U15 and U17 National 3x3 Championships show case the rise of 3x3 Basketball in New Zealand
The inaugural U15 and U17 National 3x3 Championships were played on Saturday 23 April at Tauranga’s ASB Arena. The competition was made up of 27 teams, the U15 and U17 girls consisted of eight teams while the U15 and U17 boys had five and six teams respectively. The chances for smaller associations to compete for a national championship crown saw multiple teams from Gisborne head North to take on heavy weights such as Auckland, Harbour and Waikato. National championships in the five man game have been hard to come by for the likes of Gisborne due to the dominance of the larger associations, but given the nature of 3x3 basketball, anything can happen on the day.
General Manager of Tauranga City Basketball Mark Rogers said the event buzzed, thriving on a great energy from participants, which seems to be well-fostered through 3x3 hoops. “The new 3x3 rep nationals was a great event. TCBA players enjoyed playing and our volunteer score benches were awesome. Hosting this event adds to the development of 3x3 in the Tauranga region adds to a pool of other 3x3 events here, including a Burger King Quest Tour stop, TCBA Summer Series of eight events, and local age-group tournaments. Thanks to BBNZ for getting this event of the ground.”
BBNZ 3x3 Head Coach, Anthony Corban attended, scouting the talent on display. He said this tournament was another addition to the foundation of 3x3 development in New Zealand and adds to the high performance pathway. “Without doubt there are potential New Zealand 3x3 players in the group that played in Tauranga and hopefully future Tall Fern and Tall Black athletes. I am sure the 2017 event will see a massive increase in participation numbers at this tournament.”
U15 Girls Final
3x3 threatened to almost turn into a 2x2 with only two players scoring from each team. Harbour Maroon’s Jazz and Zaaliyah Fulu lead the way with four points each. The game evolved into a tight battle that went right down to the wire. Waikato was strongly represented by Quaye Walker-Eketone who racked up five and Dominique Stephens who managed four of Waikato’s points, leading them to a9-8 victory.
The U15 girls final featured two associations who traditionally dominate at age-group girls basketball Harbour Maroon had a tougher road to the final. They looked poised to join Waikato in the semi-finals, but dropped a close game to Rotorua Kowhai, slipping into a three-way tie for second, which they ultimately came out on top of with a better goal difference. Their semi-final against their counterparts Harbour Black was won 8-5, to send them into the final to face Waikato, who had breezed through pool play by winning all of their seven games.
U15 Boys Final
It was a classic ‘battle of the bridge’ in the U15 Boys final with Auckland Counties taking on Harbour. Both teams found themselves tied for first at the end of pool play with three wins and a loss on seven points. Auckland Counties held the head to head advantage over harbour, which meant they went first and Harbour followed. Both of the semis were won by the same margin when Auckland Counties beat hosts Tauranga City 9-6 and Harbour beat Gisborne 15-12.
The final lived up to expectations with shot for shot plays going all the way into the final seconds. The 10 minutes of regular game time gave out at 9-9. To win in 3x3 over-time, a team must be the first to lead by two points. That right was clutched by Auckland Counties’ Robbie Coman, who scored his seventh and eighth point for the game to win it for the team 11-9.
U17 Girls Final
Once again Waikato featured with Waikato Black facing Waitakere West 2 in the U17 girls final. Waikato Black looked set to cruise through the pool play, but were surprised by a loss to Gisborne Red, but Waikato still managed to finish first in the pool. Waitakere West 2 went through to the semi-finals with a two way tie in which harbour took the advantage to finish second in front of them. In the semis Waikato Black drew their counterparts Waikato Red who they got passed 8-6 and Waitakere West 2 flipped the script on second place finishers Harbour to win and progress to the final 8-5.
Two players dominated the U17 Girls final with Waikato Black’s Tara Kailahi scoring six of the teams seven points and Waitakere West 2’s Sylvia Wieczorek scoring five of the teams nine points to secure an upset 9-7 win.
U17 Boys Final
Again the ‘battle of the bridge’ featured in the U17 boys final. Auckland finished pool-play first with no losses and Harbour came in second with their only loss suffered to Auckland. Both teams eased through the semi-finals as Auckland defeated Tauranga Gold 19-10 and Harbour put Waitakere West away 13-9 in what looked closer than the final score indicated.
In the last game of the event the U17 boys final did not disappoint. The teams went point for point, showcasing the skill of the two teams long-range shooting and finishing close to the hoop. Auckland was led by Thomas Whyte who netted six points including two 2 point bombs and Ryan Laumatia who’s inside scoring bagged the team four points. However it wasn’t enough to overcome an inspired Harbour who had an answer for every question Auckland threw at them. James Moors top scored with 8 points to get Harbour home 12-10 to claim the title.
The event concluded with the awards ceremony, during which both the hosts Tauranga City Basketball and Basketball New Zealand acknowledged the referees and the volunteers, who make events such as these possible and are greatly appreciated by players, coaches and spectators alike.