Monthly Archives: March 2023

The weekend wrap from March Madness

March 20

Ella Bradley at Elite Eight of NCAA Division II Tournament, Charlotte Whittaker our remaining hope in Division I, Junior College Nationals about to begin. It’s fun to follow and record.

All this and more:

Wrapping up the major Breakers numbers from the season

That record Game 4 crowd was something special.

Following the Game 5 Grand Final defeat in Sydney the curtain has come down on a hugely entertaining and successful Sky Sport Breakers season. Whilst the ultimate prize eventually eluded them the club can take immense pride in turning the disaster that was the 2021-22 wooden spoon into an almost successful march to the championship in 2022-23.

There were many memorable games during the season but for those present Grand Final Game 4 played in front of 9,742 fans at Spark Arena took the biscuit. Not only was it a record crowd for a basketball game in New Zealand but the atmosphere and passion of the supporters was spine tingling – it will live long in the memory.

Here are the key numbers from the season:

Jarrell Brantley and Derek Pardon were the only two players to play all 36 games, rookie coach Mody Maor guiding the club to an overall record of 22-14.

Brantley, the Breakers Most Valuable Player of the Year Award winner, led the scoring amassing 581 points with Barry Brown Jnr not far behind with 544 points.

The other main scoring contributors were Derek Pardon (424 points), Will McDowell-White (366) and Izayah Le’afa (359).

Tom Abercrombie’s defensive masterclass in Grand Final Game 4 in which he garnered 6 steals set a new career mark for the Breakers skipper. It also equaled the record held by another Breaker’s great Mika Vukona for the most steals by a Breaker in a play-off game.

Abbo has extended his Breakers all-time appearance record to 399 games. He has also further extended the club’s all-time records in the following categories:

Points to 4,319

Blocks to 215

Wins to 226

In addition he is second all time in rebounding behind Mika Vukona and steals behind Dillon Boucher.

Surely Tom will be back in 2023-24 to play his 400th game and take those records to greater heights!

Will McDowell-White’s emergence as an elite point guard was a joy to behold. In addition to his 366 points he dished 200 assists and pulled down 175 rebounds.

He now has 390 career assists in 78 games at exactly 5 per game. That moves the Aussie into heady company as only Cedric Jackson, with 6.4 dimes per game, has a better Breakers career average. 

Those 390 assists already place him 8th on the Breakers all-time list which is led by Paul Henare (901).

Derek Pardon led the team in blocked shots (38) and rebounds (290). His 38 blocks in a single season have only been bettered by Ben Pepper, Ekene Ibekwe and Shawn Long.

Rob Loe has moved up the Breakers all-time list on a number of statistical categories during the season:

66 blocks – 7th all-time

145 appearances – 10th all-time

68 wins – 11th all-time

542 rebounds – 12th all-time

Roll on the 2023-24 season only seven months to wait!

Ella Bradley headlines March Madness wrap

March 16

March Madness is set to get hectic over the coming days as over 20 Kiwis take the court in different tournaments.

Check the fixture list in the attached story.

A belated congratulations to former Waikato and St Peter’s School standout Ella Bradley. She and her University of Texas at Tyler team emerged victorious from a titanic struggle against Lubbock Christian to reach the Elite Eight at the NCAA Division II National Championships.

Full story here:

Breakers on the receiving end of rough treatment?

March 10

There is all to play for this weekend as the Sky Sport Breakers take on the Sydney Kings in Games 3 and 4 of the NBL Grand Final with the five games series locked at 1-1.

The Breakers coaching staff and hierarchy have said nothing publicly but behind closed doors there must be some furrowed brows when they look at the box scores from the five NBL play-off games played to date involving the New Zealand team.

After all there are a couple of statistical categories in which the Breakers trail alarmingly. Over the three semi-final games against Tasmania Jack Jumpers and Games I and 2 against the Kings they trail the foul count 119-94. By that I mean the Breakers have been called for 25 more fouls than their opponents – an average of 5 per game.

Perhaps not surprisingly the trips to the foul line see the Breakers beaten up badly – 137 free throws taken by their opponents to 107 by the Breakers. A differential of 30 opportunities or 6 per game or almost a third more for the opposition.

