Monthly Archives: April 2016

Wildcats beat Otago but only just



Hayley Gray led the Wildcats scoring

Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats preserved their unbeaten 2016 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) record on Sunday – but only just.

The Wildcats won a hard fought encounter in Dunedin on Sunday narrowly beating Oceana Gold Rush Otago 59-57.

The two teams met in Christchurch three weeks ago and on that occasion Otago prevailed 72-70 in overtime in a non-competition fixture.

For the first three quarters of Sunday’s game a repeat result looked on the cards.

The Gold Rush led 20-14 at the first quarter break and 34-28 at half-time. The advantage was extended to 50-38 at the final break with guards Danielle Frost and Aleisha Ruske a constant threat for Otago.

Canterbury, aided by a first appearance this season of former Tall Fern Sally Farmer, stormed back in the final quarter. The full court pressure defence of the Wildcats and the scoring prowess of Hayley Gray turned the game on its head with the Wildcats taking the quarter 21-7 to clinch a victory, that for all but the final ten minutes looked unlikely.

Otago coach Todd Marshall was left to rue the high number of turnovers and lack of offensive execution by his team in the final quarter.

“I was happy with the majority of the game but down the stretch our composure was poor. Canterbury applied good full court pressure down the stretch and hit some key shots to clinch the win,” he said.

Final score;

Otago 57: Danielle Frost 13, Aleisha Ruske 12, Soraya Umaga-Jensen 9.

Canterbury 59: Hayley Gray 13, Fran Edmondson 10, Terai Sadler 9, Sally Farmer 9.

With the victory Canterbury win the WBC round robin series and carry number one seeding, and the more favourable draw, into the championship deciding Porirua tournament in mid May.

Otago slip to third on the ladder. The Gold Rush have the same 7-2 record as Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks but fall behind the Hawks on the head to head record.

The top 6 teams will compete for the championship in Porirua

WBC Standings ahead of Championship play-offs

 9-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats

7-2 ACM Lady Hawks

7-2 Oceana Gold Rush Otago

6-3 Waitakere Lady Rangers, Waikato Wizards

3-6 Taranaki Thunder (Taranaki have a superior head to head record than Nelson or Capital)


3-6 Nelson Sparks, Capital Flyers

1-8 Tauranga City Coasters

0-9 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix

WBC – Otago v Canterbury Preview


Shea Crotty leads the unbeaten Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats

Oceana Gold Rush Otago and Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats will be playing for more than southern pride when the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) resumes on Sunday.

Canterbury is unbeaten this season boasting an 8-0 record whilst Otago (7-1) have lost just once, against Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks, in the current campaign.

Otago will entertain Canterbury at the Edgar Centre hoping for a repeat of the outcome when the two teams met in Christchurch three weeks ago. On that occasion the Blue and Gold’s slipped away from Cowles Stadium with a 72-70 overtime victory in a non-competition fixture.

That performance is not lost on Canterbury Wildcats coach Lori McDaniel, “ The Wildcats are looking forward to the battle of the South against the Goldrush this Sunday. The Otago women had an outstanding performance against us last month and we are going into this match with a focus on execution and intensity.”

Otago guard Janet Main scored 21 points on that occasion and small forward Bronwyn Kjestrup chimed in with 18 points. A similar output would help but Main will have only returned from China a few hours before the game. The Otago captain is the physiotherapist for the Junior Tall Ferns who have just returned from a nine game tour of China.

Fellow guard Nicole Ruske (13 points against China last Tuesday) was a member of the JTF’s team and like Main could be battling the effects of jet lag. Forward Natalie Visger will not be suiting up as a result of a calf injury sustained early in the game against Waikato in Nelson.

Canterbury coach McDaniel has an array of talent at her disposal. Shea Crotty, named this week in the Tall Ferns trial squad, leads a talented backcourt that also includes Anita Snowdon, Courtney Hamblin and Hayley Gray.

The forward spots are equally well covered with Fran Edmondson and Terai Sadler (also named to attend the Tall Ferns trial) complimenting the rebounding powerhouse that is American import Ashley Gayle.

Otago coach Todd Marshall is aware of the Wildcats depth, “Canterbury pose some real challenges due to their size and squad depth, this is an excellent opportunity to test ourselves prior to finals weekend in Porirua”.

