A successful HoopNation Tournament in Tauranga finished with the Junior Tall Ferns claiming the Elite Women’s title and the Junior Tall Blacks finishing runners-up in the Elite Men’s competition.
The JTF’s under the guidance of head coach Brent Matehaere looked a well oiled machine, particularly when Charlisse Leger-Walker was on the court. Her presence on the floor invariably took the team to a higher gear. Leger-Walker’s Waikato teammate Kendell Heremaia is also a dynamic performer with a motor that never stops purring.
There are plenty of other components to this outfit and some useful parts will have to be left on the side of the road when the final selections are made.
Daryl Cartwright and his JTB’s selection committee will face the same issue.
Talented players will not be on the road to Fiji, or more precisely the flight, come December.
At HoopNation the team struggled to get into automatic due to a combination of factors but primarily a lack of game time together was the major contributor to some stop start performances.
Having said that there is quality galore for the coaching staff to piece together.
Who wouldn’t want to try and mesh the likes of Clinton, Fahrensohn, Fotu, Letoa, McDonald, McRae, Samuel and Waardenburg. The 2016 vintage could be quite something.
In the final the JTB’s faced a Choppers team that boasted four current or former Tall Blacks – Lindsay Tait, Leon Henry, Ethan Rusbatch and BJ Anthony in their lineup. Tait opened the scoring as the Choppers embarked on an 11-0 run eventually broken by a Hamish McDonald jump shot. Taane Samuel added another basket but the JTB’s trailed 16-4 at quarter time.
A Sam Waardenburg three and two’s from Isaac Letoa, Angus McWilliam and Samuel in the second period kept the score ticking over for the JTB’s but they had a mountain to climb at half-time trailing 28-14.
The JTB’s cause was further hampered by an 8-0 Choppers run to open the third. Despite a three from Josh Aitcheson, inside buckets from Dan Fotu and Callum McRae and a brace of baskets from Letoa the third quarter ended with Choppers 43-27 ahead.
Even with a couple of Taki Fahrensohn jumpers Choppers were almost 20 points to the good early in the final quarter. However the crowd was brought to life by threes on three consecutive possessions from Cantabrian Quinn Clinton. With Samuel also scoring three baskets the JTB’s closed to within 9 points, 58-49, inside the final three minutes. Waardenburg closed the gap further but the experienced Choppers team was able to make their free throws down the stretch to claim the trophy with a 66-53 victory.
Cartwright was philosophical after the defeat.
“We got a little bit of a lesson from some veterans. Not performing the basics hurt us, we were too careless with the ball turning it over and our transition defence wasn’t good enough. There were good lessons for us there because if we had taken care of those things we would have been in a position to compete.”
Earlier in the day the JTB’s faced the Fraser High ‘old boys’ F Gang in the semi-final.
After trailing 9-3 early on a couple of Samuel baskets helped propel the JTB’s to a 14-9 quarter time lead.
A tight second period concluded with the JTB’s holding a slender 25-24 lead. Waardenburg scored five points in the quarter and McRae kept his team ahead with a basket in the final minute of the period.
The third period was equally tight as F Gang refused to give ground to the JTF’s. Canterbury forward McWilliam made a couple of neat baskets and Flynn Cameron a late pair of freebies but the lead was just 34-30 to the JTF’s at the last break.
Fotu made an And 1 play to open the final stanza but with the fouls mounting the final minutes became a free throw shoot out. Flynn Cameron and Letoa kept F Gang at bay, as did the outstanding Samuel. Letoa capped a fine defensive exhibition by grabbing a steal and a break away lay-up to seal a tense 53-47 victory in the final twenty seconds of the game.
Overall coach Cartwright was pleased with his team’s effort.
“We needed games and it was also good to be in a camp environment to see how guys were on and off the floor. It has given us the opportunity to assess different combinations and we are still trying to settle on our final twelve so we have been evaluating some of the players to fill the final spots.”
Junior Tall Blacks Results:
Final, Lost 66-53 v Choppers – Samuel 10, Clinton 10, Waardenburg 9, Letoa 6, Fahrensohn 5
Semi-Final, Won 53-47 v F Gang – Samuel 10, Letoa 7, Fotu 6, Waardenburg 6, McWilliam 6
Won 43-39 v Junior Mountainairs – Fotu 12, Samuel 11, Letoa 6, Waardenburg 6
Won 57-48 v Rack City – Fahensohn 12, Letoa 10, Le’aupepe 8, McWilliam 6, F Cameron 6
Won 56-36 v Victoria Uni – Waardenburg 17, McDonald 8, F Cameron 7, Clinton 6
Won 62-53 v Harbour Heat – Clinton 13, Fotu 12, Waardenburg 12, Fahrensohn 6
Won 84-28 v ‘IATE – McDonald 12, Le’aupepe 10, Aitcheson 9, Fahrensohn 8
The Junior Tall Ferns, boasting an unbeaten record, faced Waitakere Lady Rangers in the Elite Women’s Grand Final.