It was equally lop sided overall in the regular season against the Kings. In game 1 back in November the count was almost even with Sydney called for one more foul (23 to 22) and the Breakers visiting the charity stripe on one more occasion (30-29).

Games two and three were a different matter entirely with the Breakers called for a total of 46 fouls compared with the Sydney-siders 27. As a result trips to the foul line were massively in favour of the Kings (55-32).

Michaela Aylen and Vaughan Mayberry are the best two NBL referees, of that there is no doubt, and one or both have officiated the Breakers play-off games thus far. But even they might be surprised by the discrepancies that have occurred on their watch!

Let’s hope the scales are more evenly balanced in the remaining games of this captivating Grand Final series.

It would be nice to put to one side the impression the NBL (and referees) favour the big market clubs in Melbourne and Sydney. 

Go Breakers!

March Madness Update #3

March 5

The Washington State Cougars dream run at the Pac 12 Conference Tournament has carried them all the way to the Grand Final.

Having seen off second seed, and number three ranked team in the nation, Utah in the quarter-finals they powered away from third seed Colorado (that included Charlotte Whittaker) in the fourth quarter to win 61-49. Charlisse Leger-Walker led the WSU scoring with 15 points to go with 3 rebounds, 2 assists and a steal. 

The reward for Washington State is a first ever championship game which will see them match up with UCLA on Monday after they ousted number one seed Stanford in the other semi-final.

Also headed for a first ever grand final are Wofford College. Helen Matthews had 5 points, 5 rebounds and a couple of assists as regular season champions Wofford beat UNC Greensboro to advance to the Southern Conference tournament championship game. Wofford will meet the number two ranked Chattanooga in the final on Sunday, the winner of course advancing to the NCAA Tournament beginning March 15.

Tayla Dalton scored 11 points, claimed 6 rebounds and dished 4 assists while Jade Kirisome, playing her 108th Division I game, made both her 3-point attempts for 6 points as St Mary’s College were beaten 82-77 by Pacific. The second round defeat eliminated St Mary’s from the West Coast Conference Tournament (WCCT).

There was better news from the WCCT with BYU working their way to the semi-finals with a 66-56 win against San Francisco. Arielle Mackey-Williams and Kaylee Smiler combined to make 6 from 7 threes. Mackey-Williams finished with 14 points while Smiler, playing her 101st game for BYU, scored 6 points.

University of California Irvine clinched a share of the Big West Conference regular season title with a 52-44 victory over CSU Bakersfield.

Freshman Akiva McBirney-Griffin, an NBL championship winner with Otago Nuggets in 2021, has enjoyed a solid freshman year earning 8 starts in his 28 appearances.

Flynn Cameron had 16 points and 5 assists as UC Riverside clinched third seed at the Big West Conference Tournament after a 73-72 overtime win at Cal Poly. The 5 assists pushed Cameron up to fifth spot on UCR’s single season record for assists made – he has 108 in 32 games in this campaign.

Older brother Tobias Cameron scored 10 points as Abilene Christian wrapped up Western Athletic Conference regular season play with a 72-54 defeat at the hands of Sam Houston.

Colorado State completed Mountain West regular season fixtures with a 92-84 victory over New Mexico. James Moors with 8 points, on 4 from 5 shooting, plus 5 rebounds in the win.

March Madness Update #2

March 2

Washington State have seen off second seed, and number three ranked team in the nation, Utah 66-58. Charlisse Leger-Walker finished with 15 points making 4 from 7 threes including a clutch effort with 8 seconds to play when WSU’s lead had been trimmed to just three-points.

The reward for Washington State is a semi-final match up with Charlotte Whittaker and the University of Colorado. Whittaker scored 4 points in their 62-54 defeat of Oregon State.

Those 4 points brought up 300 career points for the Cantabrian forward.

Helen Matthews filled the stats line as Southern Conference regular season champions Wofford College beat Western Carolina 71-56. Matthews finished with 11 points, 3 assists, 2 rebounds, a block and a steal in the Southern Conference tournament opening round.

Tayla Dalton scored 12 points and Jade Kirisome 5 points as St Mary’s eased to a 74-43 win against Loyola Marymount in the first round of the West Coast Conference Tournament.

