Monthly Archives: March 2016

WBC Preview

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 Chevannah Paalvast is a welcome addition to Lady Rangers team.

The New Zealand Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) resumes this weekend with Nelson hosting the second of three tournament weekends played to decide the best women’s provincial basketball team in the country.

The tournament is played this Friday to Sunday, (April 1-3) with all games played at Saxton Arena, 142 Saxton Road East, Nelson, with ten provincial teams contesting the 2016 championship.

The WBC takes on the same format as last year with some games played outside the three tournament weekends, in an attempt to promote the women’s games and profile the players in their local associations.

One of these was played in Auckland earlier in the month when Waitakere Lady Rangers travelled down the Western Motorway and recorded an exciting 84-79 overtime win against Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks.

The major news from the Waitakere camp is that Tall Fern Chevannah Paalvast returns to her former club. Paalvast recently won an Australian WNBL championship with Townsville Fire and her appearance will be a major boost to Rangers coach Aik Ho and his charges.

“Chev is an excellent addition to our squad especially as we have lost the services of veteran guard Amanda Buck. Her experience will be of enormous help to our younger players and obviously her on court ability speaks for itself,” said Ho.

The Lady Hawks will have a settled line up in Nelson but will have to manage without the vastly experienced Hailey Moala (nee Purcell) in the third tournament as she is off to play club basketball in the Queensland State League.

Defending champions Oceana Gold Rush Otago were heartened by a 72-70 overtime victory against Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats at Cowles Stadium on Good Friday.

Although a non-championship game the performance was a boost for Otago as coach Todd Marshall explains.

“It was a really pleasing result, we were able to hit our shots down the stretch and trust in each other, the game could have gone either way, it was good for the team to play in front of Canterbury’s crowd and show good composure in overtime”

“Both Janet Main (21pts) and Bronwyn Kjestrup (18pts/8rebs) led the way defensively as well as on offense, the longer the game went the more our players were able to take their opportunities on offense to help spread the load”

Marshall is looking forward to the games in Nelson this weekend.

“We have four games that we will need to be up for if we want to be in with a chance of winning. Soraya Umaga-Jensen comes back into the squad bringing some added experience and toughness, however Nicole Ruske is unavailable as she will be away with the Junior Tall Ferns in China”.

Canterbury assistant coach Sally Farmer turned out for the Wildcats last Friday scoring 11 points in 19 minutes of action. It is unclear if the 39-year-old double Olympian will suit up in Nelson but this is what Canterbury coach Lori McDaniel said about the former Tall Fern earlier in the season.

“Sally has agreed to be on the roster and we are hopeful she will play in at least one tournament. I think it is great for the younger players to have someone of Sally’s experience willing to be in the mix.”

Will that tournament be Nelson this weekend?

Jessica Tuki could well be back in contention for a Tall Ferns recall after her outstanding performances for Taranaki Thunder in the opening tournament in Tauranga.

The Thunder are in a rebuilding phase with a very young squad and will need Tuki at her dominant best if they are to threaten a top six finish.

Taranaki’s encounter with 2012 Champions Nelson Sparks on Friday looks to be one of the key match ups in deciding top six play-off places. The Sparks, with home court advantage, will start out favourites but Kat Jones and her team will be taking nothing for granted.

Another player looking for an international recall is Krystal Leger-Walker. The Waikato Wizards guard, like Tuki, debuted for the Ferns in 2014. Still only 18 Leger-Walker is a key player for the 2013 and 2014 WBC runners-up who have recently recruited Georgia Perrott-Hunt and Olivia Bell from North Harbour.

Capital Flyers, Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix and Tauranga City Coasters all struggled in tournament one and it will need a major change in fortune for any of these teams to be in championship contention come finals time in Porirua in May.

Games get underway at 8.30am on Friday with the hosts entertaining Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix and the undefeated Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats taking on Tauranga City Coasters.

WBC current standings:

4-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats

4-1 Waitakere Lady Rangers

4-2 ACM Lady Hawks

3-1 Waikato Wizards, Oceana Gold Rush Otago,

2-2 Taranaki Thunder

1-3 Tauranga City Coasters, Nelson Sparks

0-4 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix

0-5 Capital Flyers

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Rangers v Rams post game thoughts

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“At least I have a job for another week” says Jeff Green

By Murray McKinnon

The James Blond Super City Rangers are on the board, grabbing their first win of the NBL season with victory over the Canterbury Rams, 103-87, at the AUT Sports Centre on Saturday.

