Final 4 Preview

Photo credit: Masanori Udagawa

A furious regular season has come to its conclusion, setting up a Final 4 in Porirua between the top four teams who will come into the weekend confident of taking home the hardware if things go their way. The BNZ Northern Kāhu are odds on favourites after finally getting over the line against the Tokomanawa Queens in Round 8, but no team comes with a seamless path to the title. Injury clouds and late season personnel changes will force gameplans to be tweaked and unsung heroes to step into the spotlight as the race to the trophy concludes. 

BNZ Northern Kāhu | 1st seed | 9-3 regular season record 

Key Stats:

85.9 points per game (1st in league) 

Tess Madgen - 22.6 PTS, 8.4 AST, 4.4 REB, 37.9 MIN 

27.3 free throws per game (1st) 

IImar’I Thomas - 26.2 PPG, 8.5 REB, 64.6 FG%, 36.2 MIN

19.5 assists per game 1st  

Tera Reed - 17.1 PPG, 7.6 REB, 3.2 AST, 45% 3PT FG%, 35.1 MIN

34.2% 3 point field goals (2nd) 

49.8% 2 point field goals (2nd)  

75% free throws (2nd) 


The Kāhu have been the most consistent team in the league from the opening tip of the season, finishing even more strongly as they blended in the talents of Tess Madgen and adjusted to life without Tahlia Tupaea. While the interior play of II’marI Thomas and Penina Davidson has been a focal point of the offence, the squad has found a higher rate of pace with with the addition of Madgen joining Krystal Leger-Walker and Tera Reed who all able to push the tempo and ignite transition offence. They get to the free throw line with ease and even when other aspects of the O slow down the scoreboard will continually tick over with trips to the stripe.

The versatility of the offence will be tough to match but the defence can be just as pesky, Leger-Walker is a ball hawk and highlights the team's ability to pressure up the court while they also have the physicality to stack up any opponent in the post. KLW and Madgen are excellent at the point of attack and the speed on the wing can pounce on passing lanes to create turnovers leading to easy buckets. The depth behind the starters is there, but hasn’t been given much opportunity lately as the lineup has tightened down the stretch of the season. If foul trouble hits, Awatea Leach, Azure Anderson and Eliana Tuaiti provide the skills needed to fill in when called upon but this is a team that will rely on the starting 5 who have proven to be a formidable test for all comers. 

How they can win: Stout defence forcing turnovers will ignite the fast break for easy buckets while the half court offence is powered by the high-low combination of Thomas and Davidson. They overpower defenders as a unit and force teams to deeper into their bench with foul trouble. 

How they can lose: The current starters are yet to lose a game together so it will be a tough task but the Whai showed a pathway by forcing turnovers and using pace and space to drop threes and fatigue a team that has been more reliant on its starters as the season concluded. 

Key performer: Tess Madgen - Her two-way play has lifted a team that was already a title favourite and her even keeled ways keep a team that feeds off their emotions from getting too far astray from the game plan. With the ball in hand she seems to always make the right play and has the ability to score on anyone from anywhere.  

ANZCO Tokomanawa Queens | 2nd seed | 6-6 regular season record 

Key Stats:  

80 points per game (3rd)  

Chrislyn Carr - 23 PTS, 6.5 REB, 58.8 FG%, 35.6 MIN 

12.9 assists per game (last) 

Stephanie Watts - 15.2 PTS, 7.1 REB, 1.4 STL , 31.3 MIN

6.4 threes made per game (last) 

Stella Beck - 14.7 PPG, 6.6 REB, 3.6 AST, 60.9 FG%, 33.6 MIN

50.5% two point field goals (1st)  


The Queens have been a hit and miss proposition this season who at their best can score on anyone. Chrislyn Carr and Stephanie Watts offer penetrative scoring with the ball in hand that can ring up points in a hurry, but at times the offence has gotten stagnant, relying on isolation scoring at the expense of ball movement. When they get predictable defences load up on the paint and force contested threes that haven’t fallen at the rate needed to change opponents defensive strategies. Stella Beck has improved her scoring down the stretch and her efficiency (60.9 FG%) leaves her as a relatively untapped resource when the halfcourt offence gets grindy. At times they have been overpowered in the post despite the best efforts of the french connection, Paris Lokotui and Parris Mason, who play a physical brand of ball that force defenders into foul trouble. Josie Trousdell offers another post who can inject scoring and hustle when the Queens need a lift.

The last minute addition of Kalani Purcell has provided dividends in limited minutes, and her presence in the low post is a must against the low post skills of the other teams in the Final Four. Her minutes will be limited, but will likely increase over the weekend to keep teams from attacking the glass to gain extra possessions. Grace Hunter may be the teams biggest threat from behind the arc and her shooting will be well utilised off the bench to inject a perimeter threat and keep the driving lanes open. Ball movement will be key to keep defenders unbalanced and get the offence to play at its peak, but the skill of Carr can ensure that even when not playing at its best the offence is among the most dangerous in the competition.  

How they can win: Control the glass to ignite the break while they use their physicality to find extra opportunities on the glass when the offence gets stagnant.   

