere West Premier vs Waitaha Red

The only two unbeaten teams remaining in the competition met in this Grand-Final. Coach Ben Sheat’s Waitaha Red team easily dispatched their pool-play opponents with an average margin of victory an enormous 56 points. The Waitaha team then had to face off against the teams from the greater Auckland region, beating Auckland Premier 78-58 in the quarter-finals, and scoring a thrilling one-point 57-56 win against Harbour in the semi-final, only cementing victory when Riley Sa scored off an offensive rebound with only one second remaining.

Waitakere West Premier was tested only marginally more in pool play. Their average winning margin was a slightly more reasonable 37 points. An 83-68 win over Waikato in the quarter-final round gave them a date with Manawatu Black in the semi-finals. A back and forth game eventuated here before Waitakere was able to build a lead in the third quarter, cruising to a 96-76 final score.

In the final, Ben Sheat’s game plan initially worked to perfection, attacking the gigantic Tautoko Wynyard off the bounce, and moving the ball around the perimeter until they found a crack. The game would have been over in the first quarter, were it not for Waitakere’s offensive rebounding, which kept Waitaha from building a double-figure lead.

The second quarter continued in much the same vein, with Waitakere unable to hit much from deep, going 2/13 in the first half. An offensive foul on Waitaha’s Louis Delatour halfway through the quarter stunted the Waitaha ball movement, allowing Waitakere to eat ever so slightly into the deficit – Waitaha Red up 25-35 at the half.

Riley Sa was relegated to the bench after he was whistled for his fourth personal foul with 8:08 remaining in the third quarter, after diving to try and regain possession of the ball. Both teams traded baskets through the middle stages of the period. It was here that Waitakere began absolutely finding their range with Alex Murray, Michael Henare, James Anderson and Dontae Russo-Nance hitting four straight threes to suddenly turn a seven-point deficit into a one-point lead. Fa’anuu Muao salvaged things for Waitaha, hitting a push shot near the end of the quarter as Waitaha was now only up one: 53-54.

If there is such thing as a perfect quarter, Shawn Nance’s team just about had it in the fourth, scoring on six straight possessions as they began piling it on, much to the home crowd’s delight. Waitakere ended up outscoring Waitaha with a 26-4 tally in the quarter, as the final margin did not do justice of how closely matched these two teams were most of the way through this game. The Waitakere team paid homage to the tough test their opponents from Canterbury gave them in the post-game presentations, obviously very proud of their performance to win gold.

Final Score:

• Waitakere West Premier, 79: D. Russo-Nance 23 points, 11 rebounds, 7 steals; T. Wynyard 18 points, 13 rebounds; A. Murray 15 points; J. Anderson 13 points
• Waitaha Red, 58: H. Adam 16 points, 16 rebounds; T. Harrison 10 points; J. Coulthard 10 points

Boys’ Final Team Placings:
• 1st Waitakere West Premier
• 2nd Waitaha Red
• 3rd Harbour A
• 4th Manawatu Black
• 5th Auckland Premier
• 6th Waikato
• 7th Capital Gold
• 8th Otago
• 9th Hawkes Bay
• 10th Tauranga A
• 11th Waitaha Black
• 12th Waikato Country
• 13th Hibiscus Coast
• 14th Southland
• 15th Taranaki
• 16th Manawatu Green
• 17th Capital Black
• 18th Waitakere West
• 19th Tauranga Gold
• 20th Tasman

Boys’ Tournament Team:
• Dante Russo Nance – Waitakere West Prems
• Hunter Adam – Waitaha Red
• Ezekiel Priest – Harbour
• Maraki Aumua – Manawatu Black
• River Drefers – Auckland
• Thomas Harrison – Waitaha Red
• Boston Schroeder – Harbour
• Billy Tanoa – Manawatu Black
• Piripi Tapsell – Capital Gold
• Tautoko Wynyard – Waitakere West Prems

Boys’ Most Valuable Player:
• Tautoko Wynyard – Waitakere West Prems

Boys’ Third Place Final Officials:
• Charlotte Davis
• Harry Skirrow

Boys’ Final Officials:
• Brendan Douglas
• Samuel Roberts