Despite that depth and Canterbury’s unbeaten record Marshall is looking forward to the encounter, “The most looked forward to game of the season thus far, the team is looking forward to playing its only game in front of a home crowd this season,” he said.

The winner of the game will win the WBC round robin series and carry number one seeding, and the more favourable draw, into the championship deciding Porirua tournament in mid May.

Canterbury, should they lose, would finish second. However if Otago lose they will slip to third. The Gold Rush would have the same 7-2 record as Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks but would fall behind the Hawks on the head to head record.

Tip-off is 12.00pm (midday) on Sunday April 17th at the Edgar Centre, Dunedin.

The live statistics link is;

Junior Tall Ferns come up short against Poland


In the final game of their nine game tour of China the Junior Tall Ferns were defeated 72-65 by the Poland Under 23 team in Weng’an on Wednesday.

The game followed a similar pattern to that of many of the Ferns outings on the tour – still in contention in the fourth quarter but unable to complete the job and secure a win.

The JTF’s had a strong first half opening up an 18-11 first quarter lead and were still ahead 41-35 at the break.

Waikato’s Alyssa Hirawani had a game high 4 steals and Otago’s Nicole Ruske (8pts and 6 rebounds) was also prominent but they couldn’t prevent a third quarter comeback from the Poles and it was they that led 52-51 at the end of the third period.

Poland had been stung by the Kiwis four days earlier in Yuqing and weren’t going to be beaten a second time closing out the game to win 72-65.

Harbour’s Tiarna Clarke led all scorers with 17 points (3/6 3PG) recording her fourth double figures points haul in the last five outings. Southland’s Aliyah Dunn (10pts) was the only other player in double figures although three players recorded 8 points.

Final Score;

Poland Under U23, 72

JTF’s 65 – Tiarna Clarke 17pts/3rebs/2assists/1block/1steal, Dunn 10/5/2, Jillings 8/4/2/2blks, Finnigan 8/3/2stls, Ruske 8/6/3/1stl, Whittaker 5/1/1stl, Leger-Walker 4/2/1/1stl/2blks, Hirawani 3/2/2/4steals, Baudry 2, Penese 0/3/1, Watling DNP

The team arrives back in Auckland on Friday after a successful tour.

A one win, eight loss record doesn’t look particularly good on paper but the JTF’s were competitive in every game against bigger, more experienced opposition. Four of the losses were by 10 points or less and those were the games coaches Brent Matehaere and Bronwen Davidson will be reflecting on the most.

The USA Select team were all players with experience in the US College system, the Polish team were an under 23 group and the Chinese team are heading to Spain in June to compete in the FIBA Under 17 World Championships.

Junior Tall Ferns swept by China


China too strong for the Junior Tall Ferns again

Both the Junior Tall Ferns and China were coming off defeats when they met in Weng’an on Tuesday in the penultimate fixture of the Ferns 12 game tour of China.

Unfortunately the Ferns slipped to a third straight loss to the Chinese FIBA Under 17 World Championships bound team 75-67.

Once again the JTF’s were well in the hunt with 10 minutes to play trailing 55-52 but couldn’t find enough scoring punch to snatch a win.

Report from Brent Matehaere (Junior Tall Ferns head coach).

Unfortunately, there will be no repeat of two years ago when the JTF’s beat China; but the games have all been all within 10 points. At no time have we been out of the contests, which is in marked contrast to the previous tours.

The game started out as a low scoring affair with the score at 3 – 2 after 5 minutes of play. China were the first to get their offense going before the JTF’s finally got into their stride finishing the quarter with a flourish ahead 15-14.  The second quarter will be one the JTF’s will not wish to remember as China went on a 16 -2 run in the last 3 minutes of the period.

It was a gap the JTF’s would close to within 3 by the end of the third quarter.  In the fourth quarter baskets were traded throughout but it was the locals who got the bounce of the ball down the stretch and the JTF’s were unable to pull this one out of the bag.

I have been really happy with the focus and heart that these players have shown on this tour.  With only one game remaining we take on the Polish team who beat the Chinese on Monday and ran the USA select team close tonight losing 80-71. Polish coach Rafal Czyszpak will be looking to have his team ready to take us on in the last game in China.

