Hutt Valley took on Canterbury in the 2015 Under 23 Men’s Final at Trusts Arena, Waitakere.
When the two teams met in pool play Hutt edged a close encounter 79-72 and the early signs looked good for them as they opened proceedings with a Jackson Stubbins basket to forge a 13-6 advantage. Hutt big man Jordan Hunt slammed down a dunk to help the green and golds to a useful 21-14 first quarter advantage.
Canterbury guard Elliot Noble connected with a long three early in the second quarter repeated by Ollie Davies, Hutt coach George Le’afa requiring a timeout after a 10-2 run by the Cantabs.
Jackson Stubbins hit back to back threes for Hutt but a six points quarter from William Utley kept Canterbury in contention and a scything drive by Matt Campbell gave them a single point lead, 33-32 extended on the half time siren by James Cawthorn, 38-32 to the Cantabrians.
Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa (11pts) led the Hutt Valley effort at the interval, William Uttley (10pts) the best of the Cantabrians.
Cawthorn and Jackson Stubbins exchanged early third quarter threes; Stubbins was highly impressive scoring 13 of Hutt’s first 15 points of the period. Le’afa chipped in with a couple of baskets as Hutt eased ahead 54-49 with 3 minutes left in the stanza.
Canterbury responded with a 7-0 run highlighted by point guard Elliot Noble’s trey but that man Stubbins scored in transition, Hutt ahead 60-56 going into the final period.
A Nick Erwood triple edged Canterbury ahead 67-65 with 6:30 to play, cancelled out by Groom. Le’afa’s three was matched by Erwood before Davies put Canterbury ahead 76-72 with 4 minutes to play.
The momentum was with Canterbury so it seemed strange that they would choose to have a timeout. Stubbins scored immediately after the break but free throws from Noble maintained a four-point buffer.
Yet again Stubbins responded but centre Jordan Hunt fouled out on the next defensive set to add to the Hutt woes.
Hutt Valley called the next timeout trailing 80-78 with 2:11 to play. Canterbury forward Utley scored countered by Stubbins, Hutt walking down the floor for free throws, one converted by Groom. A Le’afa free throw trimmed the Canterbury advantage to 84-82 with 31 secs to play and with the energetic Noble unfortunately missing 2 free throws Hutt were thrown a lifeline. Nico Buckrell missed a long three but a Canterbury turnover gifted Hutt Valley possession with 7 seconds left and the margin just two points – 84-82.
The stage looked set for a grand finale but a Le’afa miss followed by the same from Buckrell after securing an offensive rebound sent the Canterbury team into a delirious celebratory huddle.
Canterbury dominated the boards out rebounding Hutt 59-33 and despite a colossal 34 points from Jackson Stubbins the Dave Langrell coached Cantabs did a fine job of limiting the damage from Hutt Valley’s renowned transition game to emerge worthy winners of the 2015 Under 23 championships.
Canterbury 84 – Uttley 16, Erwood 12, Cawthorn 8
Hutt Valley 82 – J Stubbins 34, Le’afa 21, Groom 9