Last week our three U23 teams competed at the National Championships in Porirua. It was a great showcase of talent that have come up through the representative ranks. Our Auckland, Counties Manukau and Waitakere teams faced very tough challenges from 11 other associations from around New Zealand. Going into the tournament the teams prepared well and looked to represent their associations, friends and families with pride. All three teams played hard but it was not enough to topple stronger opposition.
Auckland did their best in pool play and managed to gain a 1 win – 1 loss record to secure a spot in the quarterfinals. Their first game against old foes Harbour did not go to plan but fought until the end, eventually losing 75-92. Auckland’s second pool game saw them winning an exciting close game against Tauranga 89-85.
Heading into the quarter finals Auckland crossed over with Hutt Valley, who were one of the favourites to win the championship. The well-drilled Hutt Valley squad proved too much as they went on to comfortably beat Auckland 85-54. The best placing Auckland could get was 5th place as they went on to beat Waitakere 95-92 in the 5th-8th place semi-finals in a tightly contested game. However, Auckland finished the tournament in 6th place after losing in the 5/6th place classification game to a determined Taranaki team 66-87. The leading scorers for Auckland throughout the tournament were Conor Flanagan and all- tournament team member Samuel Aruwa averaging 16.4 and 12.4 PPG respectively.
Waitakere were placed in a tough pool which featured eventual finalist Waikato Country. Waitakere opened their Nationals campaign with a blowout 82-55 win over home team Porirua. Going into their second game against Waikato Country with high confidence levels, they were unable to come away with the win losing 102-92, who was led by Super City Ranger Hyrum Harris. In their third pool game Waitakere managed to come away with their second win of the tournament in a close game against a solid Waikato team 87-83. This result put Waitakere in the quarterfinals and matched up against eventual champions Canterbury. Canterbury proved too much for Waitakere and headed to the 5th-8th place semis with a heavy 75-104 loss.
As mentioned earlier Auckland came away with a close 95-92 win over Waitakere, which meant the best placing Waitakere could gain was 7th place. However, in the 7th/8th place game Waitakere could not get into a groove and eventually lost 102-80 to old rivals Harbour. Waitakere finished the tournament in 8th place. The leading scorers for Waitakere throughout the tournament were Isaac Davidson and Judson Seumanu, averaging 20.5 and 18.7 PPG respectively.
Counties Manukau opened their Nationals campaign with a gutsy 68-62 win over Rotorua. Their following two games proved to be the difference in whether they would make the quarterfinals. It was a disappointing result as they lost to a strong Hutt Valley team 83-72 who were one of the favourites to win the whole tournament. In order to get through to the quarters they faced up against an Otago team who eventually placed 4th overall. Counties fought hard but eventually lost a competitive game 79-90.
This result saw the boys from South Auckland play in the 9th-12th place semi-finals. Counties played against Waikato and won 99-88. The impressive win allowed them to play in the 9th/10th place game. However, the result did not favour Counties Manukau as they eventually claimed 10th place with an 80-99 loss against the same Rotorua team that they faced in their opening game of the tournament. The leading scorers for Counties Manukau were well-balanced and featured four players. Sioeli Vaiangina (15.4PPG), Lesae Coe (15.0PPG), Shem Ili (12.4PPG) and Wade Coe (12.0PPG) all scored effectively for the Counties squad.
All in all, our three ABSL teams played hard and left everything out on the court, which is all our coaches and supporters could ask for. A huge congratulations to Samuel Aruwa who was named in the All-Tournament team. This is a great learning experience for the young men and will definitely motivate those who will be part of next year’s U23 Nationals to improve and keep getting better. A huge thank you to all the coaches, managers, referees and supporters who travelled down to Porirua, without you our teams would not be able to compete and play the game we love the most.
Final results and placings for our ABSL teams:
CMBB U23 – 10th place
WWABi U23 – 8th place
BA U23 – 6th place.
U23 Nationals All-Tournament Team inclusions:
Samuel Aruwa – BA