Back on the courts
A wizard once said that things are now in motion that cannot be undone.
And Tolkien's Gandalf spoke the truth: in a time during which sports competitions nationwide have had to be cancelled, Gisborne club basketball will return to the local sports scene tonight.
Week 13 of the 15-week competition across all four grades is a go from 5.30pm this evening under Alert Level 2, with the women at the YMCA and college division at the John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre of Gisborne Boys' High School.
The first game at the YMCA is a 4v5 qualifier between the Masters and 2020 women's B Grade finalists Manu Toa. It will be followed at 6.45pm by 3v6, the local derby between Ritana Toa (2020 A Grade finalists Lytton High School) and Gisborne Girls' High School.
The top-of-the-table clash between three-time defending champions Ngati Porou and Turanga at 8pm is a “friendly” — both teams, having won nine from 10 games, will go through to next Monday night's semifinals.
Next Monday, Ngati Porou will play the winner of 4v5, while Turanga will compete for a women's final berth with the winner of 3v6.
Last year's women's B Grade champions SE Systems will play Turanga Health in a “friendly” tonight at the Sports Centre at 8.45pm and again next week for seventh place.
The same format will be used for the secondary schools' division, men's Premier Grade and men's Open B Grade.
Secondary schools' division play at the sports centre tonight will start a half-hour earlier than normal, with 4v5 (Lytton HS against the Campion College junior boys) at 5pm. At 6.15pm, 3v6 is old bulls versus young bulls: the GBHS Senior B crew will take on the GBHS Junior B outfit.
Gisborne Boys' High Junior A will play the Shane McClutchie-coached Campion Cougars in their 1v2 friendly at 7.15pm.
Gisborne Basketball Association chairwoman Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell, speaking for her committee and the GBA's 26 club teams, could not be happier.
“We have amended our processes to ensure everyone's safety and we're grateful to be able to continue the season for our basketball community,” she said.
“It's not lost on us that other regions won't be able to complete their season, so we're aiming to balance a great experience for the final three rounds with best practice as regards safety.
“We ask all involved to adhere to our safety protocols and remember the call to ‘Be Kind' on and off the court.”
Those protocols do not, at Alert Level 2, allow for spectators but do for officials, coaches and managers: neither they nor any player who is sick may attend games. Masks must still be worn by those players and officials not on-court, and off-the-court attendees are to socially distance themselves at two metres.
Sharing drink bottles is prohibited, as is wiping the soles of shoes with sweat or spit. Players are being asked to cough or sneeze into elbows/towels. Attendees are to wash/sanitise their hands before and after games, having signed in before entry by way of application or paper sheet for contact tracing.
YMCA attendees must enter from the stadium doors on to the Roebuck Road carpark and exit from the Childers Road stadium doors. Sports centre attendees will enter and exit at separate points, and all players/team officials are to exit venues before those involved in the next scheduled game may enter.
Tomorrow night at the YMCA, Premier Grade games at the YMCA will start at 5.30pm with 4v5, The Raiders playing GBHS A.
At 6.45pm, team No.3 SE Systems will take on Team 6 the Massive Marauders, under Adam Harford.
At 8pm competition leaders Green Up go at it with City Lights in a friendly.
City Lights supremo Scott Muncaster is ready to stamp his authority on the business end of the season.
“We're super-excited to get back on the court,” he said.
“It's been a long break but we're happy to be back to finish this season strongly.”
From 5.30pm at the sports centre tomorrow, men's Open B Grade action in 3v6 will involve The Hustlers and, in their debut season, Hawaiiki Hou.
At 6.45pm, Old Surfers — who lost 54-32 to the Boys' High Juniors in last year's B Grade final — face the irrepressible Gizzy Gilas in 4v5, with The Bibs and Shed to do battle as a 1v2 friendly at 8pm.
In a measure of the effort put in by the GBA Committee and the sport's next generation, SE Systems club captain Adrian Sparks and his son Felix will referee the late games in both the college division and the B Grade together. The GBA's drive to recruit and support officials capable of stepping up, has been one of their success stories in the past two years.
Sparks senior relayed that the SES Prems were “as happy as a clam in high water” at the prospect of running the floor again, and daughter Jasmine, captain of the hardworking SE women, shares his infectious enthusiasm.
“Everyone in our team's been following their own fitness programme and we're all eager to get back on the court,” she said.
“We've gained new skills and experience this season. The positive impact of this season on our team has been huge.”
Jasmine's elder sister Lily Sparks led SE to victory 40-18 in the women's B Grade final last year.
Raiders skipper Willie Brown and company, whose last outing on August 17 was an eight-point loss to City Lights, feel they have unfinished business to settle in this league, starting with GBHS A.
“We're pumped up because last time out, we came off the court and went into lockdown,” Brown said.
Boys' High lost their last game to Green Up 56-54.
Big man Cody Tarei (13 points) and Rikki Noble (10pts) played well but Green Up's go-to man Tyrese Tuwairua-Brown, with 21, led all GBA club basketball scorers in Week 12 and was a match-winner on the night.
William Collier scored eight points for GBHS in that thriller, as did Darius Waititi-Leach on behalf of Green Up.
Tuwairua-Brown led Green Up to the 2020 Grand Final against SES, who took the honours that evening 41-29.
Tuwairua-Brown said: “The only hoops we've been able to shoot for the past month have been on PlayStation. We've missed ball — it's great news that the club league's back on.”
Green Up made 10 three-point shots in the 2020 semifinals but it is hard to say which of the two best-performed Premier outfits will have got their “legs” back in time to decide this crunch contest, let alone hit the hardwood running.
League marshals Catherine Kepa, Amoe Tarsau and Keenan Ruru-Poharama have done a top job all year but their efforts at short notice deserve special recognition.
The return of club basketball likewise owes much to the YMCA (the game's bastion here since the move from the Army Hall in 1962), GBHS and the availability of referees of the calibre of Clifton Blumfield and Ethan Ngarangione-Pearson.
Although spectators are not permitted, The Herald will cover the games in person.