U23 Nations & D-League – Day 3 Recap

After three days of intriguing action at Eventfinda Stadium on Auckland’s North Shore, the finalists of the Men’s U23 National Championships and D League Championship have been found. 

The D League Final will be an all-Auckland affair, with defending champions Auckland Dream to meet Harbour Breeze – whilst the Men’s U23 Championship game will be between defending champions Taranaki and Porirua.  


Day 3 Women’s D League Semi-Finals 


D League Semi-Final (1): Auckland Dream Black 71, Otago Gold Rush 52 

The first D League semi-final featured a match-up between Auckland Dream and Otago Gold Rush – a repeat of the 2022 D League grand final. Dream prevailed last year and they did so again this time around, winning 71-52. 

Dream forward Trinity Paeu was in dominant form as she put together a double-double of 17 points and 14 rebounds. All ten Dream players made scoring contributions, with guards Savannah Cook (12 points) and Ash Tuumaialu  (9 points) amongst the standouts. 

Leila Anesi led the Otago effort with a game high 18 points while Abby Harris tallied 9 points and 10 rebounds. 

Triples from Darci Finnigan and Rosie Davison helped propel Dream to a 12-2 lead, before scores from Harris and Ryan Dailey narrowed the gap. Dailey was successful again in transition; although a Summer Faleafa floater on the quarter time buzzer took the Dream advantage to 22-8. 

Otago began the second quarter with a 9-0 run – 7 of those to Anesi – before Tuumaialu  scored Dream’s first points of the frame. Alexa Duff cut the margin to two although another significant run from Dream (13-2) meant their lead at half-time was 39-26. 

Anesi was the first player into double figures, followed quickly by Paeu as the two teams went basket for basket through the early stages of the third. Letitia Mullaly made a couple of scores for Otago although a jump shot from Summer Jean Motofua carried Dream to a 58-44 three-quarter time lead. 


Auckland paced their way through the closing minutes to ease into their second successive grand-final appearance. 

Box Score: https://fibalivestats.dcd.shared.geniussports.com/u/BNZT/2303568/ 


D League Semi-Final (2): Waikato Wizards 68, Harbour Breeze 63 

Harbour Breeze turned around an early 15-point deficit to defeat Waikato Wizards 68-63, with forward duo Rikki Burgess-Fiatau (13 points and 10 rebounds) and Milomilo Nanai (9 points and 7 rebounds) dominating the paint. Also prominent for Breeze were Riana Rangi-Brown and Elianna Tuaiti with 16 and 11 points respectively. 

Kaelani Albert-Neha was outstanding for the Wizards with a game high 23 points, while Hana Lacey Rameka (13 points) and Piri Lewis (10 points) were also in double figures.  

The Wizards scored the first six points of the game courtesy of Ripeka Edwards and Kaelani Albert-Neha. The Breeze were on the board through Rianna Rangi-Brown and Rikki Burgess-Fiatau, but trailed 25-15 after a left handed floater from Albert-Neha found nothing but net. 

That lead extended to 36-22, after a Laken Wairau triple, ahead of a late run from Breeze. Bailey Flavell, fresh off her Northern Kāhu debut 24 hours previously converted an and-1 play and Maia Fowler nailed a corner three as Breeze narrowed the deficit to 36-28 at three-quarter time.   

Former Tall Fern Brooke Blair dropped a corner three to narrow the deficit further – the reply in kind from Riva Walker-Pitman and then repeated by Hana Lacey-Rameka. Riana Rangi-Brown closed the scoring for the quarter – Wizards with a narrow 48-46 lead. 

An Elianna Tuaiti and-1 gave Breeze their first lead of the game, Caitlin Hull restored the Breeze advantage only for Burgess-Fiatau to put Harbour ahead again. Milomilo Nanai and Burgess-Fiatau dominated the closing stages the Breeze forward duo sharing 11 points over the closing minutes as Breeze booked themselves a grand-final berth. 

Box Score: https://fibalivestats.dcd.shared.geniussports.com/u/BNZT/2303615/ 



Day 3 Men’s U23 Semi-Finals 


U23 Semi-Final (1) Taranaki 81 Auckland 65   

Defending champions Taranaki will get the opportunity to play for consecutive championships, after coming from behind to defeat Auckland 81-65.  

Auckland took the early honours as they eked out a 23-17 first quarter lead with guard Tukaha Cooper scoring 13 points. More problematic for Taranaki were the three fouls picked up by Benji Freeman. 

Zack McKenzie gave Auckland an 11-point lead although it was Taranaki that would finish the half the stronger; Latrell Teka nailing a pair of threes and Caleb Smiler coming up with a brace of and-1 plays to tie the proceedings.  

Josh Leger and Victor Keil restored the Auckland lead, albeit a narrow one at 40-37. Leger made an inside basket but that triggered a 15-0 run from Taranaki, with Teka doing most of the damage – and with Geordie Hoeata dropping a triple on the last play of the third, the black and yellow’s were 62-48 ahead. 

A Cooper triple reduced the deficit to ten before Smiler scores followed by a KC Nwafor dunk took Taranaki to a commanding 69-54 lead and extinguish the Auckland resistance. 

Cooper led all scorers with 24 points, the Auckland guard aided by Leger (18 point) and McKenzie (10 points). Taranaki received excellent contributions from Teka and Nwafor with 17 points apiece while Freeman scored 16 and Smiler 14. 

Box Score: https://fibalivestats.dcd.shared.geniussports.com/u/BNZT/2304126/ 


U23 Semi-Final (2) Harbour 81 Porirua 84 

Porirua earned their place in the grand final, after a hard fought 84-81 victory against Harbour – with Dru Leusogi-Ape amassing 44 points along with some outstanding shot making. He received strong support from Kazlo Evans (18 points) and Tyson Aiolupotea (8 points). 

Jett Thompson and Kiani Saxon scored 15 points for Harbour with Zach Riley – back briefly from Fordham University – making a team-high 29 points.  

Eight quick fire points from Leusogi-Ape propelled Porirua to a 12-6 start, the Southland Sharks guard with 12 in the opening quarter as the lead remained at six (26-20). Threes from Evans and Leusogi-Ape pushed the lead into double figures, the pair keeping Porirua in the lead (40-34) despite scores for Harbour from Riley and Tautoko Wynyard. 

Ashton Inwood took the Porirua lead into double figures and with Leusogi-Ape taking his tally to 25 points, that advantage stood at 49-38 at half-time. Evans and Leusogi-Ape inflicted further damage at the beginning of the second half before Saxon and Riley ignited a 11-2 run to cut the deficit to single figures (51-57). 

A high-paced third ended with the margin at six points 68-62 after a Thompson finish in traffic. Thompson’s three was countered by Leusogi-Ape as he moved his personal tally into the fourties. 

Aiolupotea kept the Margin in double figures with five minutes to play (77-67) but Saxon and Riley trimmed that to six (79-73) with three minutes to play. With 69 seconds remaining, Saxon made it a four-point contest and after a turnover a Thompson three reduced the margin to one. 

Crucial offensive rebounds earned Porirua additional possessions, with Kazlo Evans taking advantage to earn a 4-point lead before Nathaniel Salmon sealed the deal from the foul line.  

Box Score: https://fibalivestats.dcd.shared.geniussports.com/u/BNZT/2304139/