The first session of the inaugural Schick 3x3 Cup dished up 14 fast, furious and physical games tonight in Invercargill. They were dished out at dizzying speed for fans who were experiencing this new form of sporting entertainment for the first time.
The women and men shared the glitzy showcourt with supporters witnessing the dig and drive of this electrifying 3X3 format. Officials let the game flow freely and physical play was common place.
After the first of these five sessions, it’s still too hard to pick clear favourites to take home the titles.
The likelihood of upsets are higher, evident in tonight’s final game where the TAB favourite and Tall Blacks laden Hawke’s Bay Hawks were stunned by the TAB’s sixth pick - the Tasman Suns. Nelson’s Tom Ingham scrapped his way to the W. The Waimea College old boy drained two crucial buckets from deep then, tied at 19-19, a back and forth scurry ensued before Ingham came up with the game-stealing-buzzer-beating winner and the upset of the night. It was one of five games that came down to a ‘next basket wins’ result.
One of the night’s stand outs, among many, was Sky Sport Tall Fern Ella Fotu representing the Harbour Breeze. On the way to a post-game recovery, Fotu said the opening minutes came as a surprise.
“It really is a different game from 5X5 with different defence and tactics, but we love it. I like the pace especially, it’s just so quick.
“It’s noticeably more physical. We came out in the first game and the physicality was a bit of a shock, but then you get the feel for it and adjust, and then we began to use it our advantage.
“It’s great to see that it’s an even battlefield out there - the teams are bringing different elements and their own personal way of playing. I feel like every team is pretty solid,” says Fotu.
The tournament’s 80 players scrapped for every point tonight, while the fans barely had time to digest each victory before the next game started – this event is designed to entertain. The partisan supporters showed their colours when the Southland Sharks officially returned to ILT Stadium Southland along with Alex Pledger – both icons in the deep south. Pledger didn’t disappoint under the rim as usual, alongside Dom Kelman-Poto, Alonzo Burton and Hyrum Harris. The Sharks managed to steady themselves and pull away to a 21 – 17 win over a youthful Rams side. Pledger left the court promising locals they will seem him sink one from deep before the end of the week.
“Most of my career I’ve been a mind-range and in kind of guy, but they’re only worth one point here so this game kind of screws you over a little bit, so over the course of the next few days I’ll probably launch one or two.”
No doubt the Southland fans will welcome that as this event builds into finals, to be held on a late-night session this Saturday. Only then will the silverware will be handed over for New Zealand’s first national 3X3 NBL titles.
Full results can be found here.