Ashlee Strawbridge scored 8 points as New Mexico State (10-8) rounded out the regular season with a 70-64 win against Sam Houston.

In her 50th NCAA Division I game Grace Hunter scored 7 points as Cal State Bakersfield were defeated 52-46 by Long Beach State.

In NCAA Division II play Ella Bradley claimed 7 rebounds to accompany 11 points as the University of Texas at Tyler beat West Texas A&M 75-54 to reach the semi-finals of the Lone Star Conference Tournament.

Eckerd College bowed out at the semi-final stage of the Sunshine State Conference Tournament. Hannah Wentworth scored 6 points as #2 Eckerd went down 60-52 to #3 Lynn. 

Making a vital free-throw with just 4 seconds left on the clock Marvin Williams-Dunn (3 points) and Ouachita Baptist ousted top seed Southern Nazarene from the Great American Conference Tournament winning 70-67. Nazarene had won 15 games on the bounce and were ranked 11th nationally.

March Madness begins with Leger-Walker on song

March 1

Having been named to the 2023 All-Pac 12 team by both the Pac-12 coaches and the League’s media earlier in the week Charlisse-Leger Walker scored 23 points to ensure Washington State University made a winning start at the Pac 12 Tournament.

WSU beat Cal Berkeley 61-49 and will now match up against second seeds Utah. Leger-Walker’s 16th point in the game carried her past 1,400 career points – becoming the fifth Kiwi after Stella Beck (1,439), Megan Compain (1,497), Akiene-Tera Reed (1,624) and Erin Rooney (1,647) to have reached 1,400 points in NCAA Division I women’s basketball.

In other Pac 12 news Charlotte Whittaker and Colorado, seeded #3, will play the winner of the Oregon State and Southern California first round tie.

Emme Shearer scored 9 points as Portland University Pilots rounded out the regular season with a 61-49 win at BYU. The win was the 15th West Coast Conference victory of the season for Portland – a programme record.

As second seeds at the conference tournament Portland will enjoy a bye straight to the semi-finals.

McKenna Dale scored 4 points and claimed 6 rebounds as Virginia’s season came to an end. The Cavaliers were beaten 68-57 by Wake Forest in the first round of the Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament. Dale played in all 30 games as Virginia finished with a 15-15 record.

Sam Mennenga was once again the leading scorer for Davidson College (7-9) as they fell 75-70 to George Washington. Mennenga finished with 23 points (7/11FG, 6/6FT) to go with 8 rebounds and 4 assists. Mennenga now in striking distance of a 500-points season – currently with 460 points to his name.  

In NCAA Division II action Eckerd College are through to the semi-finals of the Sunshine State Conference tournament after dismantling Embry-Riddle 74-51. Hannah Wentworth was a major contributor with 17 points making 5 from 10 threes.

In case you missed the news from earlier in the week:

Wofford College Terriers (10-4) claimed a first ever Southern Conference regular season title with an 82-76 victory over Mercer. Helen Matthews put together an all-action display with 16 points (3/6 3PG), 9 rebounds and a career high 4 blocks in the win.

It’s not just the first title for the Terriers but the first by any women’s team sport at Wofford.

Ben Gold scored 4 points on 2 from 2 shooting as Marquette University Blue Demons pulled away for a 72-56 victory at Butler University. The win clinched Marquette’s first ever outright Big East Conference regular season title.

Given Marquette were picked ninth in the preseason poll it’s a remarkable result for the Blue Demons. Only in his freshman season Gold, a 2022 Tall Black, has been a contributor off the bench in every game. 

In NAIA Division 1 play Nico Hill and Missouri Baptist University clinched back to back American Mid-West Conference titles with a 12-4 record (16-12 overall).

The Taranaki native played all 28 games for the Spartans averaging 7.3 points and 4.4 rebounds per game.

Corey Le’aupepe and Menlo College failed to reach the Golden State Conference play-offs after finishing with a 7-11 record. However the former St Pat’s and Wellington forward had the satisfaction of bringing up 1,000 career points and Menlo in the final month of his collegiate career. He is only the 10th player in the programme’s history to reach the notable milestone.