Day one of the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Finals was held at the Edgar Centre, Dunedin on Thursday.
The major news of the day was that the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats two year reign as WBC champions is over after they suffered an agonising 67-66 loss to Otago Gold Rush – the lead snatched from their grasp with just three seconds left on the clock.
With a loss earlier in the day to Auckland Dream the 2016 and 2017 champions miss out on a semi-final berth and will now contest the Tier One 5-8 placings.
Auckland and Otago both progress from Section A to the semi-final match ups late on Friday although their opponents from Section B are undecided with Harbour Breeze, Waikato Wizards and Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons still in the mix.
Tier Two teams will be jockeying for semi-final seedings when the last round of pool games gets underway first thing on Friday morning. Unbeaten North Canterbury Spirit takes on Nelson Sparks whilst Taitokerau Northland Phoenix will play Rotorua Lady Vols.
Tier One Section B
A game high 37 points (12/24FG, 10/10FT) from Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker was the difference maker as Waikato Wizards outlasted Harbour Breeze to win 90-83.
It was a two-point game (68-66) at three-quarter time with the Wizards holding the lead throughout the final period despite the best efforts of Akiene-Tera Reed (29 points on 10 from 17 shooting) and Penina Davidson who collected 23 points and 16 rebounds.
Alyssa Hirawani, named in the Tall Ferns team to tour Asia later in the month, made half of her 24 points in the final period to stave off a possible Breeze offensive run.
Harbour Breeze 83 – T Reed 29, P Davidson 23/16r, K Tini 8, T Jenkins 8
Waikato Wizards 90 – C Leger-Walker 37/8r, A Hirawani 24/6st, K Lewis 10, E Bradley 10
A 24-8 second quarter surge from Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons carried them clear of the Thunder after Taranaki had led 19-16 at quarter time.
A balanced scoring effort from the Cannons, that had five players in double figures, slowly increased their advantage in the second half.
Arielle Parai (16 points and 18 rebounds) led the Cannons scoring effort with Donna Fermanis (12 points, 6 rebounds and 6 steals) and Arielle Mackey-Williams (11 points and 5 rebounds amongst the other key contributors.
Taranaki were plagued by turnovers coughing up possession on thirty-nine occasions allowing the Cannons 26 fast break points. Lyndi Laborn scored 16 points and Izzy Cook corralled 9 rebounds in a losing cause.
Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons 76 – A Parai 16/8r, D Fermanis 12/6st, A Mackey-Williams 11, B Ross-Waitai 11, K Parai 10
Taranaki Thunder 46 – L Laborn 16/7r, M Watling 6, V Weir 6, I Cook 2/9r
Led by a 33 points haul from Akiene-Tera Reed Harbour Breeze built on a 35-27 half time lead to beat Power Chill Country Cannons 84-72.
The Cannons were well served by Donna Fermanis (17 points), Moengaroa Subritzky and Kyler-Renee Parai but couldn’t grasp the initiative in the closing stages.
The closest they got was eight points but with Penina Davidson (12 points and 15 rebounds) controlling the boards, Reed a constant offensive threat and Anna Lacey making critical threes Harbour closed out the win to and keep their semi-final hopes alive.
Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons 72 - D Fermanis 17, M Subritzky 15, K Parai 14, A Parai 12
Harbour Breeze 84 – T Reed 33, P Davidson 12/15r, A Lacey 10, K Tini 7
Waikato Wizards didn’t have it all their own way early on against Taranaki Thunder but eventually ran out winners 60-37.
Taranaki trailed by just four points (24-20) midway through the second period with Izzy Cook, Iritana Hohaia and Lyndi Laborn (10 points and 11 rebounds) prominent.
However they were outscored 12-1 prior to half-time with Charlisse Leger-Walker (23 points) and Alyssa Hirawani sharing the points.
Zarya Poulava took the Waikato lead beyond twenty - the Wizards closing out a solid second win ahead of an intriguing Waikato derby clash with the Cannons early on day two.
Taranaki Thunder 37 – Laborn 10/11r, I Hohaia 6, I Cook 6/9r, V Weir 6
Waikato Wizards 60 – C leger-Walker 23, A Hirawani 9/5a, Z Poulava 8, E Bradley 7
Tier One Section A
Otago Gold Rush made a winning start to their Finals campaign defeating Tauranga City Coasters 89-54.
The Rush did just that in the opening quarter speeding to a 30-5 lead – 8 points from Danielle Frost and six apiece from Dana Goularte and Zoe Richards did the early damage. Thereafter it was a balanced Otago scoring effort, paced by 16 points from new Tall Fern Nicole Ruske, that carried the hosts to victory.
Mikayla Daysh (14 points and 10 rebounds) produced a double-double for the Coasters.
Otago Gold Rush 89 – Nicole Ruske 16, D Goularte 14, Z Richards 14, D Frost 13, B Richards 10
Tauranga City Coasters 54 – M Daysh 14/10r, K Morrell 11, C Wilson 10, B Rogers 10
Auckland Dream were given a stern test by Tauranga City Coasters before winning 67-55 to book themselves a semi-final spot on Friday evening.
It looked ominous for the Coasters trailing 42-23 at half-time with Charmian Mellars logging double figures and both Roana Paterson and Shauna Povey nabbing seven points.
The Coasters led by the guard duo of Kaitlyn Morrell (18 points) and Briarley Rogers (17 points) had much the better of the third period closing to 52-40.
It became a ten-point game (59-48) with four minutes to play after a Maka Daysh basket but threes from Natalie Taylor and Hailey Moala helped the Dream claim a second win on the day.
Tauranga City Coasters 55 – K Morrell 18, B Rogers 17/10r, M Daysh 8, C Wilson 2/11r
Auckland Dream 67 – C Mellars 13, N Taylor 12/6a, I Purcell 9, A Buck 8
Auckland Dream beat Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 48-43 in a tight low scoring affair.
The Wildcats held Auckland Dream to just 17 first half points to lead by nine points at half-time but could only muster the same number themselves after the break as they saw their lead eroded and eventually conceded.
The guard duo of Shea Crotty and Tessa Morrison laid the foundations for the early Canterbury lead.
Auckland played with far more offensive cohesion in the third period and closed to within three points (35-32) with ten minutes to play, Charmian Mellars (21 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals at the heart of the Auckland revival.
Tall Fern Natalie Taylor gave Auckland their first lead of the game (36-35) but departed the action immediately with a leg injury.
Tessa Boagni (12 points and 22 rebounds) dominated the defensive boards as Canterbury closed to within two points (45-43). However Taylor returned to make a decisive three inside the final thirty seconds to secure a Dream win.
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 43 – T Boagni 12/22r, S Crotty 7, T Morrison 6, C Poletti 5/8r
Auckland Dream 48 – C Mellars 21/