U15 and U19 national basketball champions crowned

By Basketball New Zealand

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

The finals of Basketball New Zealand Under 15 and Under 19 National Championships were played today, with Wellington, Harbour and Auckland Counties Manukau adding championships to their trophy cabinets.

Host team Wellington Boys and Harbour A Girls have won the 2016 Under-15 National Championship Tournament after two nail-biting finals took place at ASB Sports Hall.

While the Womens Under 19 Championship Final has been won by Harbour, and Auckland Counties Manukau winning the Under 19 Mens in Nelson.

Girls Under 15 National Championship Final

In a rematch of last years Under-15 Girls National Championship Tournament, Harbour A avenged their 2015 loss, beating Waikato 76-73 to win the national title in the first final of the day.

Two colossal individual performances from Girls Tournament MVP Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu and her team mate Jessica Moors helped bring home Harbours championship, with Kailahi-Fulu recording 29 points, 25 rebounds and three blocks, and Moors rounding out the game with 22 points, 16 boards and six assists.

It was a bumpy start for Harbour as foul trouble for the Kailahi-Fulu sisters, Zaaliyah and Jazzmyne, led to the duo sitting for a large chunk of the first quarter, which had been a theme of the tournament for Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu.

"I was in foul trouble in most of our games for the past day or two and I was just really mad at myself, knowing that I can do better with my fouls," said Kaihali-Fulu.

Despite missing their two starters, Harbour were able to keep Waikato within touching-distance, trailing 15-11 after 10 minutes thanks to captain Emilia Shearers dogged play.

When Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu returned to the game in the second quarter, she did so with a vengeance, recording a double-double after just 11 minutes on the floor but Waikato refused to give up the lead.

Centre Dominique Stephens hauled in 11 boards and Waikato skipper Quaye Walker-Eketone contributed 12 first-half points to hand Waikato a 29-26 lead at half time.

Three minutes into the second half Harbour regained the lead and, behind influential quarters from forward Jessica Moors and Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu, dominated the period with a 29-16 score to be up 45-55 after three quarters.

Waikato sparked a comeback to start the final period, getting within two points of Harbour even after Walker-Eketone was fouled-out just three minutes into the fourth quarter.

Stephens, who finished the match with 12 points and 16 rebounds, worked hard for Waikato as they dug their way back into the match - an effort which was helped when Harbour captain Emilia Shearer picked up her fifth foul.

Waikato made five successive free-throws to bring the game back within one point, though, as she had done all afternoon, Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu steadied Harbours ship, grabbing an offensive rebound and hitting the put-back basket as the clock wound down to full time, seeing Harbour as the 2016 national champions, which was overwhelming for rookie head coach Millie Nathan.

"Its crazy. This is my first time head-coaching. I was the assistant, but came head coach when the other head coach became pregnant so she couldnt come. But its crazy, these girls are amazing. Im so happy," said Nathan not long after the final play.

Final Score: Harbour 76 - 73 Waikato

Under 15 Boys National Championship Final

On the Boys side of the tournament, host city Wellington defeated Harbour A 95-83 to win the Under-15 Boys National Championship Tournament.

Finishing second in their pool after losing to Otago and coming tenth in last years under-15 nationals, Wellington wouldnt have been many peoples picks to win it all but, as they had done all tournament, they came out as unlikely victors.

It was a slow start for Wellington as big man Umuumu Kaufusi picked up two quick fouls, seeing Harbour coast to an 18-5 lead through Cian Emerys eight first-quarter points.

Off the bench Wellingtons Jared Hunter was able to drain a pair of triples, including one on the buzzer, to reduce Harbours lead to four after the first 10 minutes of play. Ezra Vaigafa, the Wellington guard and tournament MVP, said the bench was vital to the teams win.

"The bench were our success. They kept on hyping us throughout the game when we were down, doing chants for us, which made us play together. This win was for them. Im proud to be their teammates," said Vaigafa.

As was the case in the first quarter, Harbour again had the better start, restoring a healthy 11-point advantage as Logan Gibb warmed into the game.

Harbours lead would remain in double-digits as the two sides headed into the half time break with Harbour up 43-33 behind Captain Dominic Chens 11 points and Wellingtons 16 turnovers in the opening 20 minutes.

Wellington managed to tidy up their ball-handling and got back into the game, taking the lead six minutes into the third quarter after Vaigafa kicked into gear, getting to the charity stripe with ease.

Harbour fought back as the third quarter came to a close, heading into the final quarter up 56-53 as their bench provided valuable minutes.

A real see-saw of a quarter ensued with both sides making tough shots and getting to the free-throw line.

Wellington would break the back-and-forth trend with consecutive three-pointers to Emmerson Kavakura and Vaigafa to jump to a 76-70 lead with 4:30 to play as the Wellington crowd began to get behind their team.

Spurred on by the fans noise, Vagafa performance began to stand out as he hounded on defence and merciless on attack. Vaigafa was the go-to guy for Wellington as they built a seven-point lead with 1:30 to play, though Kaufusi had the fans favourite moment as the big man corralled a missed shot, dribbled down the court and finished the coast-to-coast play which sealed the win.

Vaigafas 38 points, nine rebounds and six assists, including 15/20 from the free-throw line, carried Wellington to the end in a true MVP performance, though the personal award meant nothing to the guard after winning the championship.

"MVP feels good but I was just happy to win. I havent won a championship for Wellington and the fact that its in our home town - its a good feeling," said Vaigafa.

Also important to the win was Emmerson Kavakura who displayed great dribbling skills on his way to 16 points and four rebounds, while Chen was Harbours best with 20 points and eight boards.

