Hawke’s Bay and Waikato take home Under 15 Aon Nationals Titles

Despite the Under 15 Aon Nationals being almost cancelled today, Hawke’s Bay and Waikato have managed to overcome all odds to return home with National titles.

The storm that forced a state of emergency in in Dunedin also managed to breach the roof of Dunedin’s Edgar Centre on Friday night. With water pooling on every court on Saturday, the Grand Finals were at risk of not being played, with the minor placing games cancelled. Thanks to Basketball Otago and John McGlashan College, a dry court was found to host the girls’ final of Waikato and Waitakere West, and then the Under 15 boy’s final of Hawke’s Bay and Tasman. Both games were tightly fought contests, the boys final especially, which went into overtime.

Aon Nationals Under 15 Girls’ Grand Final: Waitakere West vs Waikato

The Aon Nationals Under 15 Girls’ Grand Final started with Waikato getting their first points in a two on zero break. Waitakere pressured back with a full court press that paid dividends, as three straight forced turnovers saw them gain the lead 7-6. The crowd seemed to full in behind Waikato with a cheer for Reese Anderson who was able to shake her defender, and despite not scoring that possession, the next two were converted for a Waikato lead. Alana Paewai stole a rebound and snuck it in, to see Waikato ahead 13-17 after the first quarter.

The second quarter saw Waitakere go on a huge 13-1 run to start in the first seven minutes. A Waikato Free Throw finally broke the drought, but potential trouble loomed for them as Leila Taala picked up her third foul. Waitakere’s Odessa Lawson went on to convert two Free Throws. Waikato had trouble getting anything inside the arc as Waitakere dared them to shoot from long range. Waikato was finally able to take advantage of their second chance opportunities though, closing the gap to 26-22. A good drive in transition by Keyani Leith drew a potentially damaging third foul on Lawson, but she was unable to capitalise on the freebies, as we entered half time with Waitakere West up 27-22.

A Lawson layup pushed the lead out to 31-24. Waikato made a quick run here, with Breeje Schuler scoring four straight points to close the gap to 31-29. Waikato flipped the tactics and dared Waitakere West to shoot from three, and Paewai executed a nice step through move to tie the game and force an immediate Waitakere West time out with 6:46 left in the third quarter. A long period without either team scoring ensued, before a massive three for Waikato’s Anderson tied the game at 34-34. Waikato was then able to force their way to the Free Throw line four times in the last minute of the third quarter, and Keyani Leith found herself with the ball after a Waitakere turnover, and raced ahead to lay the ball in as the third quarter buzzer sounded. Waikato now had a 36-41 lead, and all of the momentum.

Things went south in the fourth quarter for Waitakere when Lawson fouled out with 5:29 to play, due to an offensive foul as she looked to force the contact on a drive to the basket. Leith then hit a jumper to move up 40-49, but Riana Matiseni hit a three for Waitakere in an immediate answer. Unfortunately for Waitakere, this was about it, as they could only muster another three points in the final five minutes of the game as Waikato’s Jayze Lee Waihi was able to ice the game from the Free Throw line. The vocal Waikato Boys teams came onto the court and treated their victorious female counterparts to a rousing Haka in recognition of their win.

Final Score:
• Waikato, 58: J. Waihi 19 points; K. Leith 17 points.
• Waitakere West, 46: K. Leslie 17 points; O. Lawson 14 points.

The Aon Nationals Under 15 Girls Tournament team:
1. Courtney Godinet (Waitaha Canterbury)
2. Odessa Lawson (Waitakere West)
3. Keyani Leith (Waikato)
4. Kataleena Leslie (Waitakere West)
5. Zaaliyah Kailahi-Fulu (Harbour)
6. Missy Nuku (Tauranga)
7. Annabelle Ring (Otago)
8. Melika Samia (Hawke’s Bay)
9. Gemma Walsh (Taranaki)
10. Jayzelee Waihi (Waikato)

Aon Nationals Under 15 Girls MVP: Jayzelee Waihi (Waikato)

The Aon Nationals Under 15 Boys’ Grand Final: Tasman vs Hawke’s Bay

These were two equally matched teams, in what was arguably the game of the tournament. Baskets were traded from the beginning as both sides notched points. It was a back and forth first quarter, with Paora Winitana Junior being especially tough for Tasman to keep out of the paint, as he worked his pull up game. Xavier Clarke-Lloyd tipped in a shot for an 18 to 19 Hawke’s Bay lead after the first quarter.

