Waikato have been crowned the women’s Under 23 National Champions after defeating Tauranga this evening, with Charlisse Leger-Walker, the youngest player for Waikato, picking up yet another MVP award. Canterbury has taken home the men’s title, after managing to score in the final moments against a talented Waikato country team.
2017 Under 23 Women’s Grand Final – Waikato vs Tauranga
Tauranga’s first quarter was about the worst they could possibly have played, unable to get any of their shots from the field to drop, while also giving away nine turnovers as they struggled against the constant pressure applied by the Waikato guards. Compounding these issues was a re-aggravated ankle injury to Makayla Daysh who was forced to the side-line in the first half. Waikato took full advantage of these issues for their opponent, racing out to 19-4 lead after ten minutes.
Tauranga finally got the lid of the basket early in the second quarter, but it didn’t make substantial difference to the score-line, as Waikato’s Alyssa Hirawani excelled when Tauranga moved into a 3-2 zone on defence, scoring all three shots she took from behind the arc, helping push the lead to 21 points at the half (38-17).
The second half was largely academic, with Waikato’s Charlisse Leger-Walker nearing a quadruple-double. Leger-Walker’s half time line being: nine points; seven rebounds; six assists and three steals. This may have been about the only goal unreached, as Leger-Walker ‘only’ managed to get a triple-double.
Daysh returned to the court and Briarley Rogers featured, but both could not repeat their semi-final scoring, as Rogers was harassed into shooting only 2 from 14, most often the result of some excellent defence from Kaylee Smiler. Waikato’s Hirawani had the sort of game that would have been needed for Tauranga to have a chance, hitting on 7 from 11 shots from the three point line, as she led all scorers in the game with 29.
Waikato, 83: A. Hirawani 29 points; C. Leger-Walker 16 points, 10 rebounds, 10 assists, 6 steals; S. Walker-Pittman 13 points; K. Ballantyne 10 points, 8 rebounds; K. Smiler 8 points, 10 rebounds.
Tauranga, 46: M. Daysh 12 points, 8 rebounds.
2017 Under 23 Men’s Final – Waikato Country vs Canterbury
Canterbury had trouble maintaining possession in the first quarter, but a pair of James Cawthorn threes kept the differential close. Hyrum Harris for Waikato Country took every opportunity to grab a defensive rebound and push the ball up the floor, quickly getting his individual tally up to 12 points. Depth for Canterbury proved to be a relative advantage for them, finding it easier to score around the rim when Harris was resting on the bench.
Potential trouble for Waikato Country as Harris picked up a second personal foul less than a minute into the second quarter. Canterbury’s Taylor Britt started to challenge Harris at the rim, knowing he wanted to avoid a third foul. Canterbury still had trouble hanging onto the ball, committing ten turnovers within the first five minutes of the second quarter. Both teams had discussions with the officiating crew, largely revolving around being vertical. A small Waikato Country lead was wiped out as Joe Cook-Green and Josiah Williams started finding space inside the lane, either hitting shots themselves, or completing nice interior passes to their bigs, with a Williams’ layup tying the game. Jethro Taylor channelled Russel Westbrook as he hit on a pull up jumper in transition, only to have Sam Smith answer with a three to give Canterbury the lead just before half time.
The first half chippiness continued in the third quarter, with both teams entering the bonus after seven minutes. This did not help the flow of the game, with a procession of trips to the free throw line for both teams. Harris got a couple of his trademark coast to coast buckets, and Jayden Bezzant was able to get himself open at the rim for ten points himself in the quarter, as Waikato Country used this outburst to move ahead by five at the end of the third quarter.
Cook-Green opened scoring in the fourth, and after a hard Tamamoko Green foul, took back the lead 79-81 for Canterbury. Back to back, threes for from Te Rerenga Wetere and Taylor quickly snatched back a four-point lead, which was quickly doubled up by Bezzant scoring twice. Cook-Green once again brought Canterbury back, setting up Ben Bowie inside, hitting a three, and then perfectly finding Sam Smith for an easy layup in transition. Britt then stole an errant pass and converted a breakaway layup for a one point Canterbury lead just inside of three minutes to play.
Both teams really upped their defence, as we entered the final minute with only one point between the teams. Bezzant hit an extremely tough two with only 27 seconds remaining, to move his team ahead 96-95. This was after Waikato Country had struggled with the shot clock, getting whistled for violations on two of their previous three possessions. Dave Langrell elected not to call timeout, and Canterbury pushed the ball up and found an open three for Smith, who calmly hit, retaking the lead by two with 8.5 second to go. Daniel Green took his timeout, and set his team up with a perfect play to tie the game. James Schuster found himself with a chance to be the hero, but only just failed to convert the layup and an ecstatic Canterbury team started their celebration huddle on the court, escaping with a hard fought two-point win.
Canterbury, 98: S. Smith 24 points; J. Cook-Green 19 points, 10 assists, 7 rebounds; T. Britt 12 points; B. Bowie 10 points, 7 rebounds; J. Cawthorn 10 points
Waikato Country, 96: J. Bezzant 27 points, 8 assists, 5 steals; H. Harris 26 points, 17 rebounds; J. Taylor 22 points; T. Wetere 12 points
Under 23 Women’s Tournament team and MVP:
Kelcy Ballantyne (Waikato)
Aliyah Dunn (Otago)
Makayla Daysh (Tauranga)
Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato)
Jeanie Pattison (Otago)
Tessa Stewart Morrison (Canterbury)
Briley Rogers (Tauranga)
Stirling Walker-Pitman (Waikato)
Cairyn Rogers (Tauranga)
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato)
MVP – Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato)
Under 23 Men’s Tournament team and MVP:
Jaylen Gerrand (Harbour)
Josh Aitcheson (Otago)
Samuel Aruwa (Auckland)
Jackson Stubbins (Hutt Valley)
Hyrum Harris (Waikato Country)
Quintin Bailey (Taranaki)
James Cawthorn (Canterbury)
Samuel Smith (Canterbury)
Jayden Bezzant (Waikato Country)
Taylor Britt (Canterbury)
MVP – Taylor Britt (Canterbury).