Lincoln University and Otago University have qualified for the 3x3 FISU World University League Finals in Xiamen, after winning the University and Tertiary Sport New Zealand 3x3 Championships this weekend. 

The Lincoln University women’s 3x3 team of Connie Poletti, Ajiah Pepe, Lucy Brown and Rosalia Samia won the women’s final, beating the University of Auckland 14 to 12. That was after narrowly winning the semi-final over Canterbury 20-18.

Lincoln’s Head Coach Josh Thompson said, although the team went undefeated for two days, it wasn’t easy.

“It was pretty nerve-wracking, but the girls have been composed throughout the whole tournament.
“I think we started our preparation around February this year. The girls have had a lot of prep and some early morning trainings. They’ve put in a lot of work and it paid off in the end.” 

When asked who the MVP would be, Coach Thompson said Connie Poletti’s experience and class need to be commended.

“She’s a great leader, not just on the court, but off the court as well. She knows what she needs to do and how to put the team in positions to win these games,” said Thompson.

Poletti said her team’s ability to adapt quickly was essential to winning the title.

“Our defence was really good the whole game. We needed to make sure they couldn’t shoot. And then just understanding that I could work in the post a lot more since we weren’t hitting outside shots. So adapting was really key,” said 

The Otago men’s team of Josh Aitcheson, Darcy Knox, Matthew Bardsley and Samson Aruwa also beat Auckland University in the Final, 21-15. It was a strong result from Otago, especially when considering their loss to Auckland in the early rounds of the event, going down 16 to 6 on day one.

Head Coach of the Otago team, Mitchell Langton, said his players had learnt a lot from the 2018 event and was focused on competing tactically.

“As a team we were committed and we put everything in. It wasn’t an individual effort where one person took over. Everyone worked super hard for the whole game and locked in. 

“I think a big mistake of last year was assuming that the 5x5 game would correlate to the 3x3. We were completely wrong on that, so we’ve put a lot more time and effort into it this year and it definitely pays off seeing how the 3x3 game is a lot different.

Langton added his thoughts about Josh Aitcheson’s stand out performance. Aitcheson showed his has 3x3 IQ throughout the event. He managed to do that despite suffering from the effects of travel and international competition, having just returned from playing in the ‘Chooks 2 Go Super Quest’ event in the Philippines.

“Josh played outstandingly, especially the way he controlled the game. He understood the tempo and when to do things. I thought it was an overall team game and team win, but having someone who has played a lot of 3x3 is helpful,” said Langton.

Aitcheson said Auckland was always going to be tough.

“It was a really good final. We’ve played Auckland quite a few times now in the 3x3 and haven’t been able to get the win, so it was fantastic to get the win on them when it mattered this year.

“I think just locking them down on D and staying locked in was key. Most of the time, we were ready for them to make a comeback, but we stayed strong to our strategy and that just came through.”

Aitcheson says the team’s preparation was somewhat disrupted with university and his selection to play for Team Aotearoa in the Philippines this month.

“It was good just continuing to use the 3x3 ball from the Quest Tour, onto the finals, and through to the Uni Games, which made a big difference.

“We’ve also learnt that you can play a lot more physical in 3x3 than 5x5.” 
The Otago men will lose Matt Bardsley in 2020, but the rest of the Otago men have said they will return to defend the title next year. For now though, they look forward to defend their 5x5 Tertiary title in September.

The Shootout Contest Winners were Sarah Talbot (Victoria University of Wellington) and Shay Graham (University of Auckland).