The Kapura Capital Swish took a giant step towards the 2020 Sal’s NBL 18IN18 semi-finals with a terrific 76-66 win against ETCO Auckland Dream at Bruce Pulman Arena on Friday.
Letava Whippy (pictured) and Grace Vaofusi were simply outstanding for the victorious Swish who move to 2-1, one more victory guaranteeing them a semi-final berth.
Fijian international Whippy finished with 15 points, 11 rebounds, 5 assists, 4 steals and a block. Vaofusi was equally destructive with 12 points in the final quarter to finish with a game high 21 points, 2 rebounds, 4 assists, 3 steals and a block.
The Dream actually led 59-56 with a shade over five minutes to play but they were outscored 20-7 in those closing minutes by a rampant Swish.
Vaofusi, in a sign of things to come, opened the scoring with a neat cross-over move and with teenage forward Lilly Taulelei making a mid-range jump shot Swish took a 16-12 lead into the quarter time break.
The Dream appeared a little rusty having not played for a week and when Vaofusi went back to back they trailed 20-12.
Former Tall Fern Katelin Noyer made a welcome return to the Dream line-up, having endured a couple of horror years with nagging injuries, but her hook shot rolled around the rim and out as the Dream struggled to find a score.
Sharne Robati finally got a triple to drop and when Olivia Berry and Arielle Williams-Mackey scored in transition Dream were within six points (25-19).
Dalen Pilitati made a welcome three for Swish but Rionne Papa’s baseline jumper at the back end of the second frame meant Dream trailed by only three at half-term (30-27).
The second half began as the Robati versus Whippy show – the pair were involved in multiple scores for their respective teams but it was Papa who gave the Dream the lead for the first time since the opening minutes of the game.
When the former Auckland Girls Grammar captain made another left hander the Dream were 43-37 ahead.
Jyordanna Davey nailed her first three-point attempt as Swish enjoyed a profitable couple of minutes to tie proceedings at 49 points apiece ahead of the final ten minutes.
Vaofusi followed Whippy into double figures for Swish as they edged 56-51 ahead at the start of the fourth period.
Dream replied with a 8-0 run to regain the advantage before Swish debutant Grace Gordon unleashed from deep. Vaofusi was also successful from beyond the arc – Swish ahead 65-61 with 2:30 to play.
Berry completed an athletic drive but Lokotui’s freebies kept Swish 67-63 ahead inside the final two minutes.
The impressive Vaofusi made it a six-point Swish lead with 1:22 to play and Dream Head Coach needed a timeout.
Williams-Mackey converted an And-1 play to halve the deficit but Whippy’s assist for a Te Huinga Selby-Rickit score meant Swish were 71-66 to the good and there was no way back for the Dream.
As mentioned above Gold Rush will face the Swish on Saturday. Auckland Dream will get an extra 24 hours rest before also facing Gold Rush on Sunday evening.
Swish 76 – Vaofusi 21/11r, Whippy 15/11r, Gordon 8, Lokotui 8, Selby-Rickit 5/11r
Dream 66 – Williams-Mackey 16, Robati 15/9r, Buchman 13, Papa 10
SkyCity Hotel MVP Votes:
Grace Vaofusi (Swish-9), Letava Whippy (Swish-9), Sharne Robati (Dream-3), Casyn Buchman (Dream-3), Jyordanna Davey (Swish-3), Arielle Willaims-Mackey (Dream-2), Rionne Papa (Dream-1).
2-1 Dream, Swish, Wizards
0-2 Gold Rush
Photo Credit: PhotosportNZ