The Northern Kāhu have powered past the Mainland Pouākai 84-71 at Eventfinda Stadium to finish the season with a 10-2 record.
The Pouākai came out the gate hot, especially American import Erin Whalen with 11 points on a perfect 4-of-4 shooting (2-of-2 from three) in the first quarter to help her team to a 22-18 lead.
The Kāhu stumbled out the gate with a 7-of-17 shooting clip in the first. Captain Micaela Cocks helped keep Northern close with seven points, and five turnovers from Mainland meant the deficit was only four for the home side.
Momentum shifted in the second quarter with the Kāhu outscoring the Pouākai 22-14. Mainland cooled off from the field, shooting just 13-of-31 overall in the first half. However, they were 5-of-8 from downtown and were doing a solid job on the Kāhu defensively, holding them to 13-of-32 from the floor. The Pouākai's 10 turnovers weren't helping their case, though.
Northern were doing their damage at the line (12-of-15) and were being led by Tahlia Tupaea and Micaela Cocks with 13 points a piece. They had a 40-36 lead at halftime thanks to a late flurry of points to end the second quarter.
The Kāhu extended their lead in the third quarter, leading 69-58 heading into the fourth. Tupaea was up to 19 points and fellow import Marte Grays had 18. For the Pouākai, Whalen was doing her best to keep them in it with 19 and Trinity Baptiste already had herself a double-double with 16 & 11.
Mainland shot just 9-of-17 from the free throw line through three quarters, and a better effort from the charity stripe could have had them in a much better spot with 10 minutes to play. On the other side, the Kāhu were 17-of-20.
It looked as though the Kāhu would run away with it in the fourth quarter but the Pouākai showed some fight. Northern led by as much as 18 in the quarter, but an 8-0 run by Mainland made it interesting in the closing minutes. In the end the Kāhu were too strong and managed to separate themselves from the Pouākai at the free throw line.
Northern shot a tidy 10-of-22 from the stripe while the Pouākai were 13-of-23. Head coach Tully Bevilaqua will not be please with that effort from the free throw line, and there's no doubt that'll be a point of emphasis for Mainland ahead of the Final 4 next week.
The Pouākai shot 42% from the field but their 17 turnovers were a back breaker. It stopped them from creating any momentum in the second half to get back into the game, and it's something that has hindered them at times throughout the season. Trinity Baptiste was solid despite the loss with 18 points and 11 rebounds, and Erin Whalen scored 19 points.
The Kāhu were able to establish their dominance in the second half and play the game their way - a paint heavy approach with a goal of getting to the free throw line and creating contact. Tahlia Tupaea was again productive for Northern with 21 points, six rebounds, four assists, two steals and two blocks, and fellow MVP candidate Micaela Cocks dropped 22 points with seven dimes.
With a 10-2 record and the No. 1 spot in hand, the Kāhu head into next week's Final 4 ready to go and confident they can get the job done. They'll play the Whai in one semi-final, while the Pouākai will face the Tokomanawa Queens in the other semi.
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SCORE: Kāhu 84, Pouākai 71
Kāhu: Tupaea 21 PTS, 6 REB, 2 STL, 2 BLK | Cocks 22 PTS, 7 AST | Grays 22 PTS
Pouākai: Baptiste 18 PTS, 11 REB | Whalen 19 PTS
Full box score HERE.
Stuff MVP Votes
Micaela Cocks (Kāhu) - 9 votes
Marte Grays (Kāhu) - 7 votes
Tahlia Tupaea (Kāhu) - 6 votes
Erin Whalen (Pouākai) - 5 votes
Trinity Baptiste (Pouākai) - 3 votes