Top scorers were Tiarna Clarke with 16 points (7/13FG) and Nicole Ruske, 13 points (4/7FG) who came off the bench with another strong performance. Ruske and Zara Jillings led the rebounding count with six each.

The game aside, the memories and experiences that the girls have been been exposed to will remain with them forever.  Nothing can quite prepare you for a trip to China.  The amazing hospitality that is shown, the screaming school students as they try to gain your attention during school visits, the food, the interesting aromas that waft up when you least expect it, the amazing facilities we have the chance to play in and the people that fill them each night. How can the girls comprehend that in a town the size of Christchurch we have the local Police as an escort and officers on every intersection to stop traffic for the buses.

It will be tough when they are home to remember to take their plates from the table, make their beds in the morning, clean up their rooms and find their transport from place to place.  I am sure however they are really looking forward to home cooked meals, the comfort of their own beds and a nice crisp autumn morning with the sun warming their faces.

Final Score;

China 75

JTF’s 67 – Clarke 16pts/2rebs/2assists,  Ruske 13/3/3/1stl, Jillings 8/6/1/1stl, Whittaker 6/2/3stls, Diakaby 6/4, Leger-Walker 6/6, Dunn 5, Finnigan 3/1/1stl, Hirwani 2/1/1/2stls, Penese 2/4, Baudry 0/1/1stl

American basketball correspondent Chris Denker has reported that the USA Select and Junior Tall Ferns have interacted really well during the four nations tour of China on

Denker comments, “the teams have bonded very well with one another off the court throughout the tour and hope to continue those relationships well beyond the tour.”


Tall Ferns struggle against USA Select


Following the high of defeating the Poland Under 23 team on Saturday the Junior Tall Ferns were brought back down to earth in their latest game in China.

The Ferns were defeated 65-46 by the USA Select team in Weng’an on Monday.

The first quarter was tight with the Americans holding a slight 11-9 advantage after ten minutes. The Kiwis were very much in the contest approaching half-time but some key lapses allowed USA Select to open up a 30-19 half-time lead.

The third quarter was a killer for the Ferns, the Select team building momentum and heading into the final quarter with a 50-31 lead that was just too much for the Kiwis to recover from.

Once again the JTF’s held their own on the glass (43-49) but it was poor shooting that hurt them hitting just 17 from 55 from the field. The three point shooting was very poor as they made a paltry 2 from 21 attempts.

Southland’s Aliyah Dunn was the best of the Ferns with 11 points whilst Otago’s Nicole Ruske led the rebounding effort with 7 boards.

Report from Brent Matehaere (Junior Tall Ferns head coach).

Unfortunately the Junior Tall Ferns have not been able to take the scalp of the USA team.  When looking at the defensive effort, we could say that one was there for the taking.  It was still a one point ball game with 4 minutes to go in the first half when defensive transition errors let the US convert on lay ups off long rebounds and turn overs.  The JTF’s were really struggling to convert on offense missing wide open looks, shots near the basket and even lay ups.

The team may be feeling the rigors of international travel and will need to pick themselves up for the last two games.

Highlights . . . these are difficult to find when the performance did not match the effort on the floor and the opportunity missed.  Nicole Ruske and Maia Watling gave it everything they had at both ends of the floor and Aliyah Dunn demonstrated the range we know she has with 11 points including a triple from the wing.  Ruske also lead the team in rebounds (7) belying her light frame, boxing out the bigger opponents and getting her hands on the ball.

Final score;

USA Select 65

JTF’s 46 – Dunn 11pts/2rebs, Clarke 9/4/2a, Ruske 4/7/1/1stl, Finnigan 4/2/1, Leger-Walker 4/4/1, Watling 4/3/2, Diakaby 4/6/1stl, Penese 4/3, Hirawani 2/3, Jillings 0/6/1blk/1stl. Baudry 0/2

The Junior Tall Ferns conclude their nine game tour of China with games against China (tonight, Tuesday) and Poland on Wednesday.

23 Named for Tall Ferns trial



Toni Edmondson back in the Tall Ferns frame

The Tall Ferns women’s basketball team have confirmed their schedule for a final shot at qualifying for the 2016 Rio Olympic Games and will leave no stone unturned in an intensive five-week campaign to prepare for FIBA Qualifier in France in mid-June.

