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Fastest, biggest, best,The opponents keep getting tougher


The honeymoon is over.

After two weeks’ grace, league points will be on the line in men’s club basketball in Gisborne tonight.

Two A Grade games — SE Systems versus Old School at 5.45pm and the Filthy Dozen v City Lights at 6.45pm — will be played at the YMCA, while the third A Grade fixture, Gisborne Boys’ High School Red v GBHS Black, has been deferred.

The B Grade games — GBHS Blue v the GBHS Wolf-pack at 5.45pm, Old Surfers v the Gizzy Gilas at 6.45pm, and Campion College v Lytton High School at 7.45pm — will all be played tonight at the John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre at Boys’ High.

“We’re going from playing the quickest of the quick — Boys’ High Red — to the biggest of the big, in Old School,” SE Systems captain Adrian Sparks said.

“The key for us is a set-offence, rather than one-on-one against the best of the best, Rongomai Smith.

“We need a big game from Ahi Te Otene-Black — our big man — against these guys.”

The Reggie Namana-led Old School are, on paper — with the likes of Smith and Thomas Tindale — slab-like opposition. They are huge, strong men with national second-division pedigree. But Systems will fight that with their experience.

. . . a backs-to-the-wall scenario tonight should provide motivationOtene-Black has chosen his moments over the years — a backs-to-the-wall scenario tonight should provide motivation enough.

Keenan Ruru-Poharama has always had good hands and shooting touch, while Anton Riri’s quarter of a century in club basketball would have been impossible if Riri had not been powerful and resilient with undimmed keenness for the game.

Add to the mix the speed and ability to finish of Marty Ngaira, and SES have a chance to win the game.

They are coming off a 45-43 win against Boys’ High Black — a team who can run.

Systems, underdogs and beaten grand finalists in 2012 and 2016, never fail to make the league’s big guns work hard.

City Lights captain Scott Muncaster, who led his crew to championship victories in 2016 and ’17, expects a tough game against the Filthy Dozen.

“It’ll be hard, it’ll be physical — they always come to play,” said Muncaster, for whom the most pleasing aspect of his team’s play this season has been their defence.

“We played well against Old School and outran Boys’ High Red; our Carlos Pedraza and Zade Donner have quick hands. They get the ball, they’re off.”

Donner has long been an influential player in up-tempo games, and while City Lights have long had good jumpshooters in Muncaster and Ryan Walters, this season they have added more than just courtspeed to their ranks.

Former Pure Sound skipper and accomplished guard Billy Maxwell — an expert marksman himself — is lending his generalship to City Lights this year. His ability to penetrate and pass, with the likes of Aubrey Yates and Pila Lolohea on hand, spells trouble for the Dozen.

Yates and Lolohea are now seasoned athletesYates and Lolohea are now seasoned athletes, good offensive rebounders capable of 10 points a night in putbacks.

The work around the rim by Yates, Lolohea and former Boys’ High captain Joseph Te Maari is of crucial importance to CL, in the same way that the efforts of Namana and Jason Tuapawa under the hoop are important to Old School.

Siaki Tui and Wi Brown of the Filthy Dozen will battle City Lights on the boards tonight, while Dale Hailey is the main danger at the offensive end for the Dozen.

The 6ft 5in (1.95m) Hailey took a season off club basketball last year but has returned with fire and energy.

He has possibly drawn more fouls than any other player in local basketball in the past two decades . . . for good reason. If allowed, he can score 20 to 30 points at close range. Few teams unwilling to body up against Hailey have stopped him.

At the John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre, the early game between Boys’ High Blue and the Wolf-pack could be interesting.

The Wolf-pack, under player-coach Ray Noble, beat Old Surfers 46-31 a fortnight ago and are playing well in the B Grade. They — and Boys’ High Blue — have shown improvement in both individual and team skills.

. . . a healthy mix of the comedic and the freneticGame 2 — Old Surfers v the Gizzy Gilas — could be a healthy mix of the comedic and the frenetic.

The Gilas swing the ball and play defence at a hundred miles an hour.

The Surfers, under Frank Russell, pass the ball well and are becoming more attuned to life on court. They play with pattern, if not yet structure.

They have, in 6ft 6in (1.98m) Konnor Gibson, a centre who has both height and width. Gibson is young in basketball years, but in Frank Russell he has the ideal basketball mind to learn from.

Greaves never gives less than 100 percentCampion College, under Orlando Pedraza, take on Lytton High School.

Lytton are led by Ben Greaves, who never stops hustling. Greaves is a fighter, a player who works hard at both ends of the court, takes knocks in the pursuit of rebounds and never gives less than 100 percent.

The improvement of Darius Waititi-Leach and the experience gained by Greaves and company since 2017 cannot be underestimated.

Waititi-Leach scored 11 points in Lytton’s last outing — against Boys’ High Blue — and rookie Ryan Anderson produced 10 points.

If Lytton are to repeat their grand effort of two weeks ago, a 48-44 win against the Surfers, they’ll need the same punch in double-figures tonight.

“It’s about doing the little things well — and execution — for us,” said Campion coach Shane McClutchie, who wants their younger players to step up in terms of transition and shot selection.

“We’re not counting Lytton out. We know what they’re capable of.”