What a day for New Zealand Basketball.
What a day for our college basketball players in the States.
The West Coast Conference Tournament Finals produced a pair of upsets that meant double success for Kiwis with St Mary’s Gaels Men and Brigham Young University (BYU) Women both winning Conference Championships. – the victories bring with it automatic entry to the Big Dance, the NCAA National Tournament.
St Mary’s caused a real upset.
After all its opponents Gonzaga had not only won every West Coast Conference game this season but were also the #1 ranked college team in the States boasting a 30-3 record. In regular season games Gonzaga had beaten St Mary’s in both previous meetings this season by a combined 62 points. Somehow the Gaels turned that around to post a remarkable result, a 60-47 victory. Dan Fotu, along with fellow Kiwi freshman Quinn Clinton can now prepare for the Big Dance.
BYU is the WCC champion riding an eight game winning streak to defeat Gonzaga 82-68 to capture their third WCC title since 2011. Like the men Gonzaga were the #1 ranked team in the conference but couldn’t hold off the second ranked BYU.
BYU have three Kiwis in their lineup – juniors Shalae Salmon and Khaedin Taito plus redshirt freshman Kaylee Smiler.
With the Fordham University trio of Mary Goulding, Kendell Heremaia and Zara Jillings crowned Atlantic 10 champions and Jack Salt and Virginia Cavaliers certain to be at the Big Dance it means nine Kiwis are looking forward to the madness that March brings.