Heartbreaker for U23 Men
The Southland Under 23 Men and Storm Women's D-League teams will both play off for 7th & 8th place at National Tournaments today after losses in yesterday's 5th-8th semifinals.
The Men lost in heartbreaking fashion. With the scores tied deep inside the last minute of regulation time, Southland grabbed a crucial defensive rebound and as Tom Cowie leaked out to the basketball to lay it home, he was fouled. He made the clutch free-throw to put Southland up by three with under three seconds remaining.
Northland in-bounded with a heave down-court, scrambled a pass to an open player who threw up a prayer with time expiring which somehow went in, sending the game to overtime. Northland went on to record a 101-95 victory.
Coach Connor Coll said that result hurt.
"It was a very quiet van ride back to the hotel. It is hard when someone hits a shot like that. It just gives the other team all the momentum and they carried on with it in OT. We executed well in overtime but Northland hit big shots down the stretch.
"I can't fault the never-quit attitude from the group. They left it all out there and wanted this one badly. That's sport. It hurts," Coll said.
Tom Cowie continued his outstanding form, adding 36 to easily lead the tournament point scorers, while Campbell Scott (26) and Ethan Mitchell (17) again made major contributions.
"Tom was instrumental all game and down the stretch. He's playing unbelievably right now. Campbell has had a great week and he hit big shots for us including a couple of big threes to keep us in the game," Coll said.
Southland will play off for 7th & 8th against the old foe Otago at 12:30pm on Saturday.
"They are quite athletic and are a good sized. If we do a good job of defending the paint then we have a great chance. Our offence is flowing but our struggles have been on the defensive end. If we do well there then we have a shot," he said.
Meanwhile the Southland Storm women found the going tough in their semifinal against Waikato, going down 102-67 and will now play Taranaki for 7th & 8th.
Jenn O'Connell continued her impressive effort with 21 points with Lucy Kean adding 16.
One of the Storm Leadership group Morgan Hunter said her team were battered and bruised.
"The physicality these last two days has been tough. It's a completely different style of basketball to what we are used to. Hits that would be called fouls down home are ruled general play. We are a smaller-sized team so we have had to rely heavily on our speed and agility, but we are pretty battered right now," Hunter said.
The Storm have also had their depth tested with Sarah Hamilton injuring her calf on the opening day meaning Southland has had to line up against 12-strong opponents with only 9 players.
"We controlled our offence and temp much better than Thursday (against Canterbury) and when we put pressure on Waikato we were able to generate steals and turn those into transition buckets. They definitely put pressure on us bring the ball up and we turned-over far to much possession," Hunter said.
She is super-proud of how the Storm has acquitted itself in their national tournament debut.
"We came in us under-dogs and a bit of an unknown, so to have exceeded expectations is very pleasing. The team is a close, tight-knit group. Even when we've got down in games we have battle to the end and stayed together," Hunter said.
The Storm take on Taranaki at 10:45 on Saturday morning.