Queens pip Kahu to lock up second spot

FOR the second time this season, Tokomanawa Queens had the answers for the otherwise unbeatable Northern Kahu, defeating the top of the table side by a point to secure a top two position on the Tauihi Basketball Aotearoa ladder. After accounting for the Kahu a few weeks back, the Queens ground out a one-point win in thrilling circumstances, racing out to a lead then having to hold firm as the Kahu charged home, to get the job done 80-79 at Te Rauparaha Arena.

TOKOMANAWA QUEENS 24 | 17 | 20 | 19 (80)
NORTHERN KAHU 14 | 18 | 30 | 17 (79)

In a game of ebbs and flows, both the Tokomanawa Queens and Northern Kahu were determined to get the win. Though both were set to play big roles in finals, the potential grand final preview was a pre-cursor to what is anticipated to be a huge post-season series. The Queens toppled the Kahu last time – the first and only team to do so all season – while the Kahu were keen to reverse that in the Thursday night game. With the minor premiership in the bag, the Kahu did not have anything to lose from a ladder position, but momentum heading into the finals was crucial.

In a see-sawing contest, it was the home side that raced out of the blocks as star shooter and Most Valuable Player (MVP) contender Jamie Nared shot 12 points in the opening 10 minutes to lead her side to a 24-14 advantage. A more even term in the second saw the Kahu draw within a few points on a number of occasions thanks to the likes of Micaela Cocks, before the Queens – through Parris Mason and Elin Gustavsson scored the last seven points of the term to take a nine-point lead into half-time.

As the teams returned from the main break, the Kahu started to click into gear. Tahlia Tupaea and Gabriella Adams-Gavet were getting busy early as the pair went toe-for-toe with Nared and Gustavsson. Little by little, the Kahu clawed their way back into the contest, and though the likes of Gustavsson and Florencia Chagas more often than not had the answers, Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu and Krystal Leger-Walker had stepped up in the third term. A late basket from Tupaea saw the minor premiers hit the front by a point, 62-61, setting up a thrilling final term.

Tokomanawa was the first on the board with an And-One conversion from Josephine Trousdell, and the Queens managed to get out to a four-point lead in a low-scoring first few minutes. The teams continued to trade blows, as a Nared layup made the margin six points with three and a half minutes on the clock, but then nine straight points went the way of the Kahu – including five to Marte Grays – for the visitors to be 79-76 up with a minute to play. Nared responded for the home team 11 seconds later to draw within one, and then after a missed Tupaea layup, Nared was fouled and sent to the line. She nailed both free throws with 11 seconds on the clock to help the Queens in the front by a point. Tupaea had another chance with six seconds on the clock, but it missed and Chagas pulled down the rebound to save the day.

Nared scored 29 points, seven rebounds, four assists, three steals and two blocks in a best-on performance, teaming up well with Gustavsson (23 points, nine rebounds) off the boards. Chagas (12 points, seven rebounds, four steals and two assists) and Grace Hunter (12 points, two assists) also hit double-figure points, while Trousdell finished with the seven points, five rebounds, five assists and two blocks. For the Kahu, Tupaea put up 24 points, seven assists, three rebounds and two steals, sharing the scoring with Cocks (21 points, three assists, three steals and two rebounds. The pair combined for eight of 11 from beyond the arc, six of those off Tupaea’s hand. Leger-Walker (10 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Grays (nine points, nine rebounds) were also impressive.

Northern Kahu closes out its season against third placed Mainland Pouakai and will await either the Pouakai or Whai in the Final Four, with the Tokomanawa Queens taking on the other one.

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