Head Coach Kennedy Kereama has announced the 23 players invited to trial in Auckland in early May, all striving to make a 14 strong playing roster. These 14 players will travel to China and Europe, before a final 12 is named to play in the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament in France in mid-June.

There are four players not selected or unavailable from the 2015 international programme – Natalie Taylor, Megan Craig, Tessa Boagni and Jacinta Beckley.

Kereama says the programme that has been put together and has no doubt it will prepare the team to be in great shape physically and mentally for a final shot at Rio.

“We have a good group of players that have made themselves available this year, many of whom have just come off great professional or collegiate seasons. The depth in our women’s programme is at an all-time high and we have a lot of players knocking on the door and forcing themselves into the selection conversation.”

The Tall Ferns will assemble alongside 12 other nations at the women’s qualifying tournament in France: Spain, France, Belarus, Turkey (Europe); Cuba, Argentina, Venezuela (America’s); Cameroon, Nigeria (Africa), China, South Korea (Asia); and New Zealand (Oceania). Only the top five will earn a place in Rio.

New Zealand has been drawn with heavyweights France (4 in the world) and Cuba (13) in their pool, with the top two teams from each pool of three qualifying for the quarterfinals. New Zealand’s ranking of 22 in the world has them clearly ranked as underdogs, but Kereama is backing his team to mix it with the best in France.

“Our build up for the Olympic Qualifier is great. We are playing a number of good teams – in fact nine of the ten are ranked above us, so we will be pushed during every game. We need the best competition possible and the tougher the games the better the preparation for our Olympic Qualification Series. The tournament is going to be cut throat and we need to be playing our best basketball when we arrive in France.”

Kereama says competition for places in the touring party of 14 will be intense, let alone the even tougher call to name a final 12 for the Qualifier in France. He says this has come about largely through an increase in activity for the women’s programme combined with the emergence of a strong generation of players that are making headlines in the US College system and in professional leagues.

“The quality and standard of our players is getting better and better and leagues such as Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC), American College and pro leagues (WNBL and Euro leagues) are helping foster and further develop our best talent. Many countries are starting to recognize the talent that we are producing and more of our players are creating those playing opportunities for themselves further away from home.”

The players invited to trial for the Tall Ferns in Auckland on May 7/8 are:

Stella Beck, Small Forward, (Saint Mary’s College of California), Brooke Blair, Point Guard, (Idaho State University), Jessica Bygate, Stretch Forward, (Adelaide Lightning), Micaela Cocks, Point Guard, (Townsville Fire), Shea Crotty, Point Guard, (Canterbury Wildcats), Penina Davidson, Centre, (University of California), Antonia Edmondson, Shooting Guard, (Perth Lynx), Deena Franklin, Small Forward, (Harbour Breeze), Samara Gallaher, Shooting Guard, (Hume City Broncos), Jillian Harmon, Stretch Forward, (Le Mura Lucca, Italy), Jordan Hunter, Point Guard, (ACM Lady Hawks), Breana Jones, Shooting Guard, (ACM Lady Hawks), Krystal Leger-Walker, Point Guard, (Waikato Wizards), Hailey Moala (nee Purcell), Shooting Guard, (Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks), Katelin Noyer, Centre, (Waitakere Lady Rangers), Chevannah Paalvast, Shooting Guard, (Townsville Fire), Kalani Purcell, Small Forward, (Brigham Young University- PROVO), Erin Rooney, Shooting Guard, (Cote D’Opale Basket Calais), Terai Sadler, Small Forward, (Canterbury Wildcats), Josephine Stockill, Center, (Colgate University), Dru Toleafoa, Small Forward, (Santa Clara University), Jessica Tuki, Stretch Forward, (Taranaki Thunder), Lisa Wallbutton, Stretch Forward, (Perth Redbacks)

Tall Ferns Preparation for FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament
7-8 May, Trials, Auckland
9-11 May Preparation Camp, Auckland
12-22 May Four Nations Tournament v’s China, Czech Republic and Montenegro),  China
23-28 May, Latvia Friendlies in Riga, Latvia
29 May-4 June, Four Nations Tournament (vs v Belarus, Japan and Turkey) Minsk, Belarus
5-9 June, Spain Friendlies, Asturias, Spain
13-19 June, Olympic Qualifying Tournament, Nantes, France

Junior Tall Ferns Polish off Poles



Tiarna Clarke one of three JTF’s in double figures

The Junior Tall Ferns recorded a resounding 72-54 win against Poland U23 in Yuqing on Saturday. The Ferns had been threatening a win in earlier games but it was in the second half of this sixth game in seven days that everything fell into place.

