Monthly Archives: March 2018

Matt Freeman, Jack Salt and Sam Waardenburg headed to the Big Dance

The draw for the 2018 NCAA Division 1 Men’s Basketball Tournament was announced today and perhaps for the first time three New Zealand players will be involved.

Jack Salt

Having won the Atlantic Coast title at the weekend Jack Salt and the University of Virginia Cavaliers were guaranteed a spot in the 68-team knockout tournament. Virginia were picked by many as the No 1 seeds and that ranking was confirmed when the draw was published today.

The 31-2 Cavaliers will play University of Maryland, Baltimore County in Charlotte in the first round on March 16. This will be Virginia’s sixth NCAA Tournament appearance under three-time Atlantic Coast Conference Coach of the Year Tony Bennett.


A day earlier the University of Miami Hurricanes, with freshman forward Sam Waardenburg playing an important role off the bench, will play Loyola-Chicago in Dallas. The Hurricanes are playing in their third consecutive NCAA Tournament and their fourth in seven seasons under head coach Jim Larranaga.

Matt Freemanpg

Also on March 15 Matt Freeman and the University of Oklahoma Sooners will face Rhode Island in Pittsburgh. It will be the fifth time the Sooners have attended the NCAA Tournament under the stewardship of head coach Lon Kruger. It is also the second time Freeman has been involved as Oklahoma went all the way to the Final Four in 2016 when the former Westlake standout was a redshirt freshman.

Oklahoma will be making its 26th NCAA Tournament appearance in the last 35 years.

The 80th edition of the ‘Big Dance’ tip’s-off on March 13 and concludes with the championship game in San Antonio on April 2.

The National Invitation Tournament (NIT) will also tip-off this week. Sam Timmins and the Washington Huskies will take on Boise State in the first round on March 14.

The draw for the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Tournament will be announced tomorrow with Tessa Boagni (California State, Northridge), Jacinta Beckley (Seattle), Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke (both Northern Colorado) all sure of places after conference championship wins at the weekend.


Kiwis go 5 from 5 in NCAA Div I Championship games


Today was a spectacular day for New Zealand basketball with five Kiwis playing in NCAA Division 1 conference championship games and all five claiming titles. The wins also mean all four teams they are associated with will be playing in the NCAA Tournament next week as conference champions gain automatic selection.

The individual performance of the day again belongs to Tessa Boagni. The Cal State Northridge Matadors senior followed up yesterdays 19 points and 11 rebounds double in the Big West Conference semi-final with an equally impressive 23 points (9/16FG) and 8 rebounds effort in the championship game.

Boagni played all but two minutes as the Matadors beat UC Davis 63-55. In the four tournament games this week she has averaged 19 points and 8.5 rebounds per game – numbers that deservedly won her Tournament MVP honours.

Jacinta beckleyg

Also on the winner’s podium was Jacinta Beckley as Seattle University Redhawks narrowly beat Cal State Bakersfield 57-54 to claim its first Western Athletic Conference title after making four appearances in the championship game since 2013.

Starting guard Beckley claimed 3 points, 6 rebounds and a steal in a ding-dong affair that saw 19 lead changes and 11 ties. Seattle will head to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in programme history.


Earlier in the day Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke were key players as Northern Colorado University Bears added the Big Sky Tournament trophy to the regular season championship with a convincing 91-69 win against Idaho.

Freshman guard  Clarke scored 9 points (3/5 3PG) and sophmore Leger-Walker recorded 2 points, 4 rebounds, 1 assist, 3 steals and a block in a typically composed display. It was a thirteenth straight win for NCU who are heading to the NCAA Tournament for the first time in a confident mood.


Jack Salt flew the flag for the men. Like Northern Colorado, Virginia Cavaliers had already won the regular season title and today added the Atlantic Coast Tournament Championship to their trophy cabinet with a 73-61 win against North Carolina.

Salt’s return of 4 points (from his only two shots) and 2 rebounds in 22 minutes of action doesn’t appear overly significant but his screen setting, boxing out, running of the floor and high basketball IQ are much appreciated by Virginia head coach Tony Bennett.


“He’s unbelievable. He was named a captain this year as a third-year, which we usually don’t do eligibility-wise. So he’s just all heart, and he’ll do whatever you ask. That’s the way he was raised. And that’s how it is probably in New Zealand, right? You just fight and you don’t back down.”

