GBHS Red look to make history
What else is there?
In tonight’s main event at the YMCA — the 2019 GBA men’s club basketball league 7.15pm A Grade grand final — last year’s champions Gisborne Boys’ High School and club ball’s team of the decade, City Lights, will bring every conceivable weapon.
Dwayne Tamatea’s GBHS Red features two players that in the absence of 6’6” Sam Veitch due to injury (bruised left knee) have taken their perimeter shooting to a new level. Holden Wilson (33 points) and Tyrese Tuwairua-Brown (31) hit seven and six three-point shots respectively in Gisborne Boys’ 82-65 win v the Filthy Dozen in last Thursday’s second semifinal. They and fellow guard captain the left-handed Max Scott consistently lead Red’s scorers.
The size of Ofa Tauatevalu and Khian Westrupp makes GBHS a strong rebounding team while the hustling Jorge Tofilau and athletic Isaiah Lemaua have important roles to play if Boys’ High — the only college team ever to have made two men’s grand finals — is to become the only college team ever to play in and win two consecutive grand finals.
A win this evening in front of what may well be a full house, with iconic referee Cliff Blumfield in charge, would be historic: Blumfield blew the first Rising Suns game here in 1989 and has served the GBA, and Poverty Bay Basketball Association before it, for 57 years.
“We were stoked to have both GBHS teams — Red and Black — make the semifinals and really proud of our Black boys: they played well,” said Scott, whose crew lost only one game in the 10-week, 12-team league to this point: 71-83 to City Lights on July 23.
'We want titles'“We aim to come out aggressive but composed and we want titles — back-to-back — before our regional tournament in Rotorua next month.”
City Lights will be without Pila Lolohea (overseas) and one of their busiest players, Karlyle Te Maari, this evening. Pila, Karlyle’s cousin Joseph Te Maari, Aubrey Yates and Ryan Walters are Lights’ chief rebounders and dominance of the backboards is critical.
Yates and co will attack the younger team on the defensive boards: they will be physical against a GBHS team with more points-potential than any since Hosea Gear’s last season in 2001.
Unbeaten City Lights, with nine wins under Scott Muncaster, won the first semifinal v a gutsy GBHS Black team 79-49. Marksman Muncaster and powerful forward Aubey Yates notched up 20 apiece, which with Carlos Pedraza’s 13 and 10 points from Zade Donner got Lights home.
The round-robin clash between City Lights and GBHS Red took place in week seven, on the same night that A Grade behemoths Old School pipped the Filthy Dozen 51-50 after Boys’ High Black got their first win, 37-36, v SE Systems and only 24 hours before the first meeting of Lytton High School v Ngati Porou — who will go at it again in tomorrow night’s women’s final — ended with Lytton 47, Ngati Porou 46.
The two nights play of week seven constituted the most uproarious 48-hour period in club basketball history, and tonight both grand finalists can write a new chapter. Until now, no college team have been in a position to win two A Grade showpiece events in a row — City Lights were the last men’s team to do that, with an 11 from 12 record in 2017 with their 81-55 win against a depleted Old School.
Suns’ great Reg Namana said of that grand final that City Lights had played the near-perfect game. They were unbeaten in 2016 with 11 from 11 and were fairly much the same team as Bull Rush in 2012, who have the best GBA club team record ever with 12 from 12.
Yet Gisborne Boys’ are the standing champions. On September 22 last year Wilson scored 18 points, Westrupp 17 and Tuwairua-Brown 15 in the 74-47 defeat of Uawa on the grand stage; Uawa, in Quentin Solomon and Rikki Crawford, boasted two former first-division players.
Scott’s team respect all opposition but have no respect for reputations in the sense that they play aggressively and are competitive v all the league’s big guns. Their performances in the past two years make them indisputably the best-performed college team in GBA history.
Muncaster has spoken of his outfit redeeming themselves — for not making it to the big game in 2018. The transformation of his group from a run-and-gun only team to one less spectacular to watch but even richer for fans who appreciate subtlety and simplicity, has been great to watch.
The grand final starts at 7.15pm tonight at the YMCA.
Will it be Campion, or Lytton?
Tonight at 6pm, basketball fans will see a men’s B Grade final to get the blood pumping: Campion College v Lytton High School.
Orlando Pedraza (Campion) and Darius Waititi-Leach (Lytton) lead two great young teams: Lytton began their season with a 48-44 win v 67-year-old Frank Russell’s Stirling Sports Old Surfers; Campion opened their account with a 68-33 victory over the GBHS Wolf-pack. Lytton beat the Surfers by default in their semifinal; Campion outplayed the Gisborne Boys’ High School Wolf-pack 52-31.
Pedraza scored 19 points in the semi and his team, like GBHS Red, will face opposition who, from the first, have contested every loose ball possession in 2019. LHS are now tall enough to give Campion’s 6’4” Nelson Brown and player-coach Paora Dewes a hurry-up on the defensive boards: deputy principal Tim Dagger, Ryan Anderson and Tyrone Rennie are all over six feet tall. Anderson in particular has had an excellent season.
Campion head coach Shane McClutchie wants no change in tactics or approach from his team, while Pedraza this morning simply said: “We’re pumped up and ready for a win.”
Lytton is traditionally a strong basketball school and are the standing champions, having beaten the Young and the Useless 65-52 last year. Then-LHS captain Genesis Bartlett-Tamatea led all three grades’ finals scorers that evening with 34 points; 19 straight in the second half. Bartlett-Tamatea, a Lytton baller of Ritana Bulls calibre, said: “I’m proud of how far they’ve come — and how Darius has come on, as a leader.