CBA Winter Club - Finals Preview
Grand Finals Day Preview by Bruce Martin and James Lissaman.
There will be a new name on the Robert C Curtis Cup Men’s Premier basketball Championship trophy, with Hoben Trophy winner over the last two seasons, the Pioneer Pacers meeting Lincoln University, which was pipped 75-76 by Gators in last year’s final. The Premier Men’s Grand Final is scheduled to tip off at 7:00pm but with many grades being contested throughout the day that are expected to be very tight, the tip may be delayed as deemed necessary.
Plenty of food will be available, with Shirley Boys' High School running a sasage sizzle at the entrance to Cowles Stadium from approximately 10:30am, until the demand (or supply) has dried up - remember to bring some change! Avonside Girls' will be running the canteen inside the stadium, with hot chips, cold drinks, tea, coffee and a selection of other foods available throughout the day.
8:00am sees the start of a very busy day of basketball, with some of our youngest club representatives tipping off in the Junior All-Stars competition as they represent their respective six sports hubs. These games are the breading ground of many future Canterbury Wildcats and Canterbury Rams, and is often the first introduction into stop-clock basketball for these young players, where the teams play four 7-minute quarters. This year sees the Pioneer Y7/8 Boys go up against the Gators team (Court One); and the North Canterbury Y5/6 Girls face off with the Bishopdale YMCA team (Court Two). Both of these games are expected to be very close, with the Bishopdale girls winning all of their round robin games, but North Canterbury being their only opponent that was able to keep the difference in the single figure range. On the boys’ side, a competition featuring a lot of parity took place, with both teams meeting last Sunday, in a close win for Pioneer.
9:15am has our second round of Junior All-Star games, with the Girls Y7/8 game featuring the Bishopdale YMCA and Gators on Court One. The Y5/6 Boys face off on Court Two, with the same two clubs competing here as in the Y5/6 Girls Final. Bishopdale has scored the most points in the competition, but Gators had the better of them in their round one meeting. Both of the boys’ teams had in identical 4-1 record, with North Canterbury edging the Gators in their meeting last weekend.
10:40am The Men’s U23 Final sees the undefeated LU Bulls team looking for number 72, in what will be team captain James Cawthorn’s last game in this age group. The Lincoln Bulls are strongly favoured to take its fourth successive championship, after going unbeaten for four seasons, LU’s last Grand Final loss was in 2013 when they were beaten by Gators. The team is on a 71 game winning streak, probably unmatched by any other team in the CBA competition in this century at least. Wolverines gave LU a strong run in the semi-final on Wednesday with four Lincoln players: Cawthorn; Ben Bowie; and the Williams brothers - Ben and Josiah, just returned from China where they contested the FISUWorld 3x3 championships. LU won the encounter 97-81 to book a spot in this year’s Grand Final.In the other semi-final University of Canterbury thumped Checkers 95-66 with strong contributions from Simon Reeves, Josh Petermann and Rohan Russo. In their two encounters this season between the two University teams, LU has prevailed by 22 and 25 points respectively.The two universities will continue their rivalry at the Tertiary games being played in Cowles stadium Monday to Wednesday next week.
Bruce’s picks Lincoln to take it but by less than 15 this time
Court Two guarantees a championship for Gators, with their Green and White Girls’ U17 teams facing off against each other. The White team is undefeated, and has First team selection Fia Lai Kong and the super quick guard Hannah Malaysay leading the way, but has only beaten the green team by nine points (combined) in their two previous meetings. Isabell Orr and Katie Jo van den Bogaert have also been selected in the first team for the grade, and will have big things expected from them.
Bruce’s picks Gators White to take it in a back and forth game
12:20pm sees the second of Lincoln University’s chances at a title today, with their under 23 women’s team facing off against Halswell on Court One. The two teams have met three times earlier in the season, with LU winning convincingly each time. The sharpshooting Lucy Brown, and beast on the boards, Caitlin Grice have first team honours, while Halswell will rely on another huge team effort after winning both of their previous playoff games against teams that finished much higher in the standings than them. Aleni Chapman and Katie Van Beurten have been instrumental in these upset wins, and will need to have another big game to get a third straight upset win.
Bruce’s picks Lincoln University to take this game, after falling short in 2016
The Boys’ Under 15 grade is being contested on the other court, with an unbeaten St. Thomas of Canterbury team facing off against the Shirley Boys’ High Spartans, who will be without the services of First Teamer, Gregory Rodger, due to injury. Tautahi Briggs will be counted on to provide size (as well as outside shooting) for Jamie Graham’s team. Neville Brooker’s STC team will have no shortage of talent though, with Tanae Lavery, fresh off a 54-point outburst in their semi-final, and First Teamer Joshua Lacey both expected to come ready to play.
The unbeaten St. Thomas is the pick for “Brucestradamus” in this game
2:00pm – Cashmere Gold will take on Rangiora in the Under 17 Boys competition, with the size Cashmere possesses (Tom Webley, Willem Russ-Hofmans and Louis Oskam) being something that many older teams are envious of. Finn Barclay received First Team Honours while Rangiora is led by Noa Price and Lachlan Macfarlane. Rangiora almost missed out on a chance to retain their 2016 championship, as they needed a comeback for the ages last week, using a 30-9 run across the last two quarters of the semi-final win to erase a 21 point deficit, and sneak home with a 93-88 win.