Play was even through the first quarter, with the Rangers left open from the arc, allowing Lindsay Tait, Reuben Te Rangi and right on the buzzer Brook Ruscoe to slot in three pointers. Rangers were ahead 27-25 going into the next 10 minutes.

With the score at 46-36 mid-way through the second quarter Canterbury, fresh from beating the Southland Sharks at home, burst into life with ten unanswered points, Ethan Rusbatch and new point guard Justin Graham pivotal in the run.
However the Rangers responded going to the break ahead 52-46 helped by a corner three  from Josh Bloxham.

The up tempo affair continued in the third period with the two teams trading baskets leaving the Rams still six points in arrears at three-quarter time.

It was a struggle for the Rams in the final quarter the Rangers winning the period 29-19. Terrence Roberts was in top form in the last few minutes for the Rangers putting on a great show of eight points in succession including a couple of dunks and a long range three.

Tait was outstanding with 19 points, 15 assists and five defensive rebounds. Devendorf ended with 21 points and five rebounds and Roberts 17 points and six rebounds.

Rusbatch was the Rams top scorer for the second straight game with 22 points, Marcel Jones had 20 points and 11 rebounds and Marcus Alipate contributed 15.

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Rams coach Mark Dickel offers no excuses for loss

Coach of the Rams Mark Dickel said that the tough travel schedule was not a factor in losing.
“No excuses, Super City played really well they were desperate and they wanted the game more than we did and all credit to them they really deserved the win, we just didn’t play hard enough or well enough to deserve to win,” he said.
Dickel added that he has a good team if they put the effort in.
“We’re more than capable if we play the game right and we share the ball and everyone hustles, we’ve got good players but you gotta to put the effort out on the court.”

Rangers’ coach Jeff Green said it was great to get the monkey off their back and secure a win.
“At least I’ve got a job for another week, I’ve never started off 0-3 in my whole career whether it’s mini-ball or the NBL so it was new territory for yourself and the team and to start to think about what was going wrong,” said Green.

The Rangers coach said there were three factors that went into their win.
“It was a combination of the defence which we haven’t been able to play on a consistent basis. I think we played great defence which led to great offence so we got a lot of easy points off transition. So that put them under a lot of pressure and then I thought offensively in the half court our execution was outstanding we ran some plays that were good. And the third factor was our big guy Terrence Roberts came to play he showed he is 6ft 10in with a 7ft 2in wing span he didn’t foul out that’s because I took him out before he fouled out. But it was all about defence, we ran them off the three point line, they got hot for a little bit but then we kept extending it and they’d come back which is what basketball is all about, swings and roundabouts,” he said.

Green finally saw the team in action that he knew he had.
“When you’re consistent on both ends of the court that’s the sort of team that I know we’ve got. We’re undersized, they’re a beast they got seven offensive rebounds in that third quarter which kept them in it but if they hadn’t got those it would have been a bigger blow-out..”

Basketball duo tie the Knot

BAWARDS_083Shea Ili has had a frantic few weeks and things aren’t about to slow down anytime soon for the Breakers and Tall Blacks point guard. It’s his very own version of ‘March Madness’.

As soon as the Breakers season ended, following their Australian NBL Grand Final series loss to the Perth Wildcats, Ili was back on a plane heading for Wellington to link up with the Saints for the start of the local New Zealand NBL competition.

As if a heavy basketball schedule wasn’t challenging enough Ili returns to Auckland to marry fiancée Morgan Roberts today.

The pair have been sustaining a long-term relationship for the past seven months since Roberts began attending Oregon Tech University on a basketball scholarship last August. Roberts is an outstanding player in her own right earning a Tall Ferns trial last year after eye-catching performances for the North Harbour Under 23 and Harbour Breeze WBC teams.

Following the nuptials the pair will embark on a brief honeymoon before continuing their basketball careers on opposite sides of the Pacific Ocean and yet more time apart.

