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Dreamers to play Butter Fingers in final

The grand finalists are now known.

Dreamers held off Brick Layers 32-28 in the 1 v 4 semifinal of the inaugural Gisborne Basketball Association women’s draft league and the competition’s No.2 team Butter Fingers beat Hoops I Did it Again 53-42 last night at the YMCA.

Dreamers player-coach Melissa Mackey-Huriwai ran the floor and fought for possession of the ball as hard as any of the 39 other participants yesterday evening in front of 300 fans.

“We had the really strong start that we’d planned for, but then we nodded off for a little while before coming back strongly towards the end of the game,” she said.

“Our defence was good.”

“Good” is an understatement. Dreamers’ scoring was well-spread, from the player-coach (eight points), Natalie Mackey (7) and Taimarie Matahiki (7) on, but from top to bottom they contested not just every rebound at both ends of the court but every opposition dribble. And in both semifinals, the frequency and ferocity of competitors forcing a jump-ball was remarkable.

Coach Hana Wilkinson’s Brick Layers produced a sensational match-effort in the first semi. They lost by six points (38-32) to Dreamers on Tuesday last week, and this latest margin of four points overnight did not flatter the fourth-placed team; it was a true reflection of their great tenacity and heart in what so far has been a winless season.

Brick Layers’ Amoe Tarsau led all scorers in Game 1 as the only player in either outfit to put up double-figures — 10. Skilful guard Jayda Waititi-Leach and a very determined Paige Tamatea both got six points, with all three featuring in some tremendous plays.

Brick Layers’ Courtney Stubbins made a great steal at halfcourt. She then had the vision to find a cutter on her right and Tarsau scored the first field goal of the evening.

Tamatea scored the last basket of the period with just three seconds left to play, after Anna Spring had done an amazing job running back to save a loose ball inbounds near the right sideline at midcourt. Her hustle play preceded Tamatea’s swooping finish from the left.

Dreamers led 12-8 at that stage and 21-13 at the break but Wilkinson’s team showed phenomenal commitment to claw their way to a 24-23 lead at three-quartertime.

That Brick Layers could force the league’s No.1 team to commit a shot-clock violation on the first possession in the second period speaks to their defensive passion. That said, class will out, as when Dreamers’ Piper Donaldson made a three-point play against Jamieson Tapsell for 21-13.

With six minutes to play before halftime, Ishtar Mackey-Huriwai caught up with Stubbins near midcourt, committing the comic foul of the night. In amongst the skill, local ball has a happily robust sense of humour.

Equally impressive was the unselfishness of both teams on the semifinal stage, as seen in Tarsau’s lob-pass to Waititi-Leach for the bank-shot left side to close it to 23-22.

Semifinal resilience was best exemplified by Natalie Mackey, who bounced off Spring and managed to make a tough shot for a 29-28 lead.

Wilkinson said: “That was a good game. I’m stoked that our team stepped up and gave it their best and I could really see the players’ progress over the past four weeks.”

Petra Sparks, at 21, took on the awesome responsibility of a player-coach for Hoops I Did it Again and can be proud of her crew’s match-effort in the second semi.

Sparks said: “We shot the ball well but they outrebounded us. Ariana Kepa (13pts) was great offensively and defensively again, and Maia Rickard gave us pure hustle at both ends.”

Butter Fingers’ powerful centre Dyani Johnson played great basketball and, on defence, her dominance of the key gave team No.2 a crucial edge.

Offensively, her team’s big guns fired. Kiara Swannell was the leading scorer in both games on the night with 23 points, but her teammate Peyton Riri (12) was every bit as influential, although Swannell’s handling skills and ability to finish at the rim under pressure were at times peerless.

Kellan Kemp worked assiduously for Hoops I Did it Again to contain Johnson at close quarters, forcing a turnover low to the left of the ring at the start of the second quarter. But Johnson — as she proved when scoring on the third attempt to close it to 27-24 — wouldn’t take no for an answer.

Butter Fingers’ Te Amokura Te Rauna-Lamont gets the guts-bucket of the year for 43-31. Having previously thrown caution to the wind in pursuit of a steal, she was rewarded with a field goal off a Riri assist to bring a tear to the eye for anyone appreciative of hard work paying off for such a keen player.

Revenge was indeed sweet for Butter Fingers, Hoops having pipped them 54-52 in Round 3. Their coach Janelle Te Rauna-Lamont said: “From our perspective, this was a much better game than last week. We’d worked hard on our plays, defence and shooting for this. We seemed to have a better flow and although the draft league’s almost over we’re gelling. We’re far more familiar with each other’s play.

“This has been a cool experience for all of us.”

With the Maori Basketball Tournament in Rotorua to begin on Monday, the draft league grand final and playoff for third and fourth will be played this Friday — instead of Tuesday next week — at the YMCA.

The playoff, Hoops I Did it Again versus Brick Layers, will start at 5.30pm; the grand final, between Dreamers and Butter Fingers, is set for 6.45pm.

1 v 4 semifinal: Dreamers 32 (Melissa Mackey-Huriwai 8, Natalie Mackey 7, Taimarie Matahiki 7) beat Brick Layers 28 (Amoe Tarsau 10, Jayda Waititi-Leach 6, Paige Tamatea 6) Q1 Dreamers 12-8, HT 21-13, Q3 Brick Layers 24-23.

2 v 3 semifinal: Butter Fingers 53 (Kiara Swannell 23, Peyton Riri 12) Hoops I Did it Again 42 (Petra Sparks 18, Ariana Kepa 13) Q1 Butter Fingers 12-10, Q2 22-21, Q3 39-29.