Bruce picks Cashmere Gold to take this but warns not to underestimate the determination of Rangiora
For the first time at least back as far as 2008 when Aranui Blue ran supreme, that Halswell has not one, but two of their Women’s Division one teams in the Grand. Wildcats from earlier seasons, Jane Lattimore and Bridget Salkeld both are recognized in the First Team for the grade, and will now take the court against each other. Halswell Red had a one game edge in the W/L column over the season, and took the season series 2-1 against their fellow club mates. Cecelia Zambrini will be targeted defensively by the Halswell Green team, as they attempt to keep her out of the lane, while Stacey Hickford will be just as much of a defensive focus for the red team.
Bruce picks Halswell Green to take this derby but the Halswell club will celebrate whoever wins
At 3:40pm, the Burnside-Checkers team look to go for their fourth straight title in this grade, but will face some very tall opposition in their way, with BBMC Ashburton poised to meet them. The two teams have both met twice before this season, with an average of five points separating them in each of Burnside-Checkers’ wins. Fletcher Arnold and Isaiah Morris will be an extremely interesting match to watch in the point guard position, while Joshua Lowe and TK Cooper will patrol the paint for their respective teams.
Bruce picks Burnside-Checkers to continue its dominance in the grade
Court Two has the Men’s Division One final, where Atami Casa de Banos, formed by the powerful duo of Ritchie and Scott Howell moving to this grade after more than a decade in Men’s Premier Competition. Standing in their way will be the long tenured Wolverines Blue team, which will look to make use of the on court understanding of long time Premier Coaches Jamie Graham and Terry Brunel. In terms of size, Lionel Hopgood and Nick Purcell will go toe to toe with the formidable frontline Atami CdB possesses, with Nathan Hyde working well with the Howell brothers.
Bruce’s pick is for Atami to take their inaugural title, but if Jamie Graham can find shooting range look out for a close one!
5:20pm Lincoln University edged North Canterbury in the Patrons trophy final 60-56 earlier this year. During the championship round robin, LU was beaten by NC and Pioneer, as LU had several players away or not available. Wildcat Fran Edmonson was delayed on her flight home from Volleyball World Series, Courtney Hamblin had moved north for work following the WBC season, and Tessa Stewart-Morrison had returned to her American college. Wildcat Connie Poletti is also not available for the final for Lincoln after gaining a trial with the NZ 3x3 team, turning the final in NC’s favour. On the other hand, NC had gone from strength to strength.
Veteran Wildcat Hayley Gray retuned to the side to put in some strong performances and the two Junior Tall-Ferns Charlotte Whittaker and Esra McGoldrick improved with every outing. Terina Wanoa added speed to the NC line up and other strong contributions are expected from former Tactix player Gemma Hazeldine and Wildcat Ash Fane. Coach Wade Parata has a tough choice ahead with the rules stating he can only suit up three Wildcat players from the travelling squad, and is at the time of writing was undecided as to which Wildcat will have to sit the Grand final out. In the semi’s Lincoln edged Pioneer 67-64 just before four players headed to the FISU World 3x3 championship, while NC thumped Halswell 117-47.
With the absence of Poletti, Bruce favours North Canterbury to edge Lincoln in another close battle, which would see North Canterbury to take its first championship win since joining the grade in 2015. In that year NC was edged 69-54 by UC in the championship final.
7:00pm Pioneer Pacers, led by the athletic Marty Davison, qualified for its first Men’s Premier championship Grand final since the team joined the grade in 2014 when it comfortably beat Wolverines 91-58 in the semi-final. Pioneer, founded by former Ram and Tall-Black Dave Langrell, still contains key members, Davison, Oli Davies and Harley Campbell from the inaugural team. Pioneer won the Hoben trophy that year, but was put out of the championship race by Atami in the semi-final round. Fraser Costley now coaches the team. Pioneer set the season alight by winning its second Hoben Trophy but then the wheels started to fall off, such was the closeness of the Men’s Premier grade this season, before easily accounting for their two playoff opponents by at least 30 points each.
Lincoln University’s team will look identical to the one contesting the U23 Men’s Final, with long-term player James Levings helping lay the foundation for this year’s campaign before heading over to the UK in June. Speed has been a key component in most of LU’s wins, with James Cawthorn and Ben Williams being deadly from the perimeter in transition, while Josiah Williams can break down opposing defences off the dribble, and Ben Bowie’s level of cardiovascular fitness sees him cause issues for much bigger defenders.
Both the defending Champion, Gators, and Hoben Trophy winner Pioneer lost most all their championship round encounters until they meet in round five where Pioneer edged the defending champion Gators 79-77. Long-term champion Atami dropped out of contention when eliminated leaving three teams tied at the bottom of the table and LU undefeated in the championship round. Pioneer and LU had topped the Hoben trophy round robin, where Pioneer took the trophy edging LU 76-73 on a last second bucket for Ariel Mepana. It was Lincoln’s turn for the wheels to fall off when they were beaten by Wolverines 79-82 in the quarter-finals, but qualified for semi-finals through virtue of their extra life as the first seed, which saw UC and Gators get eliminated.
Bruce is divided loyalties on the outcome of the Grand-Final, and warns that extra time could be needed with Pioneer sneaking home by a couple of points and ruining LU’s possibility of four titles.
For more on today’s games, have a listen to our On The Bounce podcast by clicking here
REMINDER – ALCOHOL IS NOT PERMITTED IN COWLES STADIUM WITHOUT AN APPROPRIATE LICENSE