A dominant second-half performance saw the Waikato Wizards book their place in the 2020 Sal’s NBL 18IN18 semi-finals defeating the Kāpura Capital Swish 78-54 at Pulman Arena on Wednesday.
The scores were tied at 33 points apiece at the interval, but a tired looking Swish outfit were outscored 45-21 in the second half.
Maka Daysh enjoyed her best 18IN18 outing amassing 16 points and 12 rebounds. Kayla Manuirirangi scored a game-high 18 points whilst the teenage backcourters Alana Paewai and Jayze’lee Waihi scored 14 and 13 respectively.
Letava Whippy (15 points) and Paris Lokotui (10 points) were the major contributors for Capital.
Despite the loss, Capital will also contest the semi-finals. They have the same 2-win, 3-loss record as ETCO Auckland Dream but hold head-to-head superiority having beaten the Dream by 10 points (76-66) earlier in the competition.
Regardless of Thursday’s game between the Firebrand Otago Gold Rush and Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats, the final four has been decided. Capital join the Wizards, Gold Rush and Platinum Homes Harbour Breeze in the semi-finals with just the matchups to be decided.
Young forwards Lokotui and Esra McGoldrick had an intriguing battle all night - both made early baskets with the scores level (9-9) at the five-minute mark.
Grace Gordon made a three to reduce the Wizards lead to 18-17 at quarter time. Unfortunately, seconds before the break, the Feilding native had to be helped from the court after sustaining a head knock, an injury that ruled her out of the remainder of the game.
A Sariah Penese three opened the second quarter scoring but Manuirirangi also knocked down her second trey of the game to keep the Wizards narrowly ahead.
Lokotui made an eye-catching inside move and when Dalen Pilitati dropped a corner three the scores were tied 25 points apiece.
Manuirirangi (11 points in the first half) dropped her third triple of the game but there was nothing between the two teams as half-time approached.
Zarya Poulava’s activity on the offensive glass gave Paewai the opportunity to land a jump shot and an entertaining half concluded with Jyordanna Davey fittingly tying the game (33-33) on the half-time break.
Both teams upped the defensive pressure at the start of the second half, the scoring slowing as a result. Daysh and Arielle Parai, returning after a two-game injury break, unlocked the Swish defence to give Wizards a 41-35 lead.
The two teams traded free throws before a back door cut and score from Pilitati made it a two-point game. Daysh adjusted that before pocket dynamo Paewai converted from three-point land – Wizards ahead 49-43 at three-quarter time.
Waihi and Zarya Poulava made the opening scores of the fourth quarter – Swish head coach Deslea Wrathall not liking what she saw called a timeout less than a minute into the stanza.
The Wizards defence was stifling and when Waihi made a turnaround jumper the Wizards were 58-43 ahead with six minutes to play and sniffing a much-needed win.
Daysh stretched the lead as the Wizards dominated the fourth to the tune of 29-11 and confidence growing ahead of the semis.
Wizards 78 – Manuirirangi 18p, Daysh 16p/12r, Paewai 14p, Waihi 13p, Poulava 2p/9r
Capital 54 – Whippy 15p, Lokotui 10p, Davey 8p, Selby-Rickit 9r
SkyCity Hotel MVP Votes:
Letava Whippy (Swish-8), Maka Daysh (Wizards-7), Jayze'lee Waihi (Wizards-5), Alana Paewai (Wizards-5), Kayla Manuirirangi (Wizards-4), Jyordanna Davey (Swish-1).