The second quarter saw more of the same with a back and forth affair still on show. Virtually every basket, miss or turnover, was answered in a similar manner by the opposing team. Some aggressive trapping on defence caused issues for Tasman, who were unable to get into their preferred sets. A bit of back court pressure saw a Tasman turnover, which was converted by Winitana for a 24 to 30 lead. Tasman’s Joshua Book hit a three in an immediate reply to halve the gap. Despite trouble breaking the Hawke’s Bay press, and falling behind 26-36, Tasman was able to get a Book three to drop at the end of the second quarter, breaking through the psychological barrier of being down double figures to be behind 29-36.

Book had 14, and Jay Marsh 13 points for Tasman at half, and their team came out scoring 10 straight to take the lead, including a very impressive behind the back dribble and three in transition for Book. Regan Spooner, the Hawke’s Bay Coach, decided he had seen enough and called Time Out, suddenly down 39-36. Semi Final hero Brodie Walker started doing some work on the glass, grabbing an offensive rebound, scoring the putback and converting the three point play to cut the lead to two points. A great pass inside set up Jack Wills for a basket and a 43-45 Bay lead. Marsh scored a three, and Book had a nice spin and scoop to give Tasman back the lead, immediately followed by a Tobias Witehira three to pull ahead 51-47.

Tasman Coach Ed Book called a timeout to go over what he wanted to see from their pressbreak after a few close calls. The pro-Tasman crowd was exhorting them to play defence, but it was offence that they saw, as Book and Winitana exchanged three point makes to enter the final quarter with Tasman up 57-56.

Both teams went back in fourth again in the final quarter, but first blood went to Tasman, as Hawke’s Bays’ Wills fouled out and sent Vili Pale to the line, where he hit both Free Throws to retake the lead by one. Pale then fouled out, and Lamour Spooner split his shots to tie the game at 67-67. In the final minute of regulation Tasman’s Jaskaran Singh snuck in for an offensive rebound and was fouled where he hit one of two. Walker was sent to the line after this where he went one of two himself, and Tasman’s Coach, Ed Book, took a timeout and the ball.

Tasman’s Marsh had a quick drive and miss. With a one second differential between the shot and game clock, Wairehu Waata elected to go early and made a tough bucket. Tasman took their final timeout, down two with ten seconds remaining. Tasman’s Witehira lost the ball, but Hawke’s Bay couldn’t quite grab possession without travelling, giving Tasman another chance to inbound. A superb pass found Witehira at the rim where he made a tough finish this time, tying the game. Now it was Hawke’s Bay’s turn to take a timeout, with the game tied at 72-72 and three seconds remaining. Winitana drove hard and was just short on his potential game-winning shot, so we headed to overtime.

Winitana opened the overtime scoring with a hook-shot in the lane, then followed up with another hook from the other side of the court to put Hawke’s Bay up four points. After a Book Free Throw, Winitana then hit a deep three to put his team up six. Another tough Singh rebound and putback cut the deficit to five, and after forcing a turnover Ed Book took his overtime timeout with 1:37 remaining. Marsh had an immediate drive and make. Momentum looked to be swinging back to Tasman when Waata was fouled and missed both, but Walker got inside to gain the offensive rebound, and another chance for his team. Winitana had a huge chase-down block to stop a Marshall Stanley layup, and then immediately stole the inbound pass, which led to a Waata layup, and 77-83 lead.

Tasman started fouling, and did force a turnover which they fostered into three points thanks to Marsh, suddenly it was an 81 to 83 game with 0:12 remaining. Just like last night, Walker went to the line, and calmly hit both to push the lead out to four. A desperation three by Book as he tried to draw foul was short, which started off the on court celebrations for the team in black.

Final Score (overtime):
• Hawke’s Bay, 85: P. Winitana Junior 31 points; W. Waata 19 points; L. Spooner 10 points; J. Wills 10 points
• Tasman, 81: J. Book 32 points; J. Marsh 26 points

The Aon Nationals Under 15s Boys Tournament team:
1. Liam Spencer (Harbour A)
2. Levi Jackson (Counties Manukau)
3. Dante Russo-Nance (Waitakere West)
4. Sataan Tawera (Auckland)
5. Tanae Lavery (Waitaha Canterbury A)
6. Paora Winitana Jnr (Hawke’s Bay)
7. Brodie Walker (Hawke’s Bay)
8. Jay Marsh (Tasman)
9. Joshua Book (Tasman)
10. Toby Kendon (Hawke’s Bay)

Aon Nationals Under 15 MVP: Paora Winitana Jnr (Hawke’s Bay).