Ili made a strong impression on the Breakers coaching staff during the recent campaign and despite being a development player was preferred to the more experienced Shane McDonald in all five play-off games. The deciding third game in Perth was an experience the 23 year old admits caught him off guard.

“It was an experience to learn from but I felt like I wasn’t prepared to play in front of such a massive crowd. It was so loud you couldn’t even hear your teammates.”

Playing directly opposite Perth’s Damian Martin, the Grand Final MVP and five times NBL Best Defensive Player, enabled Ili to see first hand the level he wants to take his game to.

“It was definitely something to learn from playing against such a great defensive player. I look up to him and the way he plays, it’s how I want to be – a pest on defence.”

Taking his game to a higher level is the major motivation behind his move to the capital. At the Saints he falls under the guidance of former Breakers guard, now Wellington coach, Kevin Braswell.

“I’m enjoying playing for Wellington with the responsibility of being the starting point guard. My role is to lead the team and take them as far as I can. One of the main reasons for going to Wellington was to be mentored by Kevin, he’s been around the world playing basketball and I thought it was a good opportunity especially to help my scoring and offensive game.”

The Saints have given their point guard leave of absence to tie the knot, although not for long.

“We go to Fiji for four days then when we get back I head straight down to Southland to play the Sharks and Morgan heads back to college,” says Ili.

Having had his first taste of international basketball in 2015 the former Onehunga High School standout is keen to make the Tall Blacks team again but it could come at a price for the hoops duo.

“We will be together for a couple of weeks when Morgan’s academic year is finished in June but if I make the Tall Blacks I probably won’t see her again for over a year.”

It’s likely Skype will be keeping Shea and Morgan linked for some time yet.

Vickerman’s parting speech

ANBL - SkyCity Breakers v Melbourne United, 21 November 2014

Dean Vickerman “Everyone changing a little” turned the season around  

By Murray McKinnon

The SKYCITY Breakers celebrated another successful season in the Australian National Basketball League with their annual awards dinner at SKYCITY Convention Centre last Friday. The most successful of any New Zealand sporting franchise playing in a trans-Tasman competition, the Breakers reflected on a year in which they finished the regular season in fourth place and went on to play in their fifth grand final series in the past six years.

It was a night of reflection as the club said farewell to foundation administrator and current CEO Richard Clarke and Head Coach Dean Vickerman, with 13 and 9 years’ service respectively.

Both were afforded worthy and emotional tributes from players, colleagues and coaches. 
Vickerman in his stirring farewell speech spoke of being an Aussie and being accepted instantly as a Kiwi and for his respect for owners Paul and Liz Blackwell.

“I’d like to thank Paul and Liz Blackwell. They have been absolutely amazing they just help you with your decisions in life. They are parents of the largest family and the most diverse and growing family in New Zealand, the SKYCITY Breakers, they impact for the better every day. We talk about it as being the greatest ownership in pro sports and to me you’re the greatest parents in sport.”

He then went on and paid tribute to Richard Clarke.

“The next person I want to thank is Richard Clarke. He challenged me every day about the processes of how we did things and how I did things. He never let me look too far ahead, that was the job of Mike Fitchett to make sure that he was looking ahead for me. But Richard always challenged me with the ‘why’ and there was a great place that we got to in our relationship was about the ‘why’. And for ever as a coach I take away from our relationship will be have a self- assessment and I’ll always judge myself about how well I’m coaching and the ‘why’.”

Vickerman then reflected on the past season.

“To the playing group and the wives and partners thank you for your commitment to the vision that we had as a team for the amazing roller coaster ride that we went on this year and you took me on and you took everybody else on. It started with Corey being in the NBA and then went to Melbourne where there was an absolute debacle of a referring decision. We had a great home stretch going on where we just felt a little invincible at home.”

“We had Breaker babies and then the announcement of Richard and myself and some of the leadership moving on. We went through a losing streak and then we played just an amazing game of basketball in Adelaide when we needed to. We make the playoffs we go ahead and sweep the number one seed in the comp and then we challenged for another championship under trying conditions. It was a difficult time to go and try and win that third game in Perth, but we never made any excuses and they never made any excuses and we gave it everything we had.”

Vickerman touched on the losing streak that the Breakers endured.