How they can lose: Lack of ball movement forces the team to become predictable and over reliant on the isolation game, allowing defences to stack themselves against penetration while daring the Queens to hit from deep.  

Key performer: Chrislyn Carr - the All-Star 5 member can score on anyone from anywhere with a shifty game that forces defences to concentrate their efforts to slow her down, but has yet to find one that keeps her from getting to the rack. 

Southern Hoiho | 3rd seed | 7-5 regular season record 

Key Stats:  

73.3 points per game (last) 

Paige Bradley -14.3 PTS, 5.6 REB, 8 APG, 35.1 MIN

12.7 offensive rebounds per game (1st) 

Zoe Richards - 16.8 PPG, 8.9 REB, 61.3 2PT FG%, 35.3 MIN

44.3% field goals (last) 

Ahlise Hurst - 17.1 PTS, 2.2 REB, 1.2 AST, 47.5 FG%, 35.5 MIN

26.4% three point field goals (last) 


 The Hoiho squad is a bit of a wild card, having had just one game and a couple weeks of training to devise new strategies for an offence that was built around league MVP Ashten Prechtel. Without her presence down low they will look to Zoe Richards to carry more of the load offensively in the post and draw defenders attention to free up the perimeter shooting of Paige Bradley and Ahlise Hurst. The shooting has proven to be streaky at best, and the aforementioned trio has the ability to fill it up, but can also be corralled as evidenced by 12-of-47 shooting by everyone not named Zoe in the final round loss to the Whai.

No team has been more reliant on its starting 5 and the return of Samara Gallaher is key to Hoiho chances in the postseason. Even without Prechtel they have bigs that can trouble opponents on the glass with physicality in Sophie Adams and Jennifer O’Connell, but overall the options off the bench are limited, with Gracie Roberts-Hare and Tyler Mitchell the most called upon options. Roberts-Hare can lift the intensity defensively and offer rim attacks while Mitchell has looked more comfortable offensively as the season has progressed as she’s bombed away from deep. But without the MVP this is a team that can’t afford mistakes and will need to value possession and control the pace, more than they did to finish the regular season, to get the best out of what is left in the cupboard. 

How they can win: Find form from deep to pull defenders away from the paint to open up space for Richards inside. Controlling the glass on both ends will keep teams from running while lifting an offence that hasn’t been the most efficient. 

How they can lose: Their depth will be tested by teams looking to push the pace against a team that has looked more comfortable in the halfcourt game. If the offence fails to find the form from deep it could be a long night for the offence. 

Key performer: Ahlise Hurst - For the Hoiho to find postseason success she has to find the range from deep. If she gets hot early defences will shift and allow for more freedom of movement for her opponents. 

Whai | 4th seed | 6-6 regular season record 

Key Stats:  

80.3 points per game (2nd) 

Mikayla Cowling - 23.3 PTS, 9.9 REB, 4.1 AST, 90.7 FT%, 35.6 MIN 

37.2 rebounds per game (last) 

Aaliyah Wilson - 12.7 PTS, 5.9 REB, 47.3 FG%, 30.3 MIN 

9.6 steals per game (1st) 

McKenna Dale - 16 PTS, 5.8 REB, 3.8 AST, 38.2 3PT%, 33.9 MIN

34.9 threes attempted per game (1st) 


When the Whai play at their highest level they can match any opponent on both ends of the court. Defensive Player of the Year and member of the All-Star 5, Mikayla Cowling, is perhaps the best all around player in the league, featuring an inside-outside scoring versatility and ball hawking defence that creates opportunities for one of the fastest paced teams in the comp. No team is more equipped to drop bombs from deep with the shooting of McKenna Dale and Sarah Sagerer forcing defenders to leave the paint to keep their eyes from getting in. When those threes fall it opens up the lanes for Aaliyah Wilson to attack the rim and gives space for Cowling to post up mis-matches (or just matchups as she can score either way). If Sagerer is still nursing a sore back (after missing most of the two games in the final round) the Whai depth takes a hit, but the overall team speed lifts and 40 minutes of pace in their final round matchup with the Kāhu proved they are still a formidable opponent.

Jade Kirisome and Matangiroa Flavell have lifted the play of the bench, especially defensively, and along with Alyssa Hiriwani offer more perimeter shooting to stretch defences to their breaking point. The Rapid League MVP Pahlyss Hokianga is a wild card, with her best game offering some nice scoring punch off the bench, but for the most part the team will look to the veterans to carry the load. The Whai will push the pace to wear down their opponents, but the three ball is the key, if they are hitting from deep they can beat anyone, but if not on from range things become decidedly more difficult. 

How they can win: Run! - This team is dangerous at speed with their pace forcing defences to scramble and recover against a team that is built to attack closeouts 

How they can lose: A lack of size on the glass has been an issue throughout the season, and if their opponents get the upper hand on the offensive boards it becomes much tougher to find success in the transition game. 

Key performer: Aaliyah Wilson - Her scoring ability has been an underutilised weapon during the regular season but for the Whai to find their best form she will need to punish defences for giving extra attention to Cowling or over rotating to shooters on the perimeter.   


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