New Zealand led 21-18 at quarter time but were pegged back in the second trailing 37-36 at the main break.

The JTF’s ramped up the effort in the second half and completely dominated the Poles to the tune of 36-17.

Coach Brent Matehaere was delighted with his team, “It was an awesome win tonight over the Poland U23 side. The team stuck to the game plan and executed it so well. The score reflects a 36 point turn around from game one against them”.


The Poles were not only older than the teenage Kiwis but also had a considerable height advantage with eight players over six feet. Despite this the JTF’s still won the rebounding count 34-29.

Once again the Ferns were paced by Charlisse Leger-Walker who stuffed the stats line with18pts, 3 rebs, 2 assists, 2 steals, and a block. The 14 year old also shot the ball well hitting all six free throws and converting 6 from 11 from the field. The Waikato guard was well supported at the offensive end by the Harbour pair of Zara Jillings (15pts) and Tiarna Clarke (11pts).

Eye witness account from Melanie Bennett (Team Manager)

The Junior Tall Ferns ‘Pol’ished the European contingent on the second leg of the Four Nations Tour of China gaining an impressive first win of the tour.

Charlisse Leger-Walker again stepped up to lead the Junior Tall Ferns with 18 points and Zara Jillings and Tiarna Clarke also scored double figures – Jillings shooting an impressive 4/5 (80%) inside the arc.

The key to success was the huge defensive effort putting the Poles under extreme pressure right from tip off.

The JTF’s were in a fight for the first half, up by 3 at the end of the first quarter, and down by 1 at the half.  The third quarter was the turning point, where we outscored them 23-10.  The Poles were forced to take an early time out to try and stop momentum, however the JTF’s came out even stronger and defensively caused the Europeans to turn the ball over, grabbing 11 steals, with a 70% conversion rate down the stretch.

The JTFs have bonded really well off the floor, and it is evident by the heart and passion shown in tonight’s game.  It was like watching rugby players dive on the ground for the loose ball. The girls put their bodies on the line and hustled like their lives depended on it.

The effort and tenacity led by Alyssa Hirawani and Clarke created a domino effect for the rest of the team.  The top rebounders were Charlotte Whittaker, Darcy Finnigan and Katie Diakhaby with 6 each.

Coaches Matehaere and Davidson should be extremely proud of how well the girls adjusted to pre-game scouts and preparation.  The major adjustments were on-ball defense, and full court defense after scores, and tweaking to the offensive sets at training this morning.

The JTFs would like to take this opportunity to thank both Stacey and Summer, our interpreters for Yuqing County.

Final Score;

Poland Under 23’s 54

JTF”s 72 – Leger Walker 18/3rebs/2assists, Jillings 15/1/1a/1st, Clarke 11/1/1stl, Finnigan 8/6/2st, Whittaker 6/6, Hirawani 4/1/2/4st, Ruske 4/3/2/3st, Diakaby 2/6/1stl, Dunn 2/4, Baudry 2, Penese 0/3.

The team now travels to Weng’an on Sunday to undertake the third and last leg of the Chinese tour. The team and support staff will travel in good spirits but will be hoping to see a little sunshine after battling the smog in Foshan and more recently the cloud shrouded Yuqing.

Rangitoto defend National 3×3 title


The 2016 Secondary Schools 3×3 National Slam concluded at Trusts Stadium, Waitakere on Saturday.

Sixty-three teams played more than 400 games spread over three days of competition to earn the right to be called the champions of the third annual 3×3 National Slam.

The Senior Boys final was a rematch of the 2015 championship game with local rivals Rangitoto College and Westlake Boys High School going head to head and once again Rangitoto secured the trophy winning 21-13.

