The red hot Tokomanawa Queens pounced into Round 6 to dethrone the Northern Kāhu of their undefeated crown and serve them an 18-point loss. For the first time this season, the Kāhu couldn’t create a comeback and were outmuscled and outrebounded 51-30, in a physical match.
One of the most consistent players across this season, Jaime Nared shined again putting on a show for her family visiting from America. Florencia Chagas was brilliant with 22 points and Jacinta Beckley scored 17 off the bench. Just when you thought the finals would be dominated by the Northerner’s, it’s not looking like an easy road anymore with the Queens peaking at the right time.
Travelling to Tauranga to play a back-to-back against the Whai didn’t faze the Queens as they secured another win, this time in a close low-scoring contest. Despite Stella Beck going down with an injury in the second quarter, her side were able to pull through with contributions across the board. While Kyra Lambert and Nikki Greene brought some spark for their team with 14 points, 5 steals, and 12 points and 12 rebounds respectively, it wasn’t enough to come out on top.
The Pouākai defeated the Hoiho with Tessa Boagni backing up a big Round 5 with 15 points and 14 rebounds. Erin Whalen was on fire, scoring 18 points from downtown alone. Despite not having a finals chance, the Southerners played with pride as Shelby Cheslek had her best performance of the season, helping Laina Snyder with 22 points and 9 rebounds.
Tokomanawa Queens vs. Northern Kāhu | Thursday, August 18th @ 7pm
I’m calling it early, but I see this being a preview to the Grand Final. The Queens are the only team that know how to beat the Kāhu, showing that in their Round 6 victory with accuracy, physicality and a team effort.
Wellington will want to bring the same energy from Round 6 in their rematch with the Northerners. The way they’ve been playing recently, the momentum is on their side as they have looked more confident and connected as a team.
With the Queens on a run, do expect Jody Cameron’s team to not let history repeat itself as they would’ve made the most of their 11 day break to right their wrongs, particularly their stagnant attack.
Whai vs. Mainland Pouākai | Friday, August 19th @ 7:30pm
The battle for third and fourth place will go down to the wire with Mainland just edging past the Whai to take third spot after Round 6.
Both teams have welcomed in new imports late in the season - 2011 Indiana Fever draftee, Jori Davis for the Whai and former Louisiana State University standout, Jailin Cherry for the Pouākai. Both teams are hoping they can stamp their mark going into the finals.
The Whai have remained winless in Round 5 and 6 but can turn things around in this game. Key areas to focus on will be on the boards with Boagni and Greene going head to head, and getting into a scoring rhythm early.
Against the Queens this round, the Whai got off to a slow start scoring only seven in the first five minutes. I would love to see more of Tiarna Clarke upon her return from the Commonwealth Games. Her shooting prowess will definitely help the Stingrays stay in the game offensively and combat a Whalen and Trinity Baptiste scoring run.
Whai vs. Southern Hoiho | Sunday, August 20th @ 3pm
Despite being guaranteed a spot in the playoffs, It will be important for the Whai to get this win.
They’ll want to finish their regular season on a high with the two possible routes to the Grand Final looking tough. Either they finish in fourth and play the Kāhu in the semis or finish in third and take on the Queens.
Perhaps this match against the Hoiho will be their chance to test plays and improve their connections. Their season hasn’t been easy with import Dominique McBryde being ruled out with injury, while they also missed Clarke who was in Birmingham for a few weeks.
This is their opportunity to put everything together and put up a performance they can be proud of.
Northern Kāhu vs. Mainland Pouākai | Sunday, August 21st @ 5pm
The Kāhu host the Pouākai for the last match of the regular season in what should be a thriller, with the home team expected to bounce back from their first loss following an early ascendance.
It was an epic clash the last time these teams faced each other in round 4, with the Auckland based team coming back to win from 14 points down. Trinity Baptiste and Tahlia Tupaea went toe to toe exchanging buckets and taking turns to show off their iso ball skills.
The Kāhu are averaging 33.8 rebounds and 25 defensive rebounds per game - the lowest among the league. If the Pouākai can dominate on the rebound count and come out firing from the outset, it would put a lot of pressure on the Kāhu.
Who knows maybe the Pouākai will be the next team to surprise us.