The Northern Kāhu have brushed off a slow start to defeat the Mainland Pouākai 76-69 in Nelson on Saturday evening.
The Pouākai played solid defence in the first quarter and were capitalizing on opportunities at the other end to give them a 19-12 lead after 10 minutes of action. American import Trinity Baptiste carried on her fine form with 11 first quarter points to lead Mainland, while her counter-part Tahlia Tupaea had eight points to pace the Kāhu.
Mainland's defence was keeping Northern on the perimeter and they were being feisty enough to disrupt looks around the hoop, too. The Kāhu shot just 5-of-18 in the first quarter as a result.
The second quarter swung in the direction of the Kāhu, as they found their footing offensively and were doing a better job of limiting the inside opportunities of the Pouākai. After shooting 50% in the first quarter, Mainland's field goal percentage dropped to 37% at halftime and they trailed 25-29.
Turnovers were an issue for the Pouākai, too, with 16 giveaways in the first half. Tsubasa Nisbet provided a nice boost off the bench with eight points for the Pouākai, but forward Baptiste battled foul trouble, collecting three during the first 20 minutes of play and going scoreless in the second quarter.
The second quarter went handily in favour of the Kāhu 17-6.
American Erin Whalen lit up the third quarter for the Pouākai with 14 points to close the gap. As a team, Mainland turned the ball over just twice in the third after third a sloppy first half.
Tahlia Tupaea scored seven points in the third for the Kāhu to ensure they stayed in front, leading 50-46 heading to the fourth.
The fourth quarter was a back-and-forth tussle with both teams going on scoring runs. Tupaea took over the game down the stretch for the Kāhu - as she's done in previous games - calling for the ball and making plays all over the court to shut the door on the Pouākai. She had 24 points on 9-of-18 shooting for the game.
Aside from the one blemish in the second quarter, it was a solid performance from the Pouākai. They were without key players in Mary Goulding and Ella Fotu in this one, both representing New Zealand at the 3x3 FIBA Asia Cup. Baptiste avoided fouls in the second half and totaled a game-high 28 points on an incredible 11-of-12 shooting from the floor. The shooting percentage made more remarkable with some of the tough, contested shot she takes.
Erin Whalen had her best game of the season with 20, six rebounds and four assists with four 3-pointers. She's a player that can score on the perimeter with her outside jumper and she's got the strength to operate in the paint, too.
The win moves the Kāhu to 3-0 on the season and with a little breathing room on the rest of the pack. Their next game will be at home against the Whai on Wednesday - a highly anticipated matchup.
SCORE: Pouākai 69, Kāhu 76
Pouākai: Baptiste 28 PTS, 11-12 FG | Whalen 20 PTS, 6 REB, 4 AST
Kāhu: Tupaea 24 PTS | Cocks 15 PTS | Grays 15 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Tahlia Tupaea (Kāhu) - 10 votes
Micaela Cocks (Kāhu) - 7 votes
Trinity Baptiste (Pouākai) - 5 votes
Marte Grays (Kāhu) - 3 votes
Tsubasa Nisbet (Pouākai) - 2 votes
Tera Reed (Kāhu) - 2 votes
Erin Whalen (Pouākai) - 1 vote
Terai Elia (Pouākai) - 1 vote
Pouākai - July 12 vs. Queens
Kāhu - July 13 vs. Whai
Round 2 Tauihi Schedule