“On Wednesday I went out and sat with Andrew McFadden from the Warriors and we created a bit of a relationship over the last couple of years and we sat there and talked about how do you get out of that losing streak, how do you win when you are in it. We talked about the tough times of what you went through with the injuries and different things but most of all it was about everybody just changing a little bit. Everybody just stepping up their leadership and that’s how we got out of it, everybody just stepped up a little bit more, took ownership of what they did as a player and then the leaders could just go and play and play freely and do the thing they do best for the team. So I want to thank everyone of the playing group and the support staff and the office staff for that, to get out of that hole and to go and win eight out of the last ten games and give ourselves a chance to win the championship was pretty special.”

On being accepted into New Zealand.

“When we moved to another country or join any team one of the first things you want is an acceptance. When we moved to New Zealand it is was easy for me to be accepted as I knew a few people who I had competed against, but to have our family just so accepted by the Breakers’ family was unbelievable and a memory that we will have of the Breakers. But one of the memories as a family that we will take away was in Melbourne the whole playing group, support staff and everyone who was in Melbourne had gone and practiced a Haka and I thank Paul Henare for organising it. And to sit there when they did the Haka you felt unbelievable acceptance in the New Zealand culture and great respect for it to have that Haka presented to you and to your family in the spirit that they did it and how well they did it was just a great memory.”

On deciding to leave.

“To move on was something in the back of my mind. To say yep I’m an Aussie in New Zealand and as much as I was accepted and some people call me somewhere in the middle between an Aussie and a Kiwi, but I was always an Aussie and it was always part of my role to be here and when I took the job in that three years I really said I want to get this done and give it all my energy for three years and do the best I can, but I want to leave it to a Kiwi and to now have Paul Henare take over and succeed as head coach, have Judd Flavell move up to assistant coach and have Mike Fitchett move up to the next assistant coach role, I’ve walked away unbelievably satisfied with what I’ve been able to achieve in helping to develop those guys to take on this role and to have Kiwis own this team for the next period of time.”

Micaela Cocks – Grand Final MVP

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Micaela Cocks -WNBL Grand Final MVP

Micaela Cocks has achieved something very few New Zealand basketball players have achieved in overseas competition, men or women. Not only did she win a back-to-back Australian WNBL championship with Townsville Fire but she also walked away with the Grand Final MVP award.

Townsville entered game two of the best of three WNBL Grand Final series with a 1-0 advantage courtesy of a 73-57 victory in Perth last weekend and secured the title with an 80-70 triumph.

The former North Harbour point guard scored 13 points at a terrific clip – 4 from 7 shots made including all three attempts from beyond the arc – and added 3 rebounds and 3 assists. These numbers, added to her 15 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists in the first game earned Cocks the Rachel Sporn medal much to her surprise.

“It feels good to get this award but I wasn’t expecting it at all and I just went into the games trying to focus on my defence. It feels amazing and especially to be back-to-back champions, it’s hard thing to do and we did it,” she said

Game two was a carbon copy of the first as the Lynx entered the final quarter of the game holding a narrow lead – 57-61 in this one – but struggled to score against the lock down defence employed by the defending champions. In game one Perth was outscored 28-7 in the final period and in game two it was 23-9 as Townsville made the most of home court advantage to secure a second championship in as many years.

Fellow international Chevannah Paalvast didn’t get on the court for Townsville in game two whilst Toni Edmondson battled hard for Perth Lynx finishing with three points, two points and four assists.

US College – Women

Kalani Purcell tasted her first NCAA Tournament action on Sunday but Brigham Young University-Provo Cougars fell in the first round going out 78-69 to Missouri.

Trailing 60-49 at three quarter time the Cougars made a terrific effort in the fourth quarter getting within two points 66-64 with 2:19 to play. Unfortunately that was as close as it got for BYU as Missouri hung on to advance to round two.

As she has been all season Purcell was at he heart of the BYU effort reeling off yet another impressive stats line of 19 points (7/10FG), 9 rebounds, 4 assists and 3 steals.

Europe – Women

Le Mura Lucca (22-2) still hold on to top spot in the Italian Serie A despite losing 68-66 to second on the table Familia Schio (20-3) on Sunday. Lucca’s twelve game winning streak was ended by their nearest rivals in a tight and absorbing contest. The scores were tied at 66 apiece but a controversial turnover call allowed Schio possession with 20 seconds on the clock. The defending champions made the go ahead basket with just 6 seconds to play and held on to gain a valuable away win to solidify their second place on the standings. 