Tall Ferns Megan Craig and Josie Stockill anchored the Rangers frontcourt and their battle with JTF’s forwards Charlotte Whittaker, Esra McGoldrick and Kendell Heremaia was intriguing to observe.
Stockill showed her intentions early on with a defensive block and 4 points as the Rangers opened a 6 points advantage before Tiarna Clarke opened the Junior Tall Ferns account with a drive for two and a jumper for three. A pair of Charlisse Leger-Walker free throws edged the JTF’s ahead 7-6 at quarter time.
Esra McGoldrick scored four points in the second period and Leger-Walker three as the JTF’s retained a single point advantage, 14-13, at half-time.
The third quarter was largely one way traffic as Zara Jillings and Charlotte Whittaker made baskets before Jayden Fuiava closed the period with a three and a lay-up to open up a 29-17 three-quarter time lead.
Six combined points from Stockill and Craig briefly threatened the JTF’s lead but a pair of jump shots from Kendell Heremaia and a basket in the paint from Whittaker restored a double figure advantage, 36-26, with two minutes to play. Stockill took her personal haul to 14 points but Jillings had the final say with a corner three to take the JTF’s to a deserved 39-30 victory.
Junior Tall Ferns Results:
Grand Final, Won 39-30 v Lady Rangers – Leger-Walker 8, Clarke 6, Whittaker 6, Jillings 6, Fuiava 5
Won 66-19 v ‘IATE – Leger-Walker 11, Fuiava 11, Clarke 9, Jillings 6, Whittaker 6, Dunn 6
Won 39-31 v Muppets – Clarke 9, Fuiava 9, Leger-Walker 8
Won 44-29 v All Stars – McGoldrick 10, Ruske 6, Whittaker 6
Won 41-31 v Phoenix – McGoldrick 8, Heremaia 7, Fuiava 4, Whittaker 4
Won 60-31 v Expired – Heremaia 17, McGoldrick 8, Clarke 7, Fuiava 7, How 6, Dunn 6
Won 54-34 v Lady Rangers – Walker-Pitman 7, Whittaker 6, McGoldrick 6
Matehaere was delighted with the efforts of his charges during the tournament.
“The weekend has been good for us, we’ve had an opportunity to try a few things out. We’ve had a chance to look at different groups, try different combinations and give us more of an understanding of how they interact together.
“The good thing from the coaches perspective is that all the players have shown their skill sets during the tournament which makes the selection process even more difficult. Their strengths continue to be the same but you can see the work they have done on other aspects of their game have also improved they keep on getting better and better.
“All the teams at HoopNation have come out and thrown it at us and that has been good. That has helped prepare us for the big challenge that we have ahead of us,” Matehaere added.
For both squads this was the last competitive hit out before the teams are announced ahead of the FIBA Oceania Championships in Fiji.
The Championships, to be played in December, will double as the qualifying tournament for the 2017 FIBA Under 19 World Championships.
Junior Tall Ferns Squad
Tiarna Clarke (North Harbour), Aliyah Dunn (Southland), Jayden Fuiava (Queensland, Australia), Kendell Heremaia (Waikato), Alyssa Hirawani (Waikato), Joellen How (Taranaki), Zara Jillings (North Harbour), Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato), Esra McGoldrick (Canterbury), Bayley Ransfield (Taranaki), Nicole Ruske (Otago), Stirling Walker-Pitman (Waikato), Charlotte Whittaker (North Canterbury).
Junior Tall Blacks Squad
Josh Aitcheson (Otago), Flynn Cameron (Australia), Tobias Cameron (Australia), Quinn Clinton (Canterbury), Taki Fahrensohn (Waitakere West), Dan Fotu (North Harbour), Corey Le’aupepe (Wellington), Isaac Letoa (North Harbour), Hamish McDonald (Waikato), Callum McRae (Palmerston North), Angus McWilliam (Canterbury), Taane Samuel (Wellington), Sam Waardenburg (North Harbour)