The boys and girls under 17 age-group teams have been found for the Aon Under 17 Basketball National Championships in Wellington, after Friday’s semi-final rounds came to a close.
Taranaki and Waikato will meet in the girls’ Grand Final, while Auckland and Wellington will contest the boys’ title.
Both teams in the girls’ final had to overcome some size disadvantages in their semi-final wins. A more perimeter-oriented game can be expected, as well as seeing both teams extending their defensive pressure up the floor. This sets up the final to be a fast-paced and free flowing. Both Taranaki and Waikato teams are somewhat familiar with each other from being in the same pool at the start of the tournament – with Taranaki winning by the surprising score of 60-36. This Grand Final tips off at 4pm today and will be livestreamed on www.nz.basketball/tv and www.facebook.com/BasketballNZ
The boys’ final will be headlined by the big-time scorers in each team, with Ezekiel Stallworth from Wellington and Robert Coman from Auckland able to explode at any time. Wellington will be buoyed by the home-town support, and their rangy wing players will search for ways to wreak havoc when they press in the full-court. Auckland has a bit more variance in their size, but have proved they can win any sort of game –evidenced by their elimination of the Waitaha red team, after trailing by sixteen at the half in their Quarter-final matchup. This Grand Final tips off at 5:45pm today and will be livestreamed on www.nz.basketball/tv and www.facebook.com/BasketballNZ
SEMI-FINAL GAME REPORTS:
Aon Nationals Under 17 Girls’ Semi-Final 1: Waikato vs Manawatu
Manawatu looked to have their place in the Grand Final booked after a dominating first quarter saw them ahead by 10 points. Rochelle Fourie being the difference-maker for her team, as she was able to suck the smaller Waikato defenders in to the paint to double-team her when she had the ball, or get second possessions for her team through her offensive rebounding prowess.
Jayze Lee Waihi was able to spearhead the beginning of a fightback for Waikato, hitting a big three-point shot to cut the lead to a solitary point (29-30) before Manawatu was able to extend it slightly after a Maddi Chrystal two-point jumper, heading in to half-time 29-32.
The game turned in a major way in the third quarter, Fourie leaving the game with 3:37 remaining when she was called for her fifth foul on the offensive end. Waihi hit a jump shot shortly afterwards to give her Waikato team their first lead of the game (40-39).
Waikato kept their noses ahead the rest of the game, never leading by more than nine points, but seemed pretty safe, up six points with 120 seconds to go. Hareta Coleman caught fire though – hitting three straight from behind the arc for a glimmer of hope, before Waikato extinguished it, as they ran the clock out and secured their place in the Grand Final.
Waikato Coach Anthony Corban said he was proud of his team’s effort and they were looking forward to the Grand Final.
“Girls have had a great tournament. We lost one of our starters to an injury yesterday (Leila Taala), and another squad member today will illness, so were down in numbers, without even counting the two New Zealand players we lost to injury at the start of the season (Dominique Stephens and Keyani Leith). The rest of the group has definitely stepped up to the challenge.
“These girls are tough, they don't give up in games, and proved it as they fought back from a ten-point deficit and slowly reeled in our semi-final opponent.
“I backed out fitness and our players’ relentless attitude to attack the basket. We attacked their big and got her in foul trouble. Once she was out of the game, we were able to space the floor and get to the hoop.”
“I’m very proud of this group. We will be ready for tomorrow, and enjoy the moment!”
Waikato, 62: T. Mitchell 19 points; Q. Walker-Eketone 15 points; J. Waihi 11 points; B. Schuler 10 points
Manawatu, 57: M. Chrystal 14 points; A. Kells 13 points; H. Coleman 13 points; R. Fourie 11 points
Aon Nationals Under 17 Girls’ Semi-Final 2: Taranaki vs Harbour
A 10-0 run where Simone Barnard and Jessica Moors scored five each, helped give Harbour a nice buffer as they headed into half-time – up 44-33 against Taranaki. Things didn’t improve much for Taranaki in the third quarter, as the deficit grew slightly to 13 points. Parris Mason then went on her own personal 10-0 run to cut the Harbour lead, and it was game on.
The two teams went back and forth at each other in the fourth quarter, before Moors was sent to the line after receiving an unsportsmanlike foul with only 11.7 seconds remaining, and the score 68-67 in Taranaki’s favour. After splitting the shots, Moors was unable to hit the game-winner at the buzzer, and we headed to overtime at 68-68.
Taranaki eeked out a 76-72 lead from the free throw line with six seconds to go, but was called for a foul rebounding a Free Throw – sending Moors to the line. After hitting the first, she intentionally missed the second, and Harbour found themselves with an inbound and a chance to force Double-OT. Barnard was left wide open by a switching Taranki defence, and her long range shot just hit the back-rim, sending Taranaki into the final.