Boagni, Beck, Clarke, Leger-Walker and Salt all win conference semi-finals


It was a super Saturday for the Kiwis involved in conference semi-finals with wins for Jack Salt, Tessa Boagni, Jacinta Beckley, Tiarna Clarke and Krystal Leger-Walker.

The individual performance of the day belonged to Tessa Boagni. The Cantabrian centre amassed 19 points (8/16FG), a game high 11 rebounds and 4 steals as Cal State Northridge Matadors thumped Cal Poly 73-50 in the Big West Conference semi-final in Anaheim today.

It was a seventh double-double of the season for the Matadors senior and a similar performance tomorrow will give her team a chance of upsetting No1 ranked UC Davis in the final. It will be a third championship game in six years for the Matadors.

Jack Salt was all poise in the second half as the University of Virginia Cavaliers reached the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament final with a 64-58 win against Clemson in front of 18,000 fans in Brooklyn.

The 6’10” centre scored all of his 8 points (4/5FG) and snared 6 of his 8 rebounds after half-time. He also secured an important couple of steals as Virginia improved to an impressive 30-2 this season. That record, regardless of the result in the final tomorrow, looks likely to give the Cavaliers No 1 seeding when the NCAA Tournament rankings are announced on Monday.

Brooke Blair and Idaho State Bengals found themselves trailing 36-21 at half-time in their Big Sky Conference Tournament semi-final against Northern Colorado Bears, the regular season champions and number one seeds. They came from 25 points down to win their quarter-final tie so anything was possible.

They certainly got close closing to 65-60 with 2 minutes to play but a couple of key free throws from Krystal Leger-Walker helped the Bears close out a 73-66 win and advance to tomorrow’s final.

Leger Walker finished with 10 points (3/4FG, 2/2FT), 4 rebounds and 2 steals whilst Tiarna Clarke chipped in with 8 points (3/5FG) and 3 rebounds. It wasn’t a night to remember for Blair with her 5 points coming from 10 shots but she did add 3 rebounds and 2 steals.


Seattle University Redhawks proved far too strong for New Mexico State in the Western Athletic Conference semi with Jacinta Beckley scoring 11 points for Seattle. Beckley also secured 7 rebounds – the win made more notable as New Mexico State carried top seeding and had won the last three WAC titles.


The lowdown will carry a revue of all four championship games involving New Zealand players tomorrow.

Jack Salt and Virginia win but Sam Waardenburg and Miami suffer defeat.

Jack salt copy 2

There were two remaining hopes for a Kiwi men’s NCAA Division 1 Tournament Championship but with the loss suffered by Sam Waardenburg and Miami Hurricanes in the Atlantic Coast quarter-final today it leaves just Jack Salt flying the New Zealand flag.

The University of Virginia Cavaliers began their quest for the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament title, to accompany their regular season championship, with a 75-58 win against Louisville Cardinals in chilly Brooklyn today.

Salt, the starting centre, made 2 points (a dunk with his only shot of the game) and secured 2 rebounds for the No1 ranked Virginia who will face 4th seeded Clemson in the semi-final tomorrow.

The Hurricanes made a terrific start against North Carolina scoring the first 14 points of the game. However they were outplayed in the second half, eventually losing 82-65 to the 2017 NCAA Tournament Champions. Waardenburg finished with 2 points (1/2FG), 3 rebounds and 3 assists.

Miami must now wait and see if on Sunday (Monday NZ time), they will receive an invitation to the NCAA Championship that begins next week. Most pundits are expecting Miami to receive a favourable seeding. It’s less clear if Matt Freeman’s Oklahoma will get the nod.

In addition to Salt, Jacinta Beckley (Seattle), Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke (Northern Colorado), Brooke Blair (Idaho State) and Tessa Boagni (Cal State, Northridge) will all be suiting up for semi-final games tomorrow as women’s conference play resumes.

Wins for Blair, Boagni, Beckley, Clarke and Leger-Walker but men struggle


BrookeyThere were a host of Kiwis involved in conference tournament play on Thursday (NZ time). The Kiwi women went 5-0, the men in contrast 0-2.

There were three NZZ women involved in Big Sky Conference Tournament quarter-finals action today.

After a first round win on Tuesday Brooke Blair and Idaho State Bengals were back on the floor against Weber State. Early in the third quarter the Bengals looked down and out as they trailed by a massive 25 points. By three-quarter time the advantage was cut to 12 points – that balance was erased in the fourth with the scores tied at 98 points apiece in regulation The Bengals capped a remarkable comeback to take the win 113-109 in overtime. Blair finished the game with 18 points, including a critical pair of free throws to put the Bengals 106-105 to the good. The senior guard also added 5 rebounds, 3 assists and a steal.

