Indigenous All-Stars make it Tran-Tasman Three-peat while women take positives from inaugural loss

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The Apunipima Australian Indigenous Basketball All Stars have won their third consecutive Trans-Tasman title, after they defeated the New Zealand Maori Men’s National Team 2-1 in their best-of-three series held last week in Cairns.

Led by big-man Tidjane Diop’s 20-points and 8-rebounds on opening night, the All Stars started the three-game contest with a tight 102-94 victory.

Dynamic shooting guard Deba George came to life in the second match-up and with his Torres Strait Islander teammates Chris and Michael Cedar also connecting from the perimeter, the All Stars managed an eight-point win, 86-78.

The All Stars were unable to complete the clean sweep though, dropping the third game 94-81. New Zealand setting up their 13-point triumph with a dominant performance both in the paint and on the glass.

32-year old George was named the series Most Valuable Player after he compiled a team-high 57-points over the three games, giving opposing Maori players defensive nightmares.

“It’s always a tough challenge going up against the Maori men,” George said.

“They’re always bigger and stronger than us, so we have to speed up the game and try and run them off the court, which we were able to do in those first two matches.”

“It was a hard three-games but also really fun. I look forward to playing these guys each year,” he added.

Apunipima Australian Indigenous Men’s All Stars Head Joel Khalu applauded the efforts of the younger troops in his squad and their contributions.

“I thought those guys really stepped up and were accountable in key moments,” Khalu said.

“It’s not easy for eighteen-year olds to go and battle against older and more experienced international players, but I thought Verle Williams, Jakobe Hunter and Joel Matysek all did an outstanding job.”

“Their energy was contagious and when we combined those players with the older heads of Kerry Williams and Tyson Demos, we witnessed some really good things happen at both ends of the court.”

Khalu also praised 15-year old rising star and NBA Global Academy athlete Tamuri Wigness for his impact as a first-time Indigenous All Star.

“Tamuri changed the tide of the second game,” Khalu added.

“His ability to defend with relentless pressure, especially up the floor, gave New Zealand guards all kind of headaches.”

“I think he (Wigness) helped force some key turnovers in that last period and that helped set up our win.”

“Tamuri is certainly an amazing talent and we’re looking forward to seeing his development continue within this group over the next few years.”

With the 2017 series in Cairns now done and the silverware staying in Australia, the annual Trans- Tasman Basketball Clash will shift back to New Zealand in 2018.

Game 1: Apunipima Australian Indigenous 102 (TJ Diop 20, Michael Cedar 18) defeated New Zealand Maori 94 (Dominique Kelman 29, Tom Vodanovich 17)

Game 2: Apunipima Australian Indigenous 86 (Deba George 22, Michael Cedar 13) defeated New Zealand Maori 78 (Hyrum Harris 25, Dominique Kelman 15)

Game 3: New Zealand Maori 94 (Dominique Kelman 23, Hyrum Harris 20) defeated Australian Indigenous 81 (Deba George 20, TJ Diop 18)

Most Valuable Player – Deba George (Australian Indigenous)

Despite losing the inaugural women’s Trans-Tasman Basketball Clash three games to nil in Cairns this past week, the Apunipima Australian Indigenous Basketball Women’s All Stars

remain optimistic.

The youthful All Stars competed valiantly, but failed to execute in important stages of games when needed. In the end, the experience and discipline of the New Zealand Maori Women’s National Team proved to be the difference.

The visitors from across the ditch defeated their Aussie counterparts in the opening encounter 86-63.

New Zealand guard Jordan Hunter lead her side with 12-points, while Indigenous Rashada Kaigey showcased her potential with a game-high 21-points for the All Stars.

Game number two of the series saw a much tighter affair. Teams traded baskets for the majority of the contest before the Maori side ran away in the final minutes, earning a hard fought 68-60 victory.

18-year old Kaigey was once again impressive in a losing effort, finishing with 18-points and 4-rebounds.

The final meeting of the series ended in a 30-point blowout to the visitors, 85-55. Hunter was again brilliant for the tourists, tallying a match-high 18-points. Her outstanding performances over the three-games earning her the event’s Most Valuable Player award.

The second installment of the Trans-Tasman series between the two women’s representative sides will shift to New Zealand in 2018.

Game 1: New Zealand Maori 86 (Jordan Hunter 12, Breana Jones 8) defeated Apunipma Australian Indigenous All Stars 63 (Rashada Kaigey 21, Leichan Williams 20)

Game 2: New Zealand Maori 68 (Bailey Ross-Waitai 11, Donna Fermanis 11) defeated Apunipima Australian Indigenous All Stars 60 (Rashada Kaigey 18, Bibi Baker 12)

Game 3: New Zealand Maori 85 (Jordan Hunter 18, Bailey Ross-Waitai 15) defeated Apunipima Australian Indigenous All Stars 55 (Leichan Williams 17, Bibi Baker 15)

Most Valuable Player – Jordan Hunter (NZ Maori)