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Turanga seek final upset against defending champions Ngati Porou

BASKETBALL

They can fight back.

Turanga go into tonight’s Gisborne Basketball Association ladies’ club final, from 8pm at the YMCA, with the challenge of taking down six-time champions Ngati Porou.

But Turanga will not be swept off the floor, although two of their best this season — Hana Wilkinson (injury) and Alicia Kepa (out of town) — are unavailable.

Paare Ahuriri-Leach, Materoa Poi and Peyton Riri, however, are tough defensive players.

Ahuriri-Leach has been a real hustler from her earliest days in the league while Riri is a strong, quick left-hander.

Ngarita Ehau-Taumanu and Kiara Swannell are tall and athletic and combined with Tamara Hedge are capable of knocking down big shots.

Hedge led the GBA under-19s to a 56-37 victory over Old Quackers in the 2013 grand final, and that u19 team contained many high-quality players who would go on to feature in Ngati Porou’s first three-year title run.

Bronya McMenamin’s Ngati Porou won titles from 2014-2016 and an unprecedented six titles in the last seven years.

Jayda Waititi-Leach led Lytton to High School to victory over Campion College in the first all-college ladies’ club final in 2017, but Ngati Porou then made the next three seasons their own.

Waititi-Leach joined Ngati Porou last year and has been a brilliant addition .

Her instincts as a guard, court-vision, three-point shooting and bravery are all valuable assets.

Ata Mangu is as classy a finisher in the open court now as ever she was and McMenamin continues to do what she has always done — rebound powerfully and put missed shots back in the hoop.

She, Mangu and Waititi-Leach have never sat at the perimeter to drop 18 points each week. They could but prefer to facilitate great team basketball.

Ngati Porou will take some beating and Ahuriri-Leach of Turanga knows it.

“We’ve got to play as a team, work hard on defence to shut down key players and finish on offence.

It’s always a tough battle against Ngati. It’s going to be a good game.”

GBA chair Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell and her committee have put in countless hours in preparation for the next 48 hours.

“We’re excited for the teams playing in tonight and tomorrow night’s finals because the top four ladies’ teams are so close in skill that it could anyone’s game on the night,” she said.

“Our secondary school teams have had amazing family support all year, which shows the love of basketball reaches far and wide here in Gisborne.”

GISBORNE BASKETBALL ASSOCIATION CLUB finals —

Tonight, ladies’ competition, YMCA, 5th/6th play-off, 5.30pm: SE Systems v Gisborne Girls’ High School.

3rd/4th play-off, 6.45pm: Ritana Toa v Manu Toa

Final, 8pm: Ngati Porou v Turanga.

Secondary schools, John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre, 5th/6th play-off, 5pm: Ritana v GBHS Junior B.

3rd/4th play-off, 6.15pm: Campion Cougars v GBHS Junior A.

Final, 7.30pm: Campon College Juniors GBHS Senior B.

Tomorrow night, Men’s Premier Grade, YMCA, 5th/6th play-off, 5.30pm: Raiders v Massive Marauders.

3rd/4th play-off, 6.45pm: City Lights v GBHS Senior A.

Final, 8pm: SE Systems v Green Up.

Men’s Open B Grade, John McFarlane Memorial Sports Centre, 5th/6th play-off, 5.30pm: Gizzy Gilas v Hawaiiki Hou.

3rd/4th play-off, 6.45pm: The Shed v Old Surfers.

Final, 8pm: The Bibs v Hustlers.

BRING IT ON: Turanga, led by Paare Ahuriri-Leach (left) face the mighty Ngati Porou, headed by Bronya McMenamin (right) in the ladies club basketball final at the YMCA tonight.Picture by Ben O’Brien-Leaf