Two dramatic finals carried Waikato and Canterbury Combined to their respective 2017 Under 19 National Championships at North Shore Events Centre on Tuesday.
Canterbury Combined came from 17 points down at three-quarter time to steal a 94-89 victory against Auckland in the Men’s Championship game.
The Women’s Final was equally exciting, Waikato defeating Canterbury Combined 65-64, with the game decided on the last play of the game.
In the Women’s Final a Sapphire Wairau triple gave Canterbury the early lead and although Kaylee Smiler made a couple of early baskets for Waikato, Canterbury held a 21-13 first quarter advantage.
Esra McGoldrick, who finished with a massive double double (16 points and 24 rebounds) was the chief Waikato tormentor in the opening stages.
Amiee Book and Wairau made a couple of threes early in the second but Smiler and Charlisse Leger-Walker replied in kind to keep Waikato in touch.
Charlotte Whittaker stretched the Cantabs advantage to ten points but an 8-0 Waikato run, fuelled by a strong defensive patch, reduced the deficit.
Canterbury finished the half slightly ahead with a 33-30 advantage – Leger-Walker led all scorers with 13 points, McGoldrick matching that number in rebounds.
Book and Lauryn Hippolite kept Canterbury ahead but Leger-Walker and Smiler chipped away at the advantage.
A Kendell Heremaia put back reduced the arrears to one and when Leger-Walker increased her personal tally Waikato had its first lead of the game. McGoldrick neutralized that to tie the scores at 47 apiece with ten minutes to play.
Book and Hayley Ellis dropped threes to begin the final stanza before a Whittaker jump shot edged the red and blacks back into the lead, 55-54 at the back end of the fourth.
Book kept Canterbury ahead 63-60 with under two to play and time was running out for Waikato.
Following a time out called by coach Anthony Corban with 48 seconds to play the shot was entrusted with Heremaia, who hadn’t had the best of shooting games.
The Fordham University bound forward made no mistake with the three point attempt and on the next possession MVP Charlisse Leger-Walker scored the go-ahead basket.
There was drama at the end as Heremaia went from hero to possibl villain fouling Amiee Book as the clock expired. Unfortunately, after a fine game, Book only made one of the resulting free throws and Waikato edged the closest of games 65-64.
Heremaia said she felt reasonably relaxed stepping up for the critical shot in the final minute.
“I thought what the heck, it was a lucky shot,” she said modestly.
As for the late foul that could have cost her team dearly, she was annoyed with herself.
“I just thought oh no I that’s a dumb play. I knew I shouldn’t have done that – it was just a bad idea, said the Junior Tall Fern.
The Men's Final began with a three point barrage from Thomas Whyte (three in the quarter) to propel Auckland to a 30-17 lead against Canterbury Combined.
Max de Geest and Quinn Clinton found the basket for Canterbury but Tom Higgins and Anzac Rissetto produced points in the paint taking Auckland out to 46-28 at the mid point of the second.
Max Darling and Hayden Collier made baskets late in the quarter but Auckland on the back of a combined 38 points from the Tom’s, Whyte and Higgins led 58-41 at the interval - Auckland shooting an impressive 54% (21/39FG).
Randy Sjafrie extended the Auckland lead to twenty points before a couple of Hamish McDonald incisions gave Canterbury some hope.
A couple of Jack Morrison baskets and a pair of threes from Marvin Williams-Dunn and Whyte took Auckland to the cusp of the title leading 82-65 at the three-quarter break.
How that changed in the fourth!
Canterbury began the final period with a 10-0 run to haul themselves back into contention. Whyte made a basket for Auckland, their first of the quarter but Canterbury had all the momentum narrowing to 84-82 thanks to another Clinton score.
A Darling dunk and the scores were tied with 3:40 to play.
De Geest from the corner and remarkably Canterbury were ahead for the first time in the game, 86-84, with 2:56 to play.
Persistent work under the boards from Higgins tied the game, but de Geest replied much to the delight of the Canterbury support.
Darling dropped a couple of freebies to extend the Canterbury lead to four points, McDonald drew the offensive foul and the composed Clinton sealed a dramatic comeback, Canterbury winning 94-89.
Clinton, the Tournament MVP threatened a triple double finishing with 34 points, 16 rebounds and 9 assists.
“The team never gave up hope and we knew if we chipped away we could make a run. Even when down we didn’t get frustrated we held it together, stuck together and we won,” said Clinton.
“We had self belief, we’ve trained hard and it shows, we kept fighting for each other. We have an unselfish team, everyone plays their role.
“It’s my first national title and it feels pretty sweet, added Clinton.
Waikato 65 – Leger-Walker 31/10r, Smiler 13, Heremaia 8/9r, Poulava 6
Canterbury Combined 64 – Whittaker 17/13r, McGoldrick 16/24r, Book 14, Wairau 12
Women’s 3rd/4th play-off
Waitakere West 70 Taranaki 60
Canterbury Combined 94 – Clinton 34/16r/9a, Darling 19/11r, de Geest 14, Collier 8, McDonald 8
Auckland 89 – Higgins 27/14r, Whyte 26 (6/103PG) Rissetto 10, Williams-Dunn 8
Men’s 3rd/4th play-off
Manawatu 71 Waitakere West 68
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