Brooke Blair advances plus the latest news about other Kiwis in college tournament play

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We continue to track the top Kiwi players as NCAA Division 1 conference tournament play begins to hot up.

As expected Brooke Blair and Idaho State Bengals progressed through the Big Sky Conference first round today with a 59-49 win against Southern Utah. Blair was one of three Bengals players to notch double figures finishing with 11 points (4/9FG).

Idaho State will next face Weber State in the quarter-finals. Also into the quarter-finals, which will be played on Thursday (NZ time), are top seeds Northern Colorado. The Bears of course feature Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke and received a bye in the first round.

Our focus is largely on players on Division 1 teams but it would be remiss not to mention Ella Fotu this week. The former Harbour and Rangitoto guard played a prominent role for the Hawaii Pacific University Sharks as they clinched the NCAA Division II PacWest Conference Tournament title on Sunday.

Ella, the sister of Tall Blacks Isaac and Dan Fotu, made a couple of critical three point plays as she scored 12 points and added 3 steals in a tight 77-71 win against Point Loma University in the Final played in Riverside, California.

The Sharks have had a hugely successful season boasting a programme best 26-3 season capped by a second PacWest title in four years. Ella has been at the heart of their success playing all 29 games, averaging 8 points, 4 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal per outing.

2017 Tall Ferns trialist Kayla Manuirirangi scored a couple of points as Tulane University bowed out of the American Athletic Conference Tournament at the quarter-final stage. Tulane were beaten 82-56 by Connecticut.

Tegan Graham and Colgate University exited in the first round of the Patriot League Tournament beaten 66-47 by Holy Cross. Graham finished the game with 6 points and led the team in assists this season with 49.

Also exiting in first round action were Gracie Roberts and Detroit Mercy Titans. The Titans were beaten 76-61 by Northern Kentucky in the Horizon League Championship.

Unfortunately former New Plymouth Boys High forward Harrison Meads missed Pepperdine’s foray to the West Coast Conference Tournament due to concussion. Pepperdine beat Santa Clara in their first game before losing an epic semi-final to the highly regarded St Mary’s Gaels 69-66.

The No 22 ranked St Mary’s will of course add Dan Fotu and Quinn Clinton to their roster next season.

And now to the conclusion of regular season play…

Jack Salt and the No 1 ranked Virginia Cavaliers have won the Atlantic Coast Conference regular season title for the third time in five years under head coach, and former Harbour Heat star, Tony Bennett. Not only that but they became the first team in ACC history to lose just one regular season conference game boasting a 17-1 record. Jack had 9 rebounds and 3 points against Louisville followed by 4 points and a pair of rebounds against Notre Dame in the final two regular season games before the play-offs.

The season is over for Isaac Letoa and Dartmouth College. Dartmouth failed to make the Ivy League play-offs in what has been a tough season – the team finishing with a 7-20 overall record.

Also drawing to a close an Ivy League freshman season was McKenna Dale. She finished with a pair of 9 point outings in the final two Brown University league games. The 2016 Junior Tall Fern converted 3 from 5 from beyond the arc in a 67-56 loss to Penn and 4 from 6 from the floor in the 79-44 loss at Princeton. Like Dartmouth, Brown have missed out on the end of season play-offs.

Freshman Joellen How scored a season high 10 points for Wagner College in their narrow 49-46 loss to Robert Morris. Wagner finished the season with a 4-14 record in the Northeast Conference.

Later in the week we will also be tracking the fortunes of Jacinta Beckley (Seattle), Katelin Noyer (Fresno State), Matt Freeman (Oklahoma), Izayah Le’afa (Sacramento State) Sam Timmins (Washington) and Sam Waardenburg (Miami) as they and their teams embark on tournament play.

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