March Madness: One Kiwi Remains in Championships

And then there was one. The journey negotiating March Madness has come to an end for all the Kiwi contingent except Charlotte Whittaker and the Colorado University Buffaloes.

There are exceptional performances from Luke McDowell, Ashlee Strawbridge and Ella Bradley to reflect on but it’s just Cantabrian forward Whittaker still flying the New Zealand flag.


Women’s NCAA Division I National Championship

Charlotte Whittaker and the Buffaloes defeated Duke 61-53 in second round action. The overtime win sets up a meeting with #2 ranked University of Iowa in the Round of 16. It will be Colorado’s first appearance in the Sweet Sixteen for 20 years and the seventh overall appearance at that stage of the tournament.



> March 24 – Colorado v Iowa


Women’s NCAA Division I National Invitation Tournament (WNIT)

Ella Brow had 7 points and a couple of assists as Southern Methodist University Mustangs were beaten 61-49 by Texas Tech. The freshman guard played 25 games (starting 10) and tallied 115 points at 4.6 per game and 68 assists at 2.7 per game. Brow’s performances earned her selection to the American Athletic Conference All-Freshman team.


Olivia Williams and University of California Irvine were also second round losers, going down 58-48 to San Diego University. The sophomore guard incurred a season ending injury in January after starting the first 18 games for the Anteaters. In those 18 games – all as a starter – Williams averaged 8.2 points and 3.0 rebounds per game.


Women’s Basketball Tournament (NCAA Division I)

Ashlee Strawbridge and New Mexico State University Aggies came up just short in the championship game against California Baptist, pipped 63-61. Making 27 starts and being one of only three players to play all 35 games, the former Canterbury and Rangi Ruru Girls representative was the Aggies leading shot blocker (17). In addition she averaged 4.6 points, 3.1 rebounds per game.


Women’s NCAA Division II National Championship

Waikato’s Ella Bradley and her University of Texas at Tyler Patriots team were defeated 81-72 by #1 seed Ashland University at the Elite Eight. Bradley had 7 points, 3 rebounds and 2 assists in the loss.

The defeat comes after the Patriots put together their best season in the programmes Division II era finishing with a 27-8 record. Bradley played all 35 games (including 20 starts) for the Patriots. Known for her defensive prowess, the former Waikato and St Peter’s School, Cambridge forward was the leading shot blocker (23) on the team and second highest rebounder with 140 boards at 4.0 per game. She also averaged 5.8 points per game.


Women’s NJCAA (Junior College) National Championship

All three teams with Kiwi representation at the Women’s NJCAA (Junior College National Championship) have bowed out of the tournament in the opening round.

Despite the best efforts of Waiata Jennings, the Collin College Cougars lost 63-52 to Cochise College. Collin were ahead 31-27 at half-time but a poor third quarter (7-19) cost them dearly. The former Rotorua guard tallied a team-high 17 points to add to 5 rebounds, 3 steals and an assist in 37 minutes. Jennings, an All-Region 5 First Teamer and also named the Co-Freshman of the Year, amassed 509 points at 16.4 points per game. In addition to being the team’s leading scorer, she also topped the rebounding (5.9 per game) and steals (3.0 per game) count.

The Dodge City Community College Conquistadors scoring was also led by a Kiwi as, in a low-scoring affair, they were defeated 48-38 by New Mexico College. Leah Mafua scored 10 points and added 6 rebounds but unfortunately fouled out after 27 minutes of action. Jenna Rose had 3 points and 3 rebounds in the loss. The Wellingtonian sisters, out of Hutt Valley High School, both enjoyed a successful season. Earlier in the month Leah was named to the Kansas City Jayhawk Conference First Team and Jenna Rose to the Second team. Leah averaged 12.1 points and 5.4 rebounds per game while Jenna Rose averaged 11.2 points and 2.7 rebounds.

Unfortunately Alana Paewai and Eastern Arizona College completed a hat-trick of losses for the Kiwis with North Dakota State College of Science victors 72-66. The Waikato guard had a couple of points and rebounds in the loss that brought to an end her freshman season after 27 appearances.


Men’s NJCAA (Junior College) National Championship

Trinidad State College Trojans were run down in the second half, falling 78-75 to Tallahassee College in the first round of the National Championships. Finn Lally had 4 rebounds and a team-high 5 assists in the loss. The former Waikato and St John’s College Hamilton forward played all 31 games for the Trojans, enjoying 10 starts. He averaged 9.2 points, 5.1 rebounds and 2.4 assists per game.

Former Northcote College standout Ollie Hayward has redshirted the 2022-23 season as he recovers from injury. Hayward must have been yearning to take the court as Midland College, after earning a first round bye, defeated Chipola College 69-55 in the second round to set up the last eight contest. That quarter-final tie ended in a narrow 74-70 loss to John A. Logan College.