From James Lissaman
Cowles Stadium was packed from beginning to end in a shining example of the explosion in popularity basketball has experienced, with extra seating needing to be brought out for the two Division I finals in order to accommodate the interested spectators. DJ Justone once again came down and entertained the crowd during breaks in the action, and there was an awful lot of action on display!
Both the Whelan and Thompson Division II finals tipped off at 4pm, with a very loud group of supporters for each of the four schools coming in. In the Thompson Division II Final, a dream start for Papanui saw them race ahead of Hillmorton 13-0. Some exceptional defence from the Tigers was needed, as they managed to hold Papanui to only one point in the first five minutes of the second quarter, closing the gap to only three points. Papanui responded, moving ahead to be up comfortably 32-20 at the half. A massive third quarter for Hillmorton (18-8) gave all the fans what they wanted – plenty of drama heading into the fourth quarter! The tide had definitely turned here, Papanui’s Sam Archibald (13 points) was sent to the bench after picking up his fifth foul, and Ihaia Kendrew, who had struggled with his shot earlier, went on a tear, scoring 11 of his game high 23 points in the period. Mahonri Tauiliili-Pau started to flex his defensive muscle, turning steals into open court opportunities (18p), and Rhys Kershaw began hitting his patented short corner jumper (10p) whenever a half court set was needed for Hillmorton. Ben Hussey (16 points) fought to keep Papanui in the game, but every time he gave the ball up, the Hillmorton Defence stiffened and Hussey was only able to get five shot attempts up in the final quarter. An ecstatic Hillmorton, playing for long-time Assistant Coach Andrea Kendrew, pulled off the win this time, after only just falling short in 2016, 56-51.
St. Margaret’s and Avonside Girls’ met for the third time this year, after splitting their first two games, and knowing they would also face each other in the Southern Premiership in a week’s time. This game illustrated just how far the two teams had come under the expert coaching of Ashley Gayle and Pina Lissaman. The Lady Eagles had an early lead, but then went through a very long patch of scoring struggles, as St. Margaret’s went on a 20-0 run to close out the first quarter. Molly Cockburn and Bella Digby began the Avonside fight back (16p each). Cockburn picked up her fifth foul early in the fourth quarter, significantly reducing the scoring ability of the Avonside team. Megan Shannon came on and helped with 11p, but the superior size of St Margaret’s, especially Eniselina Pale (20p), kept them clear. Both teams could look at their performance from the free throw line (Avonside 13/40, St. Margaret’s 19/39) as what ended up being the difference between the teams, as St. Margaret’s finished off with a tough 65-56 win in Division II of the #McDsWT.
Division I of the Whelan Trophy featured a rematch of the 2016 finalists, as Rangi Ruru again faced Christchurch Girls’. Both teams started off quite nervy, with neither making it to double figures in the first ten minutes (5-9 in Girls’ High favour), and only managing 13 and 15 points by the time we hit half time. Christchurch Girls’ managed to keep their nose slightly ahead of Rangi Ruru in the third, as both teams began to score: Sapphire Wairau hitting two threes (9p) in the quarter, with Bailey Chamberlain (9p) and Alida Pohatu-Barnes scoring what looked to be the last five points of the quarter, before an Alex Bennett heave from half way dropped for CGHS. This sent both teams into the final quarter locked in a one-point game 34-35. This is when Esra McGoldrick (20p 17r) and Finals MVP Alice Sproat (9p 15r) went to work – sparking a 17-2 quarter which made this game look far more one-sided than it actually was. Rangi Ruru, going back to back after a 51-37 win.
The Thompson Trophy’s Division I final pitted the two pre-season favourites against each other, as well as the Canterbury Rams Head and Assistant Coaches (Mark Dickel and Ben Sheat respectively). A thrilling game unfolded, with the largest lead for Cashmere over the whole game being only five points, and Christ’s College’s seven. As you would expect in a game this tight, 14 ties or lead-changes occurred. Cashmere’s depth was tested early on as Tom Russ-Hofmans was forced to the bench after collecting three fouls in the first 12 minutes of the game. Mitch Mahon (8p 7r) and Nic Wenmoth (10p 8r 4s) the two players who stepped up, and battled hard against the daunting size advantage Christ’s College had.
Christ’s Max De Geest showed his class (16p) but was only given a few open looks from the three point line, while Maxwell Darling was almost unstoppable around the rim (9p 14r) – grabbing a Tom Crutchley miss to push Christ’s ahead 46-53 early in the fourth quarter. Sheat’s faith in his team paid off, with Ruben Stanley (11p) hitting two straight threes to quickly get the lead back for Cashmere. Darling answered the call for Christ’s, as a great spin move inside saw him clang a dunk home – tying the game at 60-60. Finals MVP Connor McLaughlin (19p 7a) had one more play up his sleeve – getting into the lane and finding Mahon for the go-ahead basket at the rim. Will Harrison (13p) had the chance to be the hero as the final seconds ticked down, but his shot bounced off the rim, handing Cashmere a thrilling 62-60 win in front of an absolutely ecstatic crowd!
Thompson DI Final:
Thompson DII Final:
Hillmorton 56-51 Papanui
Whelan DI Final:
Rangi Ruru 51-37 Christchurch Girls
Whelan DII Final:
St. Margaret’s 65-56 Avonside