This is the fourth instalment of a five-part series written by Jake Fitzgibbon.
The Southern Hoiho were a lot better than their 1-11 record suggests. They were right in the hunt on multiple occasions, including almost upsetting the No. 1 seeded Northern Kāhu at Eventfinda Stadium in Auckland, mainly due to their gritty defence and ability to pounce on turnovers.
Laina Snyder was an absolute star for the Hoiho and perhaps the most talented player in Tauihi this season. Snyder earned All-Star Five honours with averages of 20.6 points (1st), 9.2 rebounds (2nd), 3.8 assists (5th) and 2.2 steals (5th) on 44.1% shooting from the field and 36.0% from three.
The Ohio native could score from essentially anywhere on the floor, and her feel for the game on both ends is something you don’t see in a lot of players. Snyder was a natural leader, constantly pumping up her teammates and sacrificing her body on multiple occasions.
The 26-year-old American was firmly in the MVP conversation right down to the wire despite her team’s placing on the ladder, a testament to her talent and overall production. Snyder was a true professional on and off the court.
“I was very impressed by the level of competition Tauihi put together in its inaugural season. I thought the teams did a great job recruiting locally, as well as from afar, to make the league be competitive for years to come,” said Snyder.
“It was an honour to play for the Hoiho and be part of the amazing culture they’ve established in their club. I believe it will set them up for much success in years to come.”
The tallest player in the league this season Shelby Cheslek also possessed perhaps one of the better passing games, which you don’t see too often from players of her stature. Operating from the high post, Cheslek was often able to find her cutters to the rim and had a handy bounce pass to free them up. Overall, she posted averages of 7.4 points, 7.2 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.1 steals and 0.6 blocks (5th) in 12 games with the Hoiho.
Cheslek saved her best game of the season until the final weeks, dropping 22 points, nine rebounds and four assists against the Mainland Pouākai. There’s no denying she has the talent, and something that would have really helped the Hoiho was another scoring option to go with Laina Snyder to keep the defence honest. Another offensive option would have opened things up for Cheslek, too, and overall that could have elevated the Hoiho’s play.
How good was it to see Samara Gallaher back on the court in 2022. Gallaher started all 12 games for the Hoiho with averages of 8.4 points, 4.2 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game. There aren’t too many moments when Gallaher isn’t the hardest working player on the floor, and best of all she’s doing it with a smile on her face 110% of the time. It’s only fitting that Gallaher nailed the first 3-pointer in Tauihi history.
In another success story of local players heading abroad following Tauihi, Zoe Richards signed a deal with AB Contern in Luxembourg. The 24-year-old Tall Fern averaged 7.3 points and 5.5 rebounds with the Hoiho and played through a broken nose for a good portion of the season – even deploying a protective facemask and one point so she could continue playing through the pain.
The final instalment will feature the Northern Kāhu. Hear from guard Krystal Leger-Walker, who used the success of her first professional season in Tauihi to sign a deal with the Townsville Fire in the Australian WNBL.