A DOMINANT first term and then finishing with a wet sail allowed minor premiers Northern Kahu to book their spot in the Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa Grand Final. The top of the table Kahu defeated fourth placed Mid-North Whai by 15 points at the Trafalgar Centre, largely built off a 23-6 opening stanza. Though the Whai battled hard to get it back to single digits with a quarter to play, it would not be enough as the Kahu found a second win and stormed to victory, 78-63.
NORTHERN KAHU 23 | 14 | 19 | 22 (78)
MID-NORTH WHAI 6 | 22 | 20 | 15 (63)
Northern Kahu came into the first semi-final against the fourth placed Mid-North Whai with plenty of expectations. Having finished top of the table with only two losses – both to Tokomanawa Queens – the Kahu were overwhelming favourites against a Whai outfit that was the only side to lose to the last placed Southern Hoiho. In the clash, it was the Kahu who started as many expected, shooting 23-6 in the opening 10 minutes as Marte Grays put the visitors to the sword, outscoring them with nine of her own points, while the Whai could not hit any long-range efforts and just the three two-points from 18 field goal attempts.
Once getting their eye in, the Whai started to settle and find the form which resulted in some upsets this season. Dominique McBryde was busy, with Kendell Heremaia able to contribute from long-range. Star player Kyra Lambert reached double-digit points for the Kahu in the term, totalling up 11 points as they piled on 22-14 and hit back to get within nine at half-time. To the Whai’s credit, they kept coming throughout the game, not conceding even after the Kahu had a big start to the second term. The home team got the lead back out to 15 points, but it did not get more than that in the term, as the Whai outscored them again, making it as low as five points, before heading into the last change eight points in deficit.
Though they had been gallant, the Whai fell away in the last term as the Kahu scored 22-15 to record a 78-63 victory. Northern Kahu shot at a marginally higher clip, though well down on their usual potency, registering 38 per cent from the field compared to the Whai’s 34 per cent. They also had far more assists (20-7) and steals (12-5), marginally ahead in both second chance points (9-6) and points from turnovers (14-12). For the Whai, they were able to take away a higher shooting percentage from inside the arc (40 to 31 per cent), as well as leading the rebounds (45-43) and points in the paint (32-24).
Tahlia Tupaea finished strong to end up with 21 points, seven assists, six rebounds and four steals, while Grays (20 points, seven rebounds and three assists) was also prolific. Krystal Leger-Walker (16 points, four assists and three rebounds) and Micaela Cocks (13 points, three assists) also stepped up in the win. Fo the Whai, Lambert managed 24 points and three rebounds, while Heremaia shot 15 points and picked up six rebounds and two steals. Though only shooting one of nine for two points, Sheniqua Greene finished off her season with 15 rebounds.
Northern Kahu now takes on Tokomanawa Queens in the grand final today.