After the game, Shay Haira said she was especially pleased with her team’s effort.
“The girls were hungry. Having Parris Mason pick up her third foul in the second quarter hurt us, but he girls pulled together and fought hard. We knew a team coached by Justine Reed would be well-drilled, so we are very happy with that win.
“My Captain Emily Poole pulled the girls together at half time and said ‘we are not finishing third again, this is our year. Let's get out there and get the job done!’
“Team work from Caitlin O’Connell, Raquel Sampson and Parris Mason makes me look like a great coach! As a coach you can't ask for more from a team down by 11 at half time. One more to go! We are pumped!” said Coach Haira.
Taranaki Captain Emily Poole backed up those sentiments after the semi-final win.
“We went into the game as the obvious underdogs against the Harbour A team, who have been the champs for the past two years, and found ourselves behind by 11 at half-time. However we had just fallen short of making the finals for the past couple of years, and were determined to pull through this year. So as a team, we rallied together and in a tough fought overtime, we secured the win by a narrow 3 points,” said Poole.
Final Score (Overtime):
Taranaki, 76: P. Mason 24 points, 10 rebounds; C O’Connell 13 points, 10 rebounds; R. Sampson 11 points, 18 rebounds; T. Owen 10 points; G. Walsh 10 points
Harbour, 73: S. Barnard 21 points; J. Moors 18 points, 16 rebounds; E. Shearer 18 points; J. Kailahi-Fulu 14 points
Aon Nationals Under 17 Boys’ Semi-Final 1: Auckland vs Waikato A
Auckland was too dominant for their neighbours to the south, with a 12-0 run in the first quarter, and a 10-0 one, courtesy of Robert Coman and Levic Kerr, just after the second quarter started suddenly saw them with an 18-point lead.
Waikato’s Akiva McBirney-Griffin was able to get some buckets to drop and gave his team some brief hope, as they cut the lead to only eight in the third quarter.
Auckland was having none of that though, pushing the lead out to an insurmountable 22 points by the end of the third quarter, as they outscored Waikato 24-12.
It was academic from here on out, as Waikato was only dent the lead slightly in the final quarter – seeing Auckland book their seat in the Boys’ Grand Final.
Auckland, 86: R. Coman 37 points, 18 rebounds; S. Tawera 15 points; T. Coker-Grey 15 points; L. Kerr 11 points
Waikato A, 67: K. Olsen-Matara 16 points; K. Robinson 11 points; A. McBirney-Griffin 10 points, 10 rebounds; C. Smiler 10 points
Aon Nationals Under 15 Boys’ Semi-Final 2: Wellington vs Harbour A
The final game of the night was a treat for everyone at the ASB stadium, when it looked like only the home supporters would be happy. Wellington had a dream beginning – pushing out to a 20-point lead as Harbour struggled with their length on the perimeter. Tafara Gapare getting sent to the free-throw line numerous times as part of the Wellington start.
Harbour used some three-point bombs from all over the court to cut the lead to only five points at the end of the third quarter, with Paora Winitana Junior hitting three long range bombs in the period. Both teams went back and forth in the fourth quarter, and Reihana Maxwell-Topia looked to be the hero – sinking all three free throws when he was fouled behind the arc with less than two minutes to go. Now facing a 98-104 deficit, Wellington found a wide-open Ezekiel Stallworh for three, and after hitting that, Stallworth took, and hit, a contested one the next possession to tie the game at 104-104. Neither team could score to finish out regulation and the two teams headed into extra time after a Winitana desperation toss fell short.
Wellington scored on each of their six possessions to start overtime, with a Gapare steal and dunk closing the book on Harbour’s title aspirations. The Wellington team scored an almost unheard of 26 points in overtime, with Harbour held to nine.
Wellington Head Coach Terry Stallworth praised his team's readiness to go the extra five minutes.
“The two key words for our team in the last couple of months have been relentless and grit, and these boys showed it tonight. All the hard work, the trainings, and the three-minute runs paid off."
Final Score (Overtime):
Wellington 130: E. Stallworth 38 points, 5 steals; E. Kavakura 28 points; T. Gapare 18 points; E. Tabor 17 points, 11 rebounds; E. Vaigafa 14 points, 10 rebounds, 11 assists
Harbour, 113: T. Murray 36 points; P. Winitana Junior 24 points; T. Morgan 16 points; R. Maxwell-Topia 13 points, 15 rebounds
Watch the Aon U17 Nationals livestream at www.NZ.basketball/TV.
Girls 5th/6th Playoff
9:45am: Boys 5th/6th Playoff
11:30am: Girls 3rd/4th Playoff
1:15pm: Boys 3rd/4th Playoff
4:00pm: Girls Grand Final
5:45pm: Boys Grand Final