Speaking after the win, Wellington coach Jayden Smith was delighted with how his team came together despite being underdogs throughout the tournament.

"They just dug deep. They never gave up. There was always that attitude to compete and believe that we can go far. There was no hype around us, no-one thought we were going to go this far, but hey, here we are, top of the pedestal," said Smith.

Final Score: Wellington 95 - 83 Harbour A

Womens Under 19 National Championship Final

The Womens Under 19 Championship Final has been won by Harbour.

The final began with the perfect start for Waikato as Alyssa Hirawani stole the tip and quickly took it the distance for an extremely quick 2-0 lead. Harbour swiftly navigated Waikatos full court press, and answered with a Tabitha Jenkins layup. Coach Anthony Corbans team didnt stop there, as his charges were able to expertly penetrate against the switching Harbour defence, often straight down the middle.

Further damaging Harbours strategy was two quick fouls called on Katie Diakhaby, who was forced to leave the game after only 80 seconds. Bronwen Davidson was able to get her Harbour team focused on each possession the rest of the quarter, fighting back to level the scores at 17 apiece at the end of the first quarter. The second quarter saw Harbour grab a small lead, but were stuck on 22 points for five minutes of game-time. Waikato wasnt able to capitalise as much as they would have liked here, going into the half with a 33-29 scoreline deficit separating the two teams.

The second half saw another defensive battle begin to take place, with neither team able to put any points on the board over an almost four-minute stretch. Both teams then traded baskets until Zara Jillings hit two straight from deep. This helped put her Harbour team up by ten points, before Kendall Heremaia scored the last five points of the quarter for Waikato, cutting the Harbour lead in half, 46-41.

By midway through the fourth quarter Harbour had built themselves a 10-point lead again, only for the tenacity of Heremaia to keep her team in touch yet again, with a big three to cut the lead to five. Diakhaby was then able to get to the bucket and score for Harbour, only for Heremaia to immediately answer, as well as grabbing a steal. Waikato couldnt capitalise here, but on the other end, Harbour couldnt put them away either. Waikato would eventually convert a free throw with 39 seconds to go, cutting the Harbour lead to four points. It wasnt to be though, as a clutch steal from Zara Jillings sealed the game for North Harbour, along with the ensuing free throws, essentially finishing off any Waikato hope.

Zara Jillings finished with an impressive line of 20 points, 11 rebounds, with support from Tabitha Jenkins (10 points), Coola Tayla Baudry (8 points, 15 rebounds), and Katie Diakhaby (8 points, 3 blocks). Waikatos Kendell Heremaia finished off an excellent tournament with 25 points and 16 rebounds, with Alyssa Hirawani adding 10 points and 9 rebounds.

Final Score Harbour 61-53 Waikato

Mens Under 19 National Championship Final

The mens final showcased a distinct contrast in styles - Canterbury often sitting in a zone defence, banking on their athleticism to rebound missed shots from Auckland Counties Manukau (ACM), while ACM was more comfortable using man to man against the South Island team. Initial impressions indicated ACM was going to shoot the Cantabrians out of their defence of choice, with their first two baskets both coming from behind the arc, courtesy of Zarne Leiluia-Hughes. An entertaining quarter of action followed, with neither team able to clear away from the other, however foul trouble affected both teams as Lesae Coe and Toby Gillooly both took early seats after picking up their second personal foul each. ACM taking the early advantage as they hit the first break up by four 25-21.

A six-minute dry spell in the second quarter significantly reduced Canterburys margin for error, as their normally reliable outside shooting struggled (only going 2/11 from three in the half), partially due to the effort that ACMs Samuel Aruwa and Sioeli Vaiangina put in, when challenging their opponents shots behind the arc. Anthony Keungs team kept the foot on the pedal, executing well as they held Canterbury to only nine points in the quarter, giving themselves a comfortable 48-30 edge at the half.

Canterburys coaches Paul Isitt and Mo Corkery got their team coming out with more effort to start the third, exemplified by Matt Dukes hitting a three only a few seconds into the game. An attempt to cause some issues for the ACM offense by instituting a press fell flat, as Vaiangina was able to flush a nice alley-oop down to cap off a perfectly executed ACM press break. ACM was also starting to punish the Canterbury team on the glass when they did happen to miss a shot in the third. Canterburys Sam Lees helped engineer a mini four point run to end the quarter, limiting the scoreline damage, but still saw ACM with a 66-53 lead, with only ten minutes to go.

ACM kept Canterbury at bay in the fourth, as every time the lead dropped down to ten, somebody from ACM would find a way to score a bucket. With 4:00 to go, it was do or die time, and a Dukes three, followed up by an old fashioned three point play courtesy of Gillooly, gave last years champions some hope. That was as close as ACM would let them get thoug, as any cracks were unable to be exploited, with ACM holding off a late charge and winning the 2016 National Championship.

ACM had a nice balance in the game, led by Zarne Leuluia-Huges 20 points. Sioeli Vaiangina (15 points, 8 rebounds, 3 blocks), Connor Woodbridge (12 points, 4/6 from three), and Samuel Aruwa (10 points, 9 rebounds) all made key plays when their team needed them. For Canterbury, Sam Lees stood out (27 points, 7 rebounds, 7 steals, 6 assists), with Toby Gillooly (13 points) and Matt Dukes (12 points) aiding in the points column, but not shooting a percentage they usually expect.

Final Score: Auckland Counties Manukau 82-73 Canterbury.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand

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