Depleted Richmond face second-chance match
Story by: JONATHAN MCKEOWN - Nelson Mail - Photo by: Chris Symes
Jacks progressed to the premier grade final with a convincing win at Saxton Stadium last night, while the threat of Stoke has been subdued, leaving Waimea College and an under-strength Richmond to contest the second-chance minor semifinal tomorrow.
Jacks were far too good for Richmond in their top-two playoff. The 61-32 blowout was a far cry from the 54-all thriller the two full-strength sides played out last week.
Being a top two qualifier gives Richmond a second chance, but with up to four of their starting seven players out again, Waimea will enter the match at Saxton Stadium at 2pm as clear favourites.
By the time a playoff match comes around, teams have typically settled into tried combinations, so when Jacks OPD Richmond and Richmond Robbie's Bar and Bistro took the court with a number of stand-in players, it was far from an ideal semifinal scenario.
Jodi Hikuroa of Jacks joined Richmond's Lisa Book, Kat Jones and Nicky Rampton in Dunedin with the Nelson Sparks women's basketball team, turning what should have been an epic semifinal rematch into a no-contest.
To make matters worse Sharon Finch was also out for Richmond, and although the players who came in for the missing talent gave their all, they never got close to their opponents.
Jacks won every quarter, stretching a 15-10 lead to 32-18 at halftime and again improving that to 45-25 at the end of the third.
Playing for Richmond in probably her second start of the year, young Nayland College student Brianna Joyes was given the unenviable task of partnering Jacks' Moana Forbes, masterful footwork and all.
Joyes grew into her game, performing admirably, and Belinda Koloamatangi shot well at goal attack.
Former Richmond stalwart Cindy Turipa answered the SOS, slotting in at wing attack, but the jumble of players understandably lacked cohesion.
The only low point for Jacks as they sauntered into the final was a worrying shoulder injury to talented goal keep Louise Monge-Grassi.
Waimea College Senior A and Stoke NBS had a predictably close and well-contested elimination match, a motivated final-quarter effort seeing Waimea continue their domination of Stoke with a 64-59 victory.
A sloppy start by Stoke on court two had Waimea up 4-0, but as the quarter progressed, strong defence from Stoke goal defence Emily Stalker, coupled with hesitation inside the shooting circle, saw Stoke claw their way back.
Sharp and direct feeds got the ball into Stoke's circle quickly, where any shooting lapses were balanced by the ability of Megan Thomson to win the rebounds. Stoke led 21-16 at the end of the quarter.
Tight midcourt defence and intercepts by standout Waimea wing defence Ashley Laing and goal attack Kayla Cross allowed Waimea to draw level within five minutes of play restarting.
From there, the game settled, and both sides traded goals before Stoke won a late turnover for a three-goal halftime lead, 37-34. Stoke captain Abbey Cook led well, directing play and getting a number of tips at wing attack as Stoke held a narrow 49-47 lead heading into the final quarter.
But when the pressure went on, Stoke tripped, a couple of umpiring decisions gifting Waimea possession that they treasured, showing supreme patience with the ball to make sure the final pass was on.
Waimea's patience turned into gamesmanship as the ball was repeatedly passed away from the goal to ensure their buffer was maintained and they would progress to the minor semifinal.
Stoke's edge should have come from a solid 1-2 combination in the shooting circle, where Thomson and Kelsey Whiting shared the load, giving the feeders two solid options. However, Thomson shot only 35 goals at 79 per cent, and Whiting 24 at 72 per cent.
Waimea relied heavily on goal shoot Shaun Aindow to put the ball through the rim, with Cross running on the edge of the circle, primarily looking to get the ball to Aindow and effectively drawing the attention of the Stoke defenders.
Cross shot 15 goals at 78 per cent, while Aindow had a round-high 49 goals at 89 per cent.
Aindow finished it off, but a superior midcourt effort in the final quarter won Waimea the game.
The movement and leadership of wing attack Ella Marwick was superb, while the vision of centre Kaitlin Stringer in attack matched that of Laing in defence.
In what has been labelled a "rebuilding year" by their coaching staff, Waimea are now just one win away from the final.
The premier grade final is next Thursday at 7pm.