Two teams remain for both the Men’s and Women’s competitions as we set up for a blockbuster day four at the Aon U19 Championships in Rangiora.
After three days of basketball action, final second buzzerbeaters and dramatic finishishes, the Aon U19 Nationals Grand Finals are set, with Waikato taking on Canterbury for the Women’s and Canterbury A clashing with Harbour for the Men’s.
Wellington showed up in their Preliminary Semi-Final against North Canterbury to secure a Semi-Final spot against the defending champions Waikato. Holding North Canterbury to just six points in the second quarter, Wellington’s defense couldn’t be broken. Their attack proved too much for the hosts as Lauren Tewhata again stood out with 24 points. Gemma Walsh managed to score four three-pointers, and six players managed to score double digits. Final score 117-53.
Otago needed to win to keep their Semi-Finals hopes alive against Auckland, and they shot out to a very early lead. Otago kept Auckland to nine points in the first quarter, going on a 19-0 run to start the game. Auckland came back looking much stronger in the second half, but still couldn’t get past Otago’s strong defense. Maddie Tinnock took to the points, clocking 18 of them to help her side secure victory 74-56. Otago would face Canterbury in the Semi-Finals later in the afternoon.
Onto one of the crunch games with Waikato playing Wellington in the first Semi-Final. Wellington had played a game earlier in the day and beat North Canterbury soundly. Waikato topping their pool advanced straight through to the Semi-Finals and were looking to continue their dominant unbeaten performance. Wellington took their first and only lead in the opening quarter, leading by two early on. Turnovers proved costly with Wellington losing 23 posessions to Waikato’s seven, and the defending champions made them pay. Waikato scoring 24 points off Wellington’s turnovers and collecting 24 second chance points from their 21 offensive rebounds. Breeje Schuler had a standout performance with 18 points, 13 rebounds and three assists in her 37 minutes on the court, while Hineaupounamu Nuku contributed with a game-high 20 points, nine rebounds and two assists. Waikato’s starting five combined for a total of nine steals between them. Regardless of Wellington’s rebounding efforts, they still couldn’t overcome the point deficit, with the final score ending 76-61 to Waikato, who book themselves a spot in the Grand Final.
Otago were planning to make it difficult for Canterbury to advance to the Grand Finals. It was win or go home for both teams and they knew it. Otago shot out to a 20-point lead early in the second quarter with a Canterbury team lacking scoring power, that was until Maddie Morrow started shooting from three, scoring five three-pointers to finish with 21 points to her name. Canterbury outscored Otago in the second quarter, evened it out in the third and then applied full force in the fourth, scoring a whopping 30 points in the last quarter to give them a solid lead. Otago couldn’t catch up, even with Abby Harris shooting at 71% from the floor and finishing with a game-high 22 points and 12 rebounds. Maia Jones for Canterbury helped her team out with an all-round performance of 18 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and four steals. Canterbury closed it out, holding Otago to 12 points in the final quarter to finish up with a 79-68 win.
It was an early morning start for the Men’s competition with all four Quarter-Final games falling in the first two rounds, setting up for an exciting afternoon of basketball with the Semi-Finals to be played later on.
Auckland and Otago faced off in a competitive Quarter-Final matchup. Otago after beating Waikato the night before were looking to prove themselves and why they deserved to be in the running for the Championship. The first quarter was separated by only one point, and the half time break saw Auckland edge ahead only just to be 48-44. Coming off a 25-point performance against Waikato the night before, Danyon Ashcroft topped it up with 24 points for Otago where it was needed most, helping them to an 83-89 victory over Auckland.
Porirua wasn’t going to take it easy on Canterbury A in their Quarter-Final. Kawharu Hippolite made sure that Canterbury worked for their points and scored 26 for himself in the process. Corban Laban-Palmer scored a whopping five three-pointers in the game. While the half-time score looked in favour of Canterbury at 61-30, Porirua never gave up and fought to stay in the game. Kaia Isaac clocked a game-high 26 points and Hunter Adam followed suit with 23 points to help give Canterbury a spot in the Semi-Finals. Final score 91-73.
Wellington needed to beat Harbour to progress in their Quarter-Final. Wellington, who made the Grand Final last year were looking for redemption but came up short to an all-round performance by Harbour. Rocco Chang and Boston Caldwell both scored 20 points to bring their team to a 76-97 victory over Wellington. Half-time saw Harbour in the lead by only 12, but it proved too much for Wellington to handle. Harbour moved onto the Semi-Finals and would book a spot against the winner of Franklin and Taranaki.
Taranaki last year finished in 14th place, while Franklin had never been to an U19 Nationals before. Now we were looking straight into a Quarter-Final appearance for both teams. Taranaki looked like they had it all under control at the half, leading 35-61 and causing headaches. Slowly but surely, Franklin was clawing their way back, scoring 34 points in the third to bring the score to 70-86. Christian Martin was shooting up a storm with 42 points for Franklin, giving the Taranaki team a real run for their money. Rest assured, Carlin Davison came in clutch, returning 46 points to help give Taranaki a spot in the Semi-Finals 103-111.
Stepping into Semi-Finals mode, Canterbury took on Otago to see who would be the first team to book a spot in the Grand Final. Canterbury started too strong for Otago as Josh Book made steal to score for 12 points in the opening quarter and leaving Otago scoreless for four minutes. In that four minutes, Canterbury took 18 points to the total. That set the tone for the rest of the game, with Canterbury outscoring Otago in each quarter of the game. Hunter Adam proved why he was the Aon U17 Nationals MVP last year with 24 points, 10 rebounds in a solid but dominant paint performance. Canterbury shot at 54% from the floor, and nailed 11 of their 13 free throws. Otago had a shooting performance they would rather want to forget, shooting 34% for the game. Patrick Freeman tried to keep the ship afloat with 20-points and 13 rebounds, but it wasn’t enough as Canterbury took the win 121-69 and will play for the National Championship.
Things got interesting as Taranaki took on a strong Harbour team in the second Semi-Final. Taranaki took the lead at the quarter, 27-24, but Harbour were determined to stay in it. Carlin Davison (32) and Benji Freeman (29) combined for 61 of Taranaki’s points and helped Taranaki contend right up until the final whistle. Harbour proved why they were destined to head to the Finals with a strong bench performance combining for 36 points overall and showing the depth in the team. Tautoko Wynyard lead the way for Harbour, clocking a massive 18 rebounds, six of them being offensive, and scoring 20 points at 69% from the field. Captain Kane Daniel Murphy for Harbour managed to create nine assists to help his team take the victory in a close 88-91 win.
A big final day of basketball continues tomorrow. Tune into BBNZ TV from 9:45am tomorrow to watch select Playoff games as well as the Grand Finals.
You can see all the results on Gameday or by downloading the Gameday App on the App Store or Google Play and searching for “BBNZ Tournaments”