Rangi breezed to an 8-3 lead before an Isaac Letoa inspired spell drew Westlake within a point. The Lake guard scored consecutive 2 twos and when Thabo Manyere added another double with three minutes to play the momentum was with Westlake. However Sam Waardenburg and Zac Te Puni took control of the dying minutes to ensure the Senior Boys cup remained in the Rangitoto trophy cabinet.

Rangitoto forward Te Puni was delighted to retain the silverware, “The guys from last year gave us big shoes to fill and it was a great challenge to step up to.”

Te Puni relishes the 3×3 game, “There is a bit more space than the five on five and it seems to suit my game. With other players like Sam (Waardenburg) and Logan (Anderson) we can spread the floor and open things up and that enables me to play my game to the maximum, “ he said.

Earlier Rangitoto had got the better of Wanganui High School 21-10 in one semi-final and in the other Westlake beat Rosmini College A 21-14. Credit to Rosmini for progressing deep into the tournament as they played with just three players for the entire three days.

The Senior Girls Final was eventually won by Hamilton Girls High School but not before New Plymouth Girls High School forced the game into overtime with the scores locked 9-9.

Hamilton led 3-1 early on but the outstanding Joellen How dragged New Plymouth back into the contest and Rebecca Nolly put them 9-7 ahead with a minute to play. Stirling Walker-Pitman tied the contest before Kharmen Wolfgramm-Kereama and Zarya Poulava scored the clutch two points to secure an 11-9 win.

Wolfgramm-Kereama, in only in her second season of basketball, was key to the Hamilton win but admitted overtime was tough physically. “I was really tired but I knew I had to just keep going if we were going to get the win”.

Earlier in the day Walker-Pitman dragged Hamilton Girls High School into the final converting a free throw after the final buzzer to eliminate Rangitoto Blue 10-9 in the semi-final.

The other semi was won 10-6 by New Plymouth; the Taranaki team eliminated defending champions, St Peter’s, Cambridge.

Hamilton Girls High School failed to make it a double beaten 11-7 by Westlake Girls High School in the Junior Girls Final. In a low scoring opening the scores were locked 5-5 at the mid point as Mareta Davidson (Westlake) and Dominique Stehens (Hamilton) went toe to toe in the low post, both making important plays for their respective teams.

Eventually it was a Jordyn Maddix deuce and a Piper Manolas and one play that broke the back of the Hamilton Girls resistance.

Westlake coach Stephen Dil admitted his team had to learn on the fly as they had only had one training session before the tournament.

“The girls worked as a team throughout the tournament and in the final they followed the game plan. We wanted to close out Hamilton’s good outside shooters and force their big as far away from the hoop as possible and that is certainly what Mereta (Davidson) did.”

The Junior Boys Final featured Rosmini College and Rongotai College after both had progressed relatively comfortably from semi-final action. Rosmini had accounted for Wanganui Boys High School 11-6 and Rongotai eliminated Rangitoto College Blue 21-9

Reon Paul and Ezrah Vaigafa helped Rongotai establish a 6-2 advantage, increased to 8-5 before Rosmini surged back into the contest. Marvin Williams-Dunn knocked down a couple of long range twos and Reihana Maxwell-Topia converted a couple of athletic plays to narrow the gap to 8-7 with four minutes to play.

That was as near as it got for Rosmini as Vaigafa and Jaylin To’o secured a 13-8 win for the Wellingtonians.

Former Tall Black, now Rongotai College coach, Chris Tupu was pleased with the experience his players had gained.

“It was nice to come here and play against the top teams this region has to offer. I think we did well, we are stoked with our young talent and how they performed.”

Rongotai did win a Secondary Schools title back in the 1980’s but this was the first win since and Tupu is keen to attempt to win another next year.

“I think we are the first team to attend from Wellington and it is certainly a worthwhile tournament and we will be back again next year.”

“They tell me 3×3 will be an exhibition sport at the 2020 Olympics and a full sport from 2024 so it is definitely a game of the future. It is a format that we need to get on board with.”

Perhaps one or two of the players that have shone during the past three days will be representing New Zealand in 3×3 at a future Olympics.

Junior Tall Ferns come close against China



Junior Tall Ferns captain Zara Jillings with 6’9″ Chinese centre Han XU

Game five on the Junior Tall Ferns tour of China was played in Yuqing on Friday against the host country. The Ferns led 13-11 at the first interval and trailed by just four points, 45-41, at three quarter time. They silenced the local crowd by taking the lead early in the final quarter but couldn’t hang on in the closing minutes losing 68-58 in a highly creditable performance.

