Otago Gold Rush claimed the 2018 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) title at the Edgar Centre, Dunedin on Saturday with a closely fought 62-52 victory against Waikato Wizards.
Soraya Umaga-Jensen edged Gold Rush ahead 15-13 with the last play of the first quarter after some nervy opening exchanges.
The early defensive match-ups of the two teams was intriguing with Charlisse Leger-Walker marking the dangerous Dana Goularte and Leger-Walker herself shadowed by Bronwyn Kjestrup or Danielle Frost. It was Kjestrup that made the first basket of the second quarter, one largely dominated by the two defences.
Gourlate briefly evaded the Leger-Walker shackles for a step back three to give the Gold Rush a 23-15 lead before Ella Bradley scored inside for the Wizards.
A low scoring first half ended with Otago 27-18 to the good – Goularte with eleven points the only player in double figures.
Alyssa Hirawani was the first scorer of the second half before Umaga-Jensen knocked down her second triple of the game.
Frost stretched the Otago advantage to 38-24 at the mid point of the third period and Goularte did further damage. Zarya Poulava scored inside for the Wizards but they were left with plenty to do at three-quarter time trailing 40-30.
Frost and Hirawani exchanged baskets before a sizeable home crowd showed their appreciation of a Nicole Ruske triple following terrific defensive work by Kjestrup.
A Tash Lenden triple and Bradley baseline drive followed back to back baskets from Natalie Visger – Otago ahead 54-45 but needing a timeout with four minutes to play.
Visger scored on the resumption but a couple of turnovers presented scoring opportunities for Bradley and Leger-Walker, the Wizards closing to 56-52 with a minute to play.
A Goularte put back from her own missed shot eased the Otago nerves – free throws from Frost and Visger iced the Gold Rush win much to the delight of the home support.
Otago Head Coach Tod Marshall was understandably delighted with the win, his teams ninth on the bounce.
“We didn’t make a great start to the season and knew we had to make some changes.
“The team get on like a house on fire, the chemistry is terrific and you can see it on the court. The chemistry helps in tough games and once they won a few in a row they just grew in confidence.
“We have had some tough games, which I don’t want to go through again, and even today although it ended up a ten point margin at the end it was still tough.”
Marshall played credit to the Wizards effort.
“You have to give a lot of credit to what they do that team. It’s not all about Charlisse (Leger-Walker), you can get hung up worrying about her but what did Ella (Bradley) do and Alyssa (Hirawani) who still comes out and play despite hobbling on one leg. They are a wonderful team to watch.”
Back to his own team Marshall felt the depth of his squad is one of their strengths.
“Dana Gourlate has been impressive but the little patch that Bronwyn Kjestrup went through with the two blocks and defensive effort sort of cements who we are,” added Marshall.
Guard Nicole Ruske was almost lost for words, “It was amazing it hasn’t sunk in yet. The home crowd helped so much and it feels a lot better to win on our home court.”
Otago Gold Rush 62 – D Goularte 22p/9r, N Visger 14/9r, S Umaga-Jensen 11/10r, D Frost 6
Waikato Wizards 52 – C Leger-Walker 17/12r/5s, A Hirawani 11, E Bradley 11, N Lenden 5
3rd/4th Place Game
Harbour Breeze opened the 3rd/4th play-off game with an 8-0 run but their fortunes steadily declined from that point – well beaten by Auckland Dream 75-53.
Tayla Dalton (12 points) led the Breeze scoring but Penina Davidson and Akiene-Tera Reed were well marshaled by the Dream defence and kept to a combined 16 points.
Gold Coast Commonwealth Games medalist Natalie Taylor was excellent for the Dream knocking down 32 points (7/13FG) and Charmian Mellars compiled a double-double of 12 points and 10 rebounds.
Harbour Breeze 53 – T Dalton 12, A Reed 9/9r, P Davidson 7/10r, W Ah-Hing 7
Auckland Dream 75 – N Taylor 32/10r, C Mellars 12/11r, I Purcell 6, A Buck 5/6a
The Plate Final was won by Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats. Twenty-six points and sixteen rebounds from Tall Ferns forward Tessa Boagni paced the Wildcats to a 69-64 win against Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons.
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 69 – T Boagni 26/16r, D Rose 9, C Poletti 9/7r, A Siosiua-Pepe 8
Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons 64 – A Williams-Mackey 20, A Parai 14, D Fermanis 10, K Parai 8
7th/8th Place Game
Taranaki Thunder 72 – L Laborn 13, I Cook 11, S Cook 11, N Cutler 9, T Clement 9
Tauranga City Coasters 65 – B Rogers 21, K Morrell 16, M Daysh 8/10r, T Schaeffer 8
Tier Two Final
North Canterbury Spirit completed an unbeaten season winning 85-57 against Rotorua Lady Vols and in the process won the WBC Tier Two Grand-Final.
The Spirit had the better of the opening minutes, Irish guard Caoimhe Colgan dropping a long buzzer beating three, to give her team a 24-12 first quarter lead.
Spirit forward Charlotte Whittaker was the first player into double figures but was forced to the bench for a while after picking up two quick fouls.
Rotorua were unable to capitalise - Billie Watson (13 first half points) advancing the Spirit lead to twenty points (38-18).
Aroha Haumaha (11 points) led the Rotorua effort but the Lady Vols trailed 45-24 at half-time.
Rotorua began the second half with a 6-0 run, with scores from Dubai Whata and Haumaha but that was neutralized by threes from Colgan and Kendal Hastie.
The injection of Tiana Placid stretched the Spirit lead still further - despite scores from Kararaina Pene and Grace McCarthy the Lady Vols trailed 67-43 at the three-quarter siren.
The Spirit had little trouble protecting their lead - the inaugural WBC Tier Two title heading to Canterbury.
North Canterbury Spirit 85 – C Whittaker 17, B Watson 17/11r, T Placid 10, C Colgan 9/7a, B Couto de Aguiar 9
Rotorua Lady Vols 57 – A Haumaha 20, P Pene 10, K Pene 7, D Whata 7
Tier Two 3rd/4th Place
Taitokerau Northland Phoenix guard Keani Shelford led all scorers with 12 points (plus 8 rebounds and 3 assists) but Nelson Sparks enjoyed scoring contributions from all ten players to win the bronze medal encounter 59-33. Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey (11 points) led the Sparks scoring effort and Samantha Jenkins chipped in with a game high 6 assists to accompany 7 points.
Taitokerau Northland Phoenix 33 – K Shelford 12, T Daniels 8, L Cameron-Tana 5
Nelson Sparks 59 – J Hikuroa-Jeffrey 11, K Dohmen 8, S Jenkins 7/6a, K Jones 7, F Tilly 7
The full draw is available here.
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