 Tall Fern Jillian Harmon scored 16 points for Lucca.

Franklin powers Waitakere Lady Rangers to win

A dominant performance from Deena Franklin propelled Waitakere Lady Rangers to an exciting 84-79 Women’s Basketball Championship overtime win against the Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks at Allan Brewster Recreation Centre on Wednesday evening.

The former Harbour Breeze player produced a 34 points and 17 rebounds display that will have caught the eye of national selectors. Waitakere coach Aik Ho was impressed with his forward’s form.

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Deena Franklin

“Deena’s a warrior, she’s been consistent at the last tournament and in this game. She’s definitely got a shot at the Ferns; we’ve talked about that. The challenge for Deena is to play out in the three spot a bit more and you saw her handling the ball tonight. Really proud of her as traditionally she’s been chucked on the inside to be the workhorse”.

Franklin got the scoreboard ticking early in the game and aided by a pair of Stevee Theyers threes helped the visitors to a 23-15 quarter time lead. Waitakere continued to pick holes in the ACM zone defence and increased the advantage to 43-31 at the half.

Whatever Hawks coach Tania Hunter said during the interval worked a treat as her charges embarked on a 9-0 run. The run was capped by a Breana Jones triple as the Rangers failed to score in the opening four minutes of the second half.

The momentum was with the Hawks as Jones, Jordan Hunter and Milomilo Nanai, back from injury, continually found their way to the hoop to level the scores at 53 apiece entering the final stanza.

Fortunes ebbed and flowed in the fourth quarter as the lead changed hands on numerous occasions. Franklin scored with just under three minutes to play to give Waitakere a 68-64 lead but Jones struck back with a three. Katelin Noyer then sank a long two to give Waitakere a 70-67 lead with ninety seconds remaining but again Jones hit a triple (5/10 3PG) and although both teams had scoring opportunities the game headed to overtime with the scores locked at 70 all.

The Hawks, last year’s beaten finalists, continued to struggle to contain Franklin who scored the first couple of baskets of the overtime period. Her inside presence was complimented by a mature performance from Junior Tall Ferns point guard Darci Finnigan and the all round ability of Maria Milani as the visitors ran out winners, 84-79.

The win moves the Lady Rangers to second on the standings and naturally pleased Ho.

“Awesome game from the girls, I thought we had a good chance in regulation time when we had the last possession but it happened in overtime instead. I’m proud of the defence and also giving up so few turnovers against a good Lady Hawks team.”

Both teams head to the second WBC tournament in Nelson, April 1-3.

Final score:

ACM Lady Hawks 79 – Jones 23, Hunter 17/6/6a, Nanai 17, Hannah Turton 8, Hailey Moala 7/9r.

Waitakere Lady Rangers 84 – Franklin 34/17r, Milani 16/9r, Theyers 9/8r, Courtenay Le’au’anae 8.

WBC current standings:

4-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats

4-1 Waitakere Lady Rangers

4-2 ACM Lady Hawks

3-1 Waikato Wizards, Oceana Gold Rush Otago,

2-2 Taranaki Thunder

1-3 Tauranga City Coasters, Nelson Sparks

0-4 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix

0-5 Capital Flyers

 

 

Tall Ferns in Grand Final action

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15p/8r/5a for Micaela Cocks in WNBL Grand Final Game 1

The two best teams in the Australian Women’s National Basketball League regular season battled it out in the opening game of the competition’s first ever best-of-three Grand Final series on Saturday. It was also the first time a WNBL Final had featured three Kiwi internationals – Micaela Cocks and Chevannah Paalvast for Townsville Fire and Toni Edmondson for Perth Lynx.

An additional New Zealand connection is that Townsville Fire head coach Chris Lucas is also an assistant coach with the Tall Ferns.

Perth enjoyed home advantage courtesy of an emphatic 91-71 semi-final victory in Townsville a fortnight ago but on the back of a stunning fourth quarter charge Townsville have seized momentum with a 73-57 victory.