Report from Brent Matehaere (Junior Tall Ferns head coach).

To beat China in China, you have to execute down the stretch and take the crowd and any other possible influence on the game out of the equation.

The JTF’s took the lead for the fifth time in the game with just under 6 minutes remaining in the fourth quarter. The closing minutes became very physical. Bodies were left scattered at the defensive end where rebounding was like trying to hold up the running of the bulls.  On the offensive end going to the basket would have had Genghis Khan thinking twice.

That being said, the team really stood up and the small ball basketball was performed to a very high level.

The JTF’s forced 27 turn overs, 11 in the first quarter, but were unable to consistently convert those into points at the offensive end.  Alyssa Hirawani, Tiarna Clarke, Zara Jillings and Charlisse Leger-Walker were all over the Chinese guards.

Forwards Charlotte Whittaker, Aliyah Dunn and Katie Diakhaby were staunch in their defense against the young female version of Yao Ming, 6’9” Han Xu.  Coola Baudry’s stat line won’t show the great screens and disruptive defense that she performed.  It was an effort worthy of increased minutes and respect.

Charlisse Leger-Walker led all scorers with 14 points and Zara Jillings, despite being off colour and Tiarna Clarke also reached double figures.

The JTF’s will be happier with their shooting percentages from the floor (39%) and the 3 point line (33%) but free throws (7from17) left a lot to be desired and will be a focal point of training in the morning before taking on Poland.  With only four games remaining the learning that is taking place has been immense and the JTF’s will be looking to taste success before returning home.

Final score;

China 68

JTF’s 58 – Leger-Walker 14pts/6rebs/4steals, Clarke 12/2a/3st, Jillings 10/3/4st, Dunn 9/6, Diakaby 6/1, Hirawani 2/3, Penese 2/6/3a, Finnigan 2, Ruske 1/2/2st, Baudry 0/2, Whittaker 0/2blks, Watling 0/1

Jillings and Leger-Walker shine for JTF’s


Charlisse Leger-Walker demonstrated her class against USA Select

The Junior Tall Ferns faced a rematch with the USA Select team on Thursday in Yuqing as the tour of China entered its second phase.

A full day of travel the previous day, plus a welcoming banquet beginning at 10pm, was not ideal preparation for coach Matehaere and his troops but the team gave a good account of themselves.

Game report from Brent Matehaere (Junior Tall Ferns head coach).

In front of a sold out crowd of 2,400 the Junior Tall Fern’s went down 81-63 to USA Select but not without firing a few shots and gaining confidence for the next two games in this city.

Defense and keeping opposition teams under the 70 points mark has been a feature of this team and tonight we let that slip.  The US team came out and shot the ball really from behind the arc knocking down 11 threes.  It was the first time that the US had been a threat from deep and they made us pay for helping down on their quality post players.

North Harbour’s Zara Jillings led the Kiwi’s with 16 points including 4 of 6 from 3-point land.  Waikato guard Charlisse Leger-Walker seemed to have all the time in the world with the ball and was able to demonstrate her creativity with moments of absolute brilliance. She scored 11 points in a game that didn’t finish until 11.15pm.  Forward Katie Diakhaby was really effective in her time on the court using her strength to grab 5 offensive rebounds.

The team fought back in the last 15 minutes of the game closing the gap from being down 26 – 66 and looking like we could be handed a real pasting!  The US team continued to pressure us and we were able to find space and convert.  The other telling factor was the full court pressure that we put on for the whole game started to pay dividends as we created 17 turnovers.

The team will focus on China tomorrow who survived a tight game against Poland tonight.


Rumour has it that the Kiwis edged the dance battle on the bullet train from Foshan the previous day.

Final score;

USA 81

JTF’s 63 – Jillings 16p/2blks, Leger-Walker 11/4rebs/2st, Diakaby 9/7rebs, Clarke 6/5rebs/3a, Finnigan 5/3rebs, Dunn 5/2rebs, Ruske 4/3rebs/3st, Hirawani 3/4rebs/3st, Penese 3/5rebs, Baudry 1/2a