Category Archives: College Hoops

Harbour players still flying NZ flag at national tournaments in the States

zara jillings

Despite all the Kiwis bowing out in the first round of the Big Dance there are still players involved at the sharp end of a couple of major tournaments in American college basketball.

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Kiwis bow out early from Big Dance

Jack Salt

The involvement of the Kiwis in the NCAA Tournament ended in stunning fashion on Saturday when the University of Maryland, Baltimore County, stunned Jack Salt and the University of Virginia Cavaliers. Virginia became the first No 1 seed to lose to a No 16 seed in NCAA Men’s Tournament history, bundled out 74-51.

Last week we were celebrating a record eight New Zealanders heading for the Big Dance. On Saturday the dancing shoes were thrown in the closet for 2018 as all eight suffered first round exits.

On Friday Oklahoma Sooners (Matt Freeman) and Miami Hurricanes (Sam Waardenburg) were shown the door.

If that was disappointing Saturday’s action quickly changed from a quick step to a slow waltz as team after team struggled to keep pace with their opponents.

In early action on Saturday, Northern Colorado (Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke), Cal State Northridge (Tessa Boagni) and Cal Berkeley (Penina Davidson) left the stage.

Soon after Jacinta Beckley (Seattle University) became the fifth and final Kiwi woman to bow out.

New Zealand’s hopes of second round representation then rested on the broad shoulders of Salt but he and the Cavaliers missed their steps badly and became the victims of arguably the biggest upset in Men’s Tournament history.

The disappointment for Boagni, Davidson and Beckley will be the most acute as all three are seniors and their successful four-year college careers now come to an end.

For the other five, and the numerous other Kiwis on NCAA Division 1 teams, the practice routines for the 2019 Big Dance will soon get under way.

Kiwi women exit Big Dance after first round


Last week’s ‘Super Sunday’ when a record five Kiwi women reached the NCAA Women’s Basketball Tournament is replaced by ‘Sad Saturday’ as all five bowed out in the first round of the Big Dance today.

The individual performance of the day belonged to Tessa Boagni. Despite another massive performance from the Big West Tournament MVP Cal State Northridge Matadors went out 99-81 against Notre Dame.

The former Christchurch Girls High standout finished with 23 points (11/14FG), 13 rebounds and 3 blocks for the Matadors. Boagni has finished her career in style. She led the Matadors to a Big West Conference Championship and across the last nine games, since mid February, has averaged 20 points and 9 rebounds per game.

The University of California Berkeley were without Kristine Anigwe, their leading rebounder and scorer for their encounter with Virginia.

Penina Davidson picked up the slack in the paint recording 10 rebounds and 3 blocks plus 2 points but Cal couldn’t quite overcome the loss of Anigwe. The scores were tied at 57 apiece with two minutes to play but Cal were outscored down the stretch losing 68-62. The senior forward finished the season averaging 7.4 points and 7 rebounds for Cal.

Also finishing her career with a loss was Jacinta Beckley. Seattle University Redhawks were up against it facing Oregon Ducks, the Pac-12 champions with a 30-4 record this season and ranked No 6 in the country. As anticipated Seattle struggled throughout and were eventually beaten 88-45. Beckley, playing her last game for Seattle, finished with 6 points but does have a Western Athletic Conference winners-medal to cherish.

Like Seattle it was a first ever appearance at the Big Dance for Northern Colorado Bears. The Bears, featuring Krystal Leger-Walker and Tiarna Clarke, found the going too tough against seventh seeded Michigan losing 75-61. Leger-Walker had 4 points and 4 assists with freshman guard Tiarna Clarke knocking down 2 from 3 threes for 6 points for the Big Sky champions.

Agony for Freeman and Waardenburg at NCAA Tournament


Both Sam Waardenburg and Matt Freeman, and their respective teams Miami Hurricanes and Oklahoma Sooners, exited the NCAA Tournament in disappointing and dramatic circumstances today.

Miami Hurricanes went down 64-62 to Loyola Chicago and Oklahoma Sooners fell 83-78 to Rhode Island in overtime.

Waardenburg looked to have helped the University of Miami to a narrow win when he secured a defensive rebound with 9 seconds left to play. However a one-and-one free throw opportunity was missed by the Hurricanes allowing Loyola Chicago to steal the win with a three virtually on the buzzer. It was certainly a heart breaking way to finish the season for the 22-10 Hurricanes.

the winning shot

Waardenburg didn’t score any points but he did post a more than useful 4 assists, 2 rebounds, 1 block and one steal in his first appearance at the Big Dance.

Oklahoma, semi-finalists in 2016, went out with an overtime loss despite 28 points and 7 assists from dynamic freshman point guard Trae Young. The scores were locked at 69 apiece after regulation time.

Freeman, the Sooners sophmore forward, didn’t take the court as his team finished the season with an 18-14 record.

Jack Salt, the sole Kiwi left playing in the men’s tournament and all five New Zealanders in the women’s tournament will be in first round action tomorrow.

Saturday March 17, 10.00am, California State Northridge (Tessa Boagni) v Notre Dame

Saturday March 17, 10.00am, Northern Colorado (Krystal Leger-Walker & Tiarna Clarke) v Michigan

Saturday March 17, 10.00am, California Berkeley (Penina Davidson) v Virginia

Saturday March 17, Noon, Seattle (Jacinta Beckley) v Oregon

Saturday March 17, 2.20pm Virginia (Jack Salt) v Maryland, Baltimore County

Five Kiwi women dancing to the NCAA Division 1 Tournament


Today we feature the record number of New Zealand women heading to the NCAA Division 1 Women’s Basketball Tournament. In addition we recap the news on the three Kiwi men also heading to the Big Dance.

Penina Davidson and the Cal Berkeley Golden Bears were provided with an invitation from the NCAA Selection Committee. Their addition takes to five the number of women involved in the 2018 Tournament beginning later this week.

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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.