The win sets up a mouth-watering semi-final with the top ranked Northern Colorado Bears on Saturday so it will be Blair and the Bengals versus Krystal Leger-Walker, Tiarna Clarke and the Bears.

As number one seeds the Bears benefitted from a first round bye and entered the fray at the quarter-final stage against Montana today. The Bears proved too good winning 78-69. Leger-Walker produced 8 points (2/3 3PG), 5 rebounds, 4 assists and 2 steals and Clarke 14 points (5/8FG) as the Bears advance to that much anticipated clash with Idaho State.

Having moved passed 1,000 career points in the Big West Tournament win against Hawaii on Tuesday Tessa Boagni and Cal State, Northridge faced UC Santa Barbara in quarter final action today and came away with a 72-63 win. Boagni was again in good form recording 16 points (5/9FG, 6/6FT), 7 rebounds (5 offensive boards), and 4 assists in a fine all-round display. Next in line is No 2 ranked Cal Poly in Saturday’s semi-final.

Seattle University Redhawks beat Kansas City 70-59 in the Western Athletic Conference first round. Jacinta Beckley had 5 rebounds, a block and a steal for the Redhawks but didn’t have the best of shooting nights converting just one from six from the floor for 3 points. Seattle will have it tough on Saturday when they face defending champions New Mexico State.

It wasn’t such good news on the male front with both Sam Timmins and Matt Freeman involved in losses.

Washington Huskies fell 69-66 in overtime by Oregon State in the first round of the Pac-12 Tournament after a 57-all deadlock after the regulation fourty minutes. Timmins had 5 points and 6 rebounds for the Huskies.

It wasn’t a good day for Freeman and the Oklahoma Sooners either as they bowed out of the Big 12 Tournament, going down 71-60 to local rivals Oklahoma State. The Sooners were ranked No 4 nationally in early January but have since lost eleven of their last fifteen games.

Jack Salt (Virginia) and Sam Waardenburg (Miami), carrying first and third seeding respectively, both received byes to the quarter-finals of the Atlantic Coast Conference play-offs. Both will be in action tomorrow for the first time.

Boagni progresses in conference play but Le’afa and Noyer exit


TessaBoagniMore conference tournaments got underway today in the States with three more Kiwi players taking to the court.

Cal State Northridge Matadors, helped by a big 19 points haul from Tessa Boagni, led almost from start to finish in a 62-57 win against University of Hawaii in the first round of the Big West Conference Tournament. Boagni was a perfect 5 from 5 from the foul line to compliment 7 from 13 from the floor. In the process Boagni passed 1,000 career points for the Matadors.

The Cantabrian centre also added a team high equaling 8 rebounds, 2 assists, 2 blocks and a steal.

The Matadors, seeded No 5 will face UC Santa Barbara in the quarter-finals tomorrow. The two teams recorded a win apiece when they met during the regular season.

Despite having a slightly higher seeding Katelin Noyer and her Fresno State Bulldogs team bowed out in the quarter-finals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament in Las Vegas. The Bulldogs, seeded No 4 went down 71-55 to fifth seed Colorado State.

As reported yesterday the Big Sky Conference is also up and running with Izayah Le’afa’s Sacramento State Hornets in action against Portland State today.

The Hornets, ranked 11th had beaten Portland State (ranked 6th) twice in regular season play. However they have been hit by a series of injuries to their guard line up of late. One of those affected has been Le’afa. Unfortunately the former Wellington player was only able to play 11 minutes today – his influence missed as Sacramento State slid to a 71-67 season ending loss.

Tomorrow Matt Freeman (Oklahoma), Sam Timmins (Washington), Sam Waardenburg (Miami), Jacinta Beckley (Seattle), Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke (Northern Colorado) take to the floor for the first time whilst Brooke Blair (Idaho State) and Boagni are back in action.

On Friday Jack Salt (Virginia) hits the pine.

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


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.

Harbour players making waves in college basketball.

Ella fotu copy

It was a terrific weekend for former Harbour players at college in the States.

Ella Fotu, Georgia Perrott-Hunt and Olivia Bell helped their teams claim titles while Jack Salt and Virginia Cavaliers can’t stop winning.

read more

Disappointment for Kiwis in college conference tournaments.


stella beckIt wasn’t a particularly good day for the kiwis involved in conference tournaments on Saturday (NZ time).

