Team Reg finish new basketball competition unbeaten
True sports fans know the feeling of being let down when a much-hyped event fizzes out.
But the feeling at the YMCA on Tuesday night was the opposite of that.
The Gisborne Basketball Association’s inaugural Draft League — after a whirlwind month during which scores of 90-plus became the norm — delivered to the 60 spectators on hand one more real blast to remember.
The all-conquering Team Reg beat Team Tom 85-81 in a dramatic, pulsating grand final — the climax to (and the perfect sign-off for) a competition that many think has transformed the local game.
GBA chair Kylie Turuwhenua-Tapsell juggled three things on Tuesday evening: living each second as a fan, supporting her daughter and referee Jamieson Tapsell, and acting as an all-seeing eye for the administration.
“Tonight was tense for those watching but what I’m most impressed with is the growth in skill and confidence of our young players,” she said.
“We want our under-13 and u15 kids to hustle and play hard defence, as both teams did out there tonight.”
Team Reg’s Holden Wilson and Team Tom dynamo Tyrese Tuwairua-Brown, their crews’ MVPs (most valuable players) in the grand final, jointly led the scorers with 27 points, Wilson being backed up by Kahn Grayson and Rikki Noble (17pts apiece).
Team Tom captain Carl Riini (19pts) and Scott Muncaster (15pts) both fought tremendously hard, along with Tuwairua-Brown.
Coach Reggie Namana put his team’s four-point win down, in large part, to teamwork.
“This was about a good team versus individuals — the good team won, and could have won it comfortably but they showed grit and resilience and brought it back in the dying minutes.
“We had three of our starters foul out, so our young guys — Jerome Tamatea and Keanu-Cleve Reedy — stepped up with big plays in the last five minutes. We should never forget, either, that free-throws win games.”
Grayson went to the foul-line twice in the last minute and he sank all four for 85-81.
Thomas Tindale mentored his crew expertly with passion.
“It was a short season, but a season of learning,” he said.
“It’s the first time we’ve run a competition like this, and there were so many amazing things to take away from it.
“It was an opportunity for players to get out of the comfort zone of club ball and play with others; allow young guys to show that they can play at an elite level.
“It was some of the best basketball I’ve ever been a part of. Down by 20 points early in the game, our boys fought hard to tie it up and give ourselves a chance to win it.
“Full credit to Reg and his team. They played hard and deserved to win it.”
Muncaster had the first call of the grand final (made by lead official Adrian Sparks) go his way at opposition captain Will Hocquard’s expense, but other than that, the veteran had to work at the offensive end.
He showed great tenacity and heart.
The breakneck pace of the game early on had to be seen to be believed.
Tuwairua-Brown flew at the chest of Rikki Noble to close the score to 14-6.
Wilson’s wicked dribble-penetration made possible a three-point shot from the right side by Grayson.
Wilson plays the game with a passion, some humour and a little mischief.
Humour came in the form of an air-ball from the free-throw line with a minute left in the first period; the mischief, a technical foul from Sparks for stepping on to the court from his substitutes’ bench to remonstrate, with 54.26 seconds left to play in regulation time.
The game is richer for having both warriors like Holden Wilson and man-managers of the calibre of Adrian Sparks.
Team Reg led 25-14 at quartertime, 45-30 at the break and 68-60 heading into the fourth period.
Jerome Tamatea, 13, the son of Rising Suns’ great Dwayne Tamatea and the youngest player in the league, won’t soon forget his season for Team Reg — or the part he played in the final.
He took rebounds at both ends of the court, gave assists to both Keanu-Cleve Reedy and Daley Riri and picked up two steals.
One of those steals resulted in Grayson hitting a 25-foot shot but the next play saw Muncaster make good use of a screen set by Stefan Pishief and score for Team Tom to close it to 46-20.
Pishief later showed considerable determination to score in traffic and tie the scores at 55-all.
For the purists, a highlight was the passage of play where Riini made a baseball pass off the right sideline to Zade Donner, who — on the run — switched hands to finish with a left-handed lay-up to draw his Team Tom within four points of the unbeaten Team Reg at 72-68.
Noble and Tuwairua-Brown both battled with steel beneath the hoop. Rarely did they leave empty-handed.
The sharpshooters from both teams were in good touch, too. Nine three-pointers fell; Wilson hit three of them.
With the GBA’s annual meeting set for tonight, age-group coaches having just been appointed and the end of the Draft League, one might think that basketball would now take a break.
That is not the case.
The feelers have already gone out, and the response has not been long in coming.
The women want a draft league too.