Round 6 – Preview

Photo credit: Masanori Udagawa

Whai vs. ANZCO Tokomanawa Queens - Thursday, 7:30 pm

Key Stats:



9 steals per game (1st in league)

6.4 steals per game (last in league)

4.3 blocks per game (1st)

4.2 blocks per game (2nd)

10.4 threes made per game (1st)

6.6 threes made per game (4th)

Sitting at the bottom of the ladder and two points behind the Pouākai, the Whai face two games that could make or break the season in the penultimate round of the season. At their best they are a powerful half court offence, using the shooting of Sarah Sagerer and McKenna Dale to clear space for the scoring prowess of Aaliyah Wilson off the bounce and Mikayla Cowling wherever she pleases. Depth of scoring continues to be an issue with Jade Kirisome and Pahlyss Hokianga the most consistent contributors, but the inconsistency of support has led to purple patches where the ball just doesn’t find the net often enough to keep pace with the top offences in Tauihi. The defence is pesky, and the top team in the league in swipes can create easy chances in transition to avoid getting caught in a slower halfcourt game. They make more threes than the rest of the league and when they catch fire from deep they look a powerful offense that can score with anyone, but time is running out to find a way to shoot with enough consistently to play their way into a playoff berth.

The Queens are coming off two games that varied wildly, in particular the performance of the import trio that delivered 26 points in a loss and 52 points in a win. That production may become more difficult to replicate as Maya Dodson, coming off a season-high 18-point 12-rebound performance, will return home with a lower leg aggravation that leaves the Queens searching for a top level talent on the interior that has to play the final three games of the season to gain finals eligibility. A player that can contribute on Dodson’s level can be tough to find, but the addition of Kalani Purcell is a coup that may end up being a league winning move if she can combine with the skill of Chrislyn Carr, who continues to power the offensive engine. Stella Beck is coming off her best game of the season and Paris Lokotui continues to prove a handful in the low post, but may be required to perform at a higher level more consistently with the Dodson Departure. Last in the league in assists (13.2 per game), the Queens are at times reliant on the ability of Carr and Stephanie Watts to create individual success with the ball in hand, allowing teams to load up in the paint defensively without too much fear of the deep ball. 

Matchup to Watch: McKenna Dale vs. Stella Beck

Southern Hoiho vs. The Recruitment Network Mainland Pouākai - Friday, 7:30pm

Key Stats:



13.2 offensive rebounds per game (1st)

10.7 offensive rebounds per game (3rd)

25.9 three point percentage (last)

32.7 three point percentage (1st)

25.3 field goals made per game (last)

30.8 field goals made per game (1st)

Perhaps no team is better at grinding out points in the halfcourt than the Hoiho, whose prowess on the glass (39.8 rebounds per game, 2nd in league) makes up for tepid shooting (45.1% 2PT FG, 25.9% 3PT FG, both last in league). The lack of shooting hasn’t kept the team from finding ways to get the ball in the basket, mostly on the back of stellar offensive rebounding, led by Ashten Prechtel and Zoe Richards but contributed to by every player that steps on the court. The hustle of Samara Gallaher is infections, Ahlise Hurst keeps defence from overloading the paint with her shooting and Paige Bradley orchestrates it all with pinpoint passes. Playing at a slower pace allows the Hoiho to take advantage of their team's skill set in the halfcourt while being guided by Bradley’s facilitating (8.6 assists per game, 2nd in comp) whose ability to bend defences with the pass is paramount to their success. Defence will be key for the team to keep their space on the ladder, as quicker teams have manipulated their rotations in the halfcourt taking away the size advantage and playing the game at a pace where the Southern Hoiho look less comfortable. 

The Pouākai continue to build in form, but the departure of Natasha Mack (injury) threatens to derail an efficient offence that leads the league in efficiency from deep while being tops in assists. A solid replacement has been sourced in Natalie Burton, who should provide a better level of consistent production, but time is short to form the familiarity needed for a team desperately trying to hang onto its finals position. And familiarity is key to capitalise on that league leading efficiency and ball sharing while playing one of the fastest paces in the league. Everything flows through Jasmine Dickey, with an explosive halfcourt game that can overpower smaller quicker players while using speed to blow by players with the size and strength to slow her in the half court. Esra McGoldrick continues to improve her scoring prowess, with an emerging comfort from deep, and offers solid physicality on the glass and defensively. The emergence of Lauren Whittaker bodes well for a team that has struggled with finding effective depth, but ultimately it all comes down to dropping the ball in the net and an improved shooting display will be needed from Kennedy Leonard and Kendell Heremaia who combined to shoot just 2-of-19 from the field and 1-of-10 from deep in their last outing.

Matchup to Watch: Ashten Prechtel vs. Natalie Burton

The Recruitment Network Mainland Pouākai vs. Whai - Sunday, 3:00 pm

Key Stats:



20 assists per game (1st)

17.5 assists per game (4th)

13.9 free throws attempted per game (4th)

12.6 free throws attempted per game (last)

23.8 three’s attempted per game (3rd)

35.4 three’s attempted per game (1st)

Possibly the most important game of the year for the finals picture will take place Sunday arvo, with the Whai and Pouākai both playing for the second time in the round. The teams have split the season series with a single point the difference in the last matchup two weeks ago where 22 threes were made to make up for 35 turnovers created. The Pouākai found victory on the back of Natasha Mack’s best performance of the season but will need to find production in other areas to reach the victory circle this time.   Kennedy Leonard and Kendell Heremaia were the facilitators of that victory with 19 assists between them while turning the ball over just four times and that prudence with the ball will need to be repeated against a team that can be tenacious in the halfcourt with their defence. Jasmine Dickey, coming off consecutive 28-point performances, can expect a disproportionate amount of attention on the defensive end but that could open up some opportunities for Esra McGoldrick and Sharne Robati to take advantage of in the post and on the offensive boards. Pace will be important, but it must be tempered with care for the basketball to keep the Whai from gaining confidence with easy looks in transition.

The Whai will hope for a repeat of the 15 made threes in the last matchup and take heart with their ability to comeback against a team that can build up heads with hot shooting (scoring the last 11 points of the game to finish their first matchup with a 79-73 win). The Pouākai do enjoy an advantage on the interior as the Whai lack a true post player to garner the attention of the defence and dissuade penetrating drives. They make up for that with space and pace, shooting more threes than any other team in the comp, but greater efficiency than the current 29.3% from three is needed to realise the benefits of the extra shots. Mikayla Cowling is all class and will garner attention anywhere she steps on the court but a bit of extra space would be of use. Sarah Sagerer and McKenna Dale (14 threes in the two previous matchups) will draw attention when they step outside the arc, but if the Whai will need to punish those rotations with greater consistency then they have shown this year.

Matchup to Watch: Jasmine Dickey vs. Mikayla Cowling

BNZ Northern Kāhu vs. Southern Hoiho - Sunday, 6pm

Key Stats:



6.3 made threes per game (last)

8 made threes per game (2nd)

65.3  field goals attempted per game (last)

71.1 field goals attempted per game (2nd)

20.7 free throws made per game (1st)

13.9 e throws made per game (2nd)

Round 7 will finish with a matchup between the two best forward-centre combinations in the league.  IImar’I Thomas has been an efficient low post machine that few opposition defences have been able to slow, much less stop. Her partnership with Penina Davidson continues to evolve but the ability of either to be an entry passer from the high post or receiver in the low block has enabled the Kāhu to find a matchup advantage everytime down the court. The talent on the wing continues to build confidence with Tera Reed shooting and slashing through defences with ease while Awatea Leach has proven herself a valuable contributor that is ignored by defences at their peril. While still in its infancy, the backcourt combo of Tess Madgen and Krystal Leger-Walker looks a seamless fit with either player able to play as the creator or provide a catch and shoot threat on the weak side. The positional fit and versatility has morphed an attack that was previously among the slowest in the league to perhaps it’s most lethal after scoring 100 points in back-to-back games last round. 

The Hoiho are happy to play at pace, getting up more shots by average than all but one team in the comp, but have struggled to play efficiently at pace, achieving the lowest scoring average in the league at 72.6 points per game. They make up for this with an unquenchable thirst for offensive rebounds with Ashten Prechtel and Zoe Richards combining for 23.8 rebounds per game in total, seven on the O boards alone. But inside presence alone won’t defeat the Kāhu, with the underrated perimeter prowess of Paige Bradley and Ahlise Hurst key to the Hoiho offence finding it’s highest level. The passing of Bradley is key to manipulating the defensive rotations of her squad encounters, especially as the focus on Prechtel forces other options to be relied upon. If the Hoiho can control the pace and find their usual level of success on the O-glass they will put themselves in position to take a big victory on the road, but if the Kāhu get out an run while finding advantage on the post leading to a big free throw discrepancy they will solidify their grip on the top rung of the ladder.

Matchup to Watch: IImar’I Thomas vs. Zoe Richards

Programming note: Rapid League Tips-off 1 Hour before Tauihi game time


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