Having come from behind to beat Canisius 61-58 yesterday Monmouth University Hawks found the going much tougher on day two of the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference. The No 9 ranked Hawks were outclassed 83-44 by top seed Quinnipiac.

Senior guard Rhaiah-Spooner-Knight top scored with 11 points, the only Hawk in double figures. She also added 5 rebounds, 2 assists a block and a steal in 31 minutes of action.

It was the same story in the Pac 12 Conference Tournament where Penina Davidson and 5th seeded Cal Berkeley Golden Bears were defeated on the second day. Cal went down 77-74 to UCLA Bruins in their quarter-final match up. Davidson had a quiet night finishing with just 4 points.

At the West Coast Conference Tournament in Las Vegas seven Kiwis were involved with six different teams at the start but that number has dwindled to just two and neither took the court as their teams progressed

In the women’s tournament No 7 Pacific Tigers overturned No 2 St Mary’s Gaels in the quarter-finals winning 77-73 but Junior guard Tylah King didn’t take the court for Pacific.

Stella Beck was once again in good touch finishing with 19 points, 9 rebounds, 3 assists and 2 blocks for the Gaels but coughing up 29 rebounds cost St Mary’s the game.

Beck was philosophical in defeat, “I think we were very inconsistent. We went out for a portion and they came back. They finally tipped us over the edge. We turned the ball over and they got some good shots.

“I think the best part about the season was the group of girls. We are so close and such good friends. It’s been fun when we have been playing well,” she added

In the men’s tournament former New Plymouth Boys High forward Harrison Meads didn’t see any court time for Pepperdine as they proved too good for Santa Clara winning 85-69. Pepperdine will next play the highly fancied St Mary’s outfit who next year will add Dan Fotu and Quinn Clinton to their roster.

It was a disappointing end to the season for Fordham University Rams. With their trio of Kiwis the No 3 ranked Rams negotiated the first round of the Atlantic 10 Conference play-offs with a comfortable 75-53 win against Rhode Island but were upset 52-49 by No 6 St Joseph’s in the quarter-finals. All three Kiwis made a contribution against Rhode Island with Cantabrian Mary Goulding (7 points, 6 rebounds and a career high 4 steals) leading the way. She was ably assisted by Harbour’s Zara Jillings (5 rebounds and 5 assists) and Kendell Heremaia (3 points and 3 rebounds).

The three were largely kept quiet by St Joe’s although Goulding did post 8 points.

Spooner-Knight stars as Davidson and King also advance in conference championships


Some  US college basketball Conference Tournaments have already begun and the lowdown will keep and eye on a number of those that involve Kiwis.

Monmouth University Hawks came from behind to beat Canisius 61-58 to advance to a showdown tomorrow with number 1 seed Quinnipiac in the Metro Atlantic Athletic Conference.

Senior guard Rhaiah-Spooner-Knight led all scorers with 22 points (10/18FG) for Monmouth. “I’m just starting to play with more confidence, and it’s coming at the right time. I love that my team trusts me to make those types of plays when it comes down to it,” said the former Waikato standout. Spooner-Knight leads the Hawks scoring this season averaging 11.4 points per game.

It’s also tournament time in the Pac 12 Conference where Penina Davidson and 5th seeded Cal Berkeley Golden Bears were made to struggle against lowly Washington before eventually winning 71-68. Cal will take on No 4 ranked UCLA Bruins tomorrow. Davidson finished with 7 points (3/4FG), 5 rebounds and 2 assists against Washington.

The West Coast Conference Tournament is underway at the Orleans Arena in Las Vegas with Kiwis involved with six different teams although Taki Fahrensohn is red shirting at Portland and is therefore only with the Pilots in a supporting role.

In the women’s tournament No 9 Santa Clara bowed out on the opening day going down 72-63 to No 8 Pepperdine. 2014 Tall Fern Dru Toleafoa finished with 5 points (2/5FG) and 3 rebounds for Santa Clara.

In another first round game junior guard Tylah King registered a rebound and an assist as No 7 ranked Pacific ousted Portland 85-60 and now face Stella Beck and St Mary’s Gaels in the quarter-finals.

It wasn’t such good news for Shalae Salmon with No 3 ranked BYU ousted 61-56 by lower ranked San Diego. Salmon scored 2 points and added a single rebound, block and steal.

Back on the men’s side former New Plymouth Boys High forward Harrison Meads will suit for Pepperdine when they take on Santa Clara.