The 2017 WBC Grand Final will feature Taranaki Thunder and defending champions Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats after both held off tenacious opponents at Cowles Stadium on Friday evening.
In the first semi-final Taranaki Thunder held their nerve in a tight finish to squeeze out Waikato Country Cannons 72-68 to book a place in its first WBC final.
A closely fought first half was shaded 41-40 by Waikato Country - a Mieke Elkington jump shot on the buzzer separating the two teams.
Waikato Country guard Chelseah Savage landed an early third quarter three but six straight points from Jess Tuki shaved the Waikato Country advantage to 51-48 at the mid point of the third quarter.
A missed lay up by one of his players forced Taranaki coach Angelo Hill to attack the Cowles Stadium furniture but his team still managed to be ahead at three-quarter time by the smallest of margins 55-54.
A number of lead changes punctuated the fourth stanza before Tuki gave Taranaki a 68-65 lead with less than two minutes to play. The same player missed two free throws with 57 seconds left, Waikato Country coach Tyler Wilkinson calling a time out to rally her troops.
Tuki made amends immediately with a steal and lay up only for Savage to land a deep three – 70-68 with less than 30 seconds to play. Waikato Country created a couple of open shots but neither dropped leaving Taranaki guard Iritana Hohaia to ice the game from the foul line.
Waikato Country Cannons 68 (Savage 15/5a, Elkington 14, Fermanis 12, Jones 10/9r)
Taranaki Thunder 72 (Tuki 22/8r/5a, Laborn 13, Hohaia 13/5a, I Cook 10/12r)
The later semi-final began at a furious pace, Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats leading Capital Swish 13-10 at quarter-time. Suffocating defence highlighted a first half shaded by Capital 24-23 - Sariah Penese led all scorers with 9 points.
Both teams continued to struggle at the offensive end but a Terina Wanoa triple and Hayley Gray drive got the sizeable Canterbury crowd excited. An Ashley Gayle block drew the same crowd response, the Canterbury 37-26 to the good. Gayle capped a dominating period by converting an And-1 play – Capital needing the third quarter break trailing 42-26.
Jacinta Beckley and Camece Salmon got the scoreboard ticking for Capital but a block and coast-to-coast action from Esra McGoldrick took Canterbury to 52-32 and a foot in the final.
Beckley made a couple more neat scores but Canterbury were in control and Darcy Rose capped a fine performance (16 points) with another basket. Canterbury will look to go back to back on Saturday.
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 57 (Rose 15, McGoldrick 7/7r, Gayle 7/14r, Poletti 5/6r)
Capital Swish 40 (Beckley 14/7, Penese 9, Onesemo 6, Salmon 4/8r)
The Plate Final, to be played on Saturday at 2.15pm will feature Waikato Wizards and Harbour Breeze.
Waikato led by 20 points from Kaylee Smiler held off Site Otago Goldrush to win 63-55 in the first semi-final. Nicole Ruske scored 19 points for the Otago.
Harbour put together a dominant fourth quarter to win 75-56 with Ella Fotu’s 26 points decisive.
The Championship Grand Final tip-off is 4.00pm, Saturday July 8th at Cowles Stadium.
To check out the full draw, live stats and live-streamed games click here.
Photo Credit Photographer Richard Connelly Gamefacenz
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