Waikato Wizards, Auckland Dream, Otago Gold Rush and Power Chill Country Cannons each recorded wins in the opening day of the 2018 Women’s Basketball Championship in Tauranga on Friday.
The performance of the day belonged to Waikato as they inflicted a first up loss on Canterbury Wildcats.
A composed display by young Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker (31 points) led the Wizards to a convincing 79-51 win against the defending champions.
Leger-Walker was quickly into her stride with four early threes and aided by a couple of transition baskets from Alyssa Hirawani the Wizards held a 20-10 first quarter lead.
Kelcy Ballantyne and Natasha Lenden extended the Wizards advantage before Laken Wairau replied for Canterbury.
Despite a banked three by Aimee Book on the half-time buzzer Waikato were the happier of the two teams at the break leading 34-24.
Shea Crotty, returning to the Wildcats team after playing in Melbourne in 2017, opened the second half scoring but a 10-0 Wizards run extended their advantage necessitating a Canterbury timeout. Ella Bradley scored after the restart to push the Waikato lead past twenty points (49-26) at the mid point of the third stanza.
Book made another three but Leger-Walker replied in kind as the Wizards held all the tricks at three-quarter time leading 63-37.
Hirawani scored then fed Bradley with a heads up play either side of a basket by Darcy Rose but when Leger-Walker enhanced her personal tally the Wizards lead was thirty points.
The two teams exchanged baskets in the closing stages, Waikato making a perfect start to the new season.
Wizards Head Coach Leanne Walker was pleased with her team’s performance.
“We have a young side with all but three of our players on court today still at school. They demonstrated to me and to themselves that they are more than capable of playing at this level.
“Canterbury pressed us at times but we withstood that pressure and kept the scoreboard ticking over, they are good signs for the future.
“The team was well led by Charlisse and Alyssa with Kelcy also having a strong game,” Walker added.
Auckland Dream were powered by sisters Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor in their 88-69 win against City of Sails rivals Harbour Breeze.
Taylor (21 points), the Tall Ferns co-captain, picked up where she had left off at the Commonwealth Games shooting a highly efficient 7 from 12 from the floor and fellow Olympian Mellars led all scorers with 24 points.
Harbour Breeze were well served by Tera Reed (19 points), recently returned from an outstanding freshman season at Virginia Commonwealth University.
The first half was a fairly even affair as Keeley Tini (13 points) and Jazz Kailahi-Fulu helped Harbour keep pace with the Dream trailing by six (41-34) at the interval.
Harbour quickly found themselves in foul trouble in the third period enabling Auckland to capitalise via Shauna Povey, Amanda Buck and Mellars at the foul line to stretch out to 67-49 at three-quarter time.
Tayla Dalton made a couple of triples in the closing stages but Harbour were unable to threaten the Auckland advantage and fell 88-69.
Despite a promising start Taranaki Thunder lost 68-43 to Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons 68-43.
Taranaki made all the running in the opening minutes, leading 15-9 courtesy of ten early points from Iritana Hohaia. The Cannons made up some of the lost ground as Latava Whippy scored a couple of baskets in transition.
The Cannons made major gains in the second with Arielle Parai and Donna Fermanis finishing strongly to give the Cannons a 34-31 half-time advantage.
The Taranaki offence lost its fluency and the Cannons pounced to stretch their lead to 49-36 with ten minutes to play.
Lyndi Laborn and Isabelle Cook worked tirelessly for the Thunder but the Cannons were able to ease away in the fourth with Kyler-Renee Parai and Tenielle Wilkinson-August shooting the ball particularly well.
In the final game of the day Otago Gold Rush proved too strong for Tauranga City Coasters winning 66-46.
Otago shot out to a 21-5 first quarter lead with the Ruske sisters, Nicole and Aleisha, combining for a dozen points.
Cairyn-Marie Rogers and Rebecca Hughes provided the hosts with a much better start to the second period as they outscored Otago 11-6 in the early stages of the frame.
Natalie Visger halted the Tauranga progress with an inside basket but the Coasters narrowed the lead further with multiple trips to the charity stripe and a long three from Courtney Wilson.
The Otago lead was cut further by a Makayla Daysh And-1 play – 33-27 in favour of the visitors at the interval. Visger led all scorers at the break with 12 points.
Seven quick points from Danielle Frost, a transition basket from Nicole Ruske and a fourth foul picked up by Cairyn-Marie Rogers stymied the Coasters progress as they fell behind 46-33. Dana Goularte scored in the shadows of three-quarter time as Otago took control with a 53-34 lead with ten minutes to play.
Wilson drew warm applause from a decent size home crowd with an inside bucket and a bigger ovation greeted a Briarley Rogers triple but Otago had little trouble protecting their advantage and eased to a 20 points win.
Day 1 Results:
Auckland Dream 88 – C Mellars 26, N Taylor 18, S Theyers 10, S Povey 9
Harbour Breeze 69 – T Reed 19, T Dalton 15, K Tini 13, J Kailahi-Fulu 7
Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons 68 – A Parai 19, L Whippy 14, K Parai 10, T Wilkinson-August 10
Taranaki Thunder 43 – I Hohaia 12, L Laborn 9, I Cook 8
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 51 – A Book 17, D Rose 10, T Nisbet 6, S Wairau 6, F Edmondson 6
Waikato Wizards 79 – C Leger-Walker 31, A Hirawani 16, E Bradley 10, K Ballantyne 9
Tauranga City Coasters 46 – N Visger 16, D Goularte 15, N Ruske 11, A Ruske 9
Otago Gold Rush 66 – C Wilson 10, B Rogers 10, M Daysh 10
Image: Finn Kennedy Photography