“The fourth quarter was all about our defense,” said Paalvast. “We were able to string multiple stops in a row and kept one of the best offensive teams in the league to seven points.”

Indeed it was, Townsville entered the final period trailing 50-45, gave up the first two points of the quarter but dominated from there in with a blistering 28-5 run home.

Cocks was superb for the defending champions amassing 15 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists. Nine of her points came at the back end of the final period as the Fire secured a decisive win. Needless to say she was pleased with the Townsville performance.

“I was proud of our team and the way we executed our game plan. Finals basketball is always tough and we found a way to win. We are in a good position heading into game two at home but we know there is still a lot of work to do to achieve our ultimate goal of becoming back to back champions.”

The two teams meet in game two in Townsville next Friday with game three back in Perth on Sunday if required. Toni Edmondson, who contributed 5 points to the Lynx effort, will be hoping to take the game back West for a series decider.

US College – Women

It is a nervous time for Kalani Purcell and all associated with Brigham Young University-Provo as they wait to see if BYU is selected for the upcoming NCAA tournament to be announced.

An invitation would be welcome consolation for BYU after being denied direct entry following a 70-68 West Coast Conference Tournament Grand Final loss to the University of San Francisco last week.

Purcell’s outstanding form, 17 points and 16 rebounds in the final, earned her a place in the WCC All-Tournament team but a trip to the “Big Dance’ would be something special.

The quintet of Tall Ferns in other college teams fell at different stages of tournament action last week.

Also in the West Coast Conference St Mary’s Gaels were defeated 67-65 by San Francisco in the WCC semi-final. The result meant the season ended on a low note for Gaels and Tall Ferns swingman Stella Beck as they were seeded to meet BYU in the final. Beck had 7 points, 3 rebounds and a steal in the loss.

Colgate University senior Josie Stockill finished her outstanding four-year Raiders career on a losing note as they were defeated by Patriot League number one seed Army West Point 89-62.

Stockill finished as Colgate’s all time leading shot blocker, 5th in rebounding and 15th in scoring.

California State University Northridge fell at the first hurdle in Big West Tournament play. The Matadors finish the season with a 7-24 record after going down 72-51 against Cal Poly. Cantabrian forward Tessa Boagni had 4 points and 4 boards for the Matadors in that one.

Jacinta Beckley and Seattle University Redhawks also bowed out in its first game of Western Athletic Conference post-season play downed 64-52 by Bakersfield.

The University of California Berkley Golden Bears terrific run in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament came to an end at the semi-final stage.

The Bears entered the tournament ranked 10th and knocked off higher ranked teams Utah (66-63 AOT) and Arizona State (75-64) before going out in the semi’s 73-68 against UCLA, again after overtime action.

Penina Davidson scored an impressive career high 17points (7/8FG) against Arizona State but a third game in three days, two going to overtime, took its toll on the Bears in the loss against UCLA.

Europe – Women

 For the second consecutive game Le Mura Lucca were given a real test in the Italian Serie A. Lucca appeared to be cruising to their 22nd victory of the season leading 48-35 in the third period. However a spirited fight back by hosts Di Lupari saw the game tied at 55 points apiece at the end of regulation time. Avoiding their second defeat of the season Lucca scraped home 65-63 with Jillian Harmon scoring 19 points for the victors.

Erin Rooney has had to undergo knee surgery but the Cantabrian is hoping to return to the court for French club COB Calais in April.

Salt and Webster march on

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Second win in two days for Webster and Nebraska

Nebraska University Cornhuskers won its second game in two days defeating University of Wisconsin 70-58 in Big Ten Conference Tournament second round play on Friday (NZT).

Having beaten Rutgers University the previous day Nebraska, seeded 11th, built on a 26-21 half time advantage to close out a solid victory against 6th seeded Wisconsin.

Following his 18 points haul against Rutgers Tall Blacks guard Tai Webster was once again prominent for the Huskers adding a game high 3 steals to 9 points and 6 rebounds.

Nebraska progresses to face third seed Maryland in the quarter-finals on Saturday (NZT).

Smothering defence from the University of Virginia Cavaliers was too much for Georgia Tech in the quarter-final of Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Freshman Jack Salt only entered the court for the final 1:18 of the game but would have watched admiringly as the Cavs built on a two-point half time advantage before completely dominating the second half finishing 72-52 to the good.

Virginia, hoping to repeat their championship triumph of 2014, takes on the winner of Miami and Virginia Tech in the semi-final on Saturday (NZT).

Webster and Nebraska Advance

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18pts, 5rebs, 4assists for Tai Wester in Huskers win

On Thursday (NZT) Nebraska University Cornhuskers took on Rutgers University in Big Ten Tournament action and with Tai Webster shooting 7 from 11 Nebraska, seeded 11th, were too good for the 14th seeds winning 89-72.

The Huskers held a narrow 37-33 advantage at half time but with the aid of a 7-0 run they extended the advantage to 60-45, midway through the second half, before easing to the win.

Webster was quickly into his work scoring a dozen first half points, eventually finishing with 18 for Nebraska. The Tall Blacks guard played a team high 32 minutes during which he added 5 rebounds, 4 assists and a pair of steals.

Following the game Webster was asked if it was a relief for the team to get the win after finishing the regular season with a five game losing streak.

“No, not at all. I think do the job of staying positive and always have it in the back of our minds that we can make a run, because we know what type of team we are and the time we have. So not really.”

Getting 16 points in the first half off turnovers helped the Nebraska cause and the former Westlake Boys standout was pleased with his team’s defensive effort

“I think we are doing a good job on defense. They had a couple of tough shots at hand, at the end of the shot clock and stuff like that. But I think we just stayed down and stuck with it and, in the end, we started to see separation.”

With games played 24 hours apart Nebraska moves on to face Wisconsin (seeded 6th) on Friday (NZT) in quarter final action.

Also on Friday Jack Salt and the University of Virginia Cavaliers begin Atlantic Coast play-off proceedings against Georgia Tech.

In women’s action California State University Northridge fell at the first hurdle in Big West Tournament play on Wednesday. The Matadors finish the season with a 7-24 record after going down 72-51 against Cal Poly. Cantabrian forward Tessa Boagni had 4 points and 4 boards for the Matadors.

Purcell and BYU fall agonisingly short

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17 points and 16 rebounds for Kalani Purcell but BYU-Provo beaten in Championship final

The 2016 American college play-off fortunes of Tall Ferns Kalani Purcell, Stella Beck and Josie Stockill have come to disappointing conclusions.

Having dominated West Coast Conference proceedings all season Brigham Young University-Provo slipped at the final hurdle losing an exciting championship final 70-68 against University of San Francisco in Las Vegas on Wednesday (NZT).

BYU Cougars, the defending champions, had advanced to the final on the back of a 16-2 conference regular season record and two convincing play-off victories.

The final was close throughout – BYU led 68-66 inside the final 60 seconds but coughed up fouls that sent San Francisco to the foul line, the free throw opportunities gleefully accepted by the number 6 seeds.

As she had been all season Tall Fern Kalani Purcell was a pillar of strength for the Cougars putting together a double double of 17 points and 16 rebounds in the final.

Her outstanding form earned Purcell a place in the WCC All-Tournament team.

Some consolation for BYU is that they are still likely to be invited to the NCAA tournament, often referred to as the ‘Big Dance’, when selections and seedings are announced next week.

The previous day St Mary’s Gaels were defeated 67-65 by San Francisco in the WCC semi-final. The result meant the season ended on a low note for Gaels and Tall Ferns swingman Stella Beck as they were tipped to meet BYU in the final. Beck had 7 points, 3 rebounds and a steal as the Gaels were overhauled in the final stanza after leading 41-37 at three quarter time.

The Gaels finish the season with an impressive 24-7 record but one win away from the championship game.

In other play-off news former Hawkes Bay standout and Colgate University senior Josie Stockill finished her outstanding four-year Raiders career on a losing note.

After winning their opening game of the Patriot League play-offs the Raiders were defeated in the quarter finals by number one seed Army 89-62.

It was somewhat fitting that Stockill played her last game of college basketball at one of the most famous and prestigious sites in America – the United States Military Academy known as West Point – home of the Army team.

Stockill finished as Colgate’s all time leading shot blocker, 5th in rebounding and 15th in scoring.

Men’s college play-off action featuring Tai Webster (Nebraska) and Jack Salt (Virginia) begins later this week.