The opening week of Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa was going to be hard to replicate but the second round certainly delivered. The Northern Kāhu remain the team to beat with four wins, as the rest of the league continues to chase them at the top of the table.
The first match saw the Whai get their second victory with their superstar guard Kyra Lambert putting up a monster performance and stuffing the stat sheet with 17 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. The Hoiho’s Samara Gallaher put her body on the line while centre Shelby Cheslek came out firing in the second quarter. But the Southerner’s depth was tested with the Whai’s Sharne Robati and Nikki Greene blitzing the boards and former Tall Fern Jelena Vucinic coming off the bench to score three triples.
The Kāhu continued their dominance with a close win over the Pouākai. But they struggled to score in the first quarter with Mainland putting up an intense defensive effort. The Kāhu’s Tahlia Tupaea led the way with 24 points as the game slowed down for her. It was clear that Trinity Baptiste was the number one target on the scouting report. Kāhu Head Coach Jody Cameron described her fadeaway as “uncanny” and she wanted her team to keep moving forward as they defended her. Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu succumbed to Baptiste’s mastery as she was put on skates by her trademark shot.
Over to Wellington, the Tokomanawa Queens broke through for a comprehensive 87-60 win over the Hoiho with threats across the lineup. Former WNBA player Jaime Nared took over with 19 points, 8 rebounds, 5 assists and 2 steals. The Hoiho played an improved offensive game but conceded 16 turnovers in the first half and 26 overall compared to the Queen’s 8. This turned into a steal show for the home side who took advantage, outlasting the Hoiho.
Just over 48 hours later and the Queens were in Christchurch for their first matchup against the Pouākai. Tall Ferns’ Ella Fotu and Mary Goulding returned for the hosts after playing at the FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup. Boagni was a menace on the boards, grabbing five blocks with Cierra Walker and Erin Whalen getting into a rhythm that was too hard to stop. While Stella Beck’s hustle on defence was impressive, it wasn’t enough to halt the Pouākai who shot 54% from the field and showed just how dangerous they can be with a full team in tow.
The Kāhu completed the round with their fourth consecutive win, this time taking down the Whai. Basketball savant, Micaela Cocks exploded for a 29-point performance on 58% shooting. While the Whai kept the match close for most of the game, they weren’t able to secure the victory as the hunt remains for the team that will figure out how to disrupt the Northern side.
Tokomanawa Queens vs, Mainland Pouākai | Thursday, July 14th @ 5pm
The Queens will get a shot to level their series over the Pouākai after they led at halftime during their first encounter but eventually fell short despite a big contribution from Elin Gustavsson and Nared.
Execution and caution on defence to prevent fouls will be key for the Queens with Pouākai forward, Whalen presenting another weapon against the Wellington side. Her back-to-back threes in the fourth quarter of their win over the Queens took her team out to a 65-47 lead, making it even harder for Tokomanawa to catch up.
It was part of an impressive round for the North Carolina native who seems to improve with every game. Those points were also included in the 15 of 21 which she scored in the second half. It will be interesting to see how the Queens respond to another performance like that.
Northern Kāhu vs. Southern Hoiho | Friday, July 15th @ 5pm
The last time these two teams played each other it was a defensive battle with both sides scoring no more than 50 points and hounding each other until the end. It doesn’t get much easier for the Hoiho but this could be the week they turn things around.
Similar to last week, the depth is the main concern with Snyder the sole contributor and Cheslek showing glimpses of great play throughout the first few games. The grit that they bring every game is admirable with Gallaher not afraid to put her body on the line.
But against the number one seeded Kāhu, the Hoiho will have to bring an all team effort to limit their turnovers and come out strong from the start.
Mainland Pouākai vs. Whai | Sunday, July 17th @ 12:30pm
The Pouākai look to clinch their first win over the Whai having lost to them in Round 1. They were short-handed in that match with the opportunity now to challenge them with all of the red army on board. Both sides provide an even contest with an outstanding offensive game, mix of speed, control on the glass and star power.
The Baptiste and Lambert matchup will be thrilling to watch with both stars shining as the two of the top players in the league. It’s tough to separate both teams but I predict this one will be closer than the last.
Whai vs. Northern Kāhu | Tuesday, July 19th @ 7pm
The two Northern teams go at it again with Gabby Adams-Gavet having taken the early family bragging rights. But her niece and leading Kiwi scorer Sharne Robati may have something to say about that. It looks like the Whai’s Lambert could be on triple-double watch after getting close to achieving it in the second round. In addition to the amazing lineups both sides have, they also have great talent coming off the bench with the Kāhu turning to the reserves in their first encounter with the Whai.
It could be another fairly close game on the cards if the Tauranga-based side can limit the Kāhu for the full forty minutes. The Whai will have home court advantage and almost a week to improve their game plan.
Southern Hoiho vs. Tokomanawa Queens | Wednesday, July 20th @ 7pm
The Hoiho have another chance to get a win and turn the momentum on their side. As shown in the Queens loss to the Pouākai, if you can shut down Florencia Chagas and force turnovers you have a good chance to get on the winners board. But that’s not the only thing the Hoiho will have to answer to as Nared, Beck and Gustavsson have put up incredible individual performances as well. The defensive fight of the Queens will also be tough to contain as they lead the league in steals with 10.5.
But it will be the Hoiho’s first game in Dunedin in over two weeks so being at home and feeding off the energy of their fans may be the spark plug they need to get on track.