AshColl earns home semi-final

Fotu Hala brings the ball up for Ashburton College during a Thomson Trophy basketball game.

With a semi-final spot already secured, Ashburton College senior boys headed into their last round robin Thomson Trophy basketball game against Kaiapoi High School on Tuesday night wanting to keep the ball rolling after a couple of good wins.

But Kaiapoi started the better side in the Canterbury secondary schools’ basketball division II game at the Oxford Street stadium and took a 21-13 lead into the second quarter. Then Ashburton got into early foul trouble which meant changes had to be made earlier than anticipated.

They produced a much improved second quarter though, improving on their zone press and getting the ball inside their taller opposition, and taking the lead three minutes before the end of the quarter.

Kaiapoi regained their composure though and went to the break ahead 40-37.

Ashburton started the third quarter as they had the week prior in their win over Lincoln, doubling their intensity and getting their positional play on the full court zone press right, with their offensive option taking spot on.

They caught Kaiapoi off guard and although they again rallied, Ashburton didn’t let that impact on their momentum and the home side led 73-61 heading into the final quarter.

After an even start to the final stanza, it was Ashburton who gained the edge and pulled away despite the fact they were losing players who were fouling out – three in the final quarter. But by then Kaiapoi had tired and no final rally came, with Ashburton winning 112-91.

Ashburton coach Brian Kerr said it was a mixed bag game, and his side’s headspace just wasn’t right.

“At times we were underwhelming and then at times, absolutely awesome,” he said.

“We had some real brain fades out there, just little things that should never happen and it seemed that we saved them all up for this one game.

“We got into foul trouble early which meant a couple of our starters got less minutes, however the bench guys stepped up well.  Young Kambell Stills got stuck in and played really well. He grabbed some good boards at both ends, made a couple of good baskets but ran good support lanes on the break ready to put back any missed layups.”

Fotu Hala top scored with 26 points in another good display, and Penuel Pantaleon scored 14 points, but both got into foul trouble which cut back their time on court.

Marc Juntilla kick-started the fight back in the third quarter and he ended with 21 points with some good sniping drives, while Quinn Ritchie also had a good all-round game netting 17 points, playing good aggressive defence without the fouls.

Abel Wilson also produced some wonderful drives to the basket for a 20-point haul.

Kerr said his side didn’t adjust their game to how the officials were calling the game.

“They set the scene of how they expect the players to play and the players have to react accordingly.

“We got a lot of calls with our hands in the cookie jar so to speak, meaning we were reaching with our hands rather than getting into good defensive positioning by sliding with our feet. That disrupted our flow a little,” Kerr said.

“No matter what, it’s always good to get the win and crack the ton but we leaked 91 points in doing so. That’s the bit that we need to work on.

“Overall we produced enough good basketball to win the game and to be honest at times some of the play was excellent.  That’s what we’ll take into next week’s home semi-final.”

Meanwhile the senior girls finished their 2018 Whelan Trophy division I competition on a high, despite not actually winning their final game.

They took on Middleton in the Canterbury secondary schools’ competition in Christchurch on Tuesday night and came away with a 65-56 loss, but coach Mark Douglas said it was the best game they’d played all season.

When the two sides met in the first round, Middleton won by 34, so to reduce that gap to just nine points a few weeks later was a big positive, Douglas said.

“It was by far the best we have played. We played with a bit of moxie which is good and the girls were pretty positive,” Douglas said.

“We just couldn’t quite get over the line. We got it back to four with not long to go but we ran out of steam.”

The result meant they finished the competition in seventh place.

Douglas said their goal at the start of the season was to finish higher than their seeding of eighth, so they had achieved that.

Their other goal was to keep improving into the Whelan Trophy’s second round, as they looked ahead to the South Island secondary schools’ tournament in Invercargill at the start of next month, and they had done that.

They’d now play friendly games against Timaru Girls’ High School and Craighead over the next couple of weeks as part of their preparation.

Douglas said the top six teams at the South Islands would qualify for the nationals, so that was the goal.

“This season we have talked about it, and it’s a bit of a stretch goal for us because we are pretty green, but that is still the goal and we will see how we go,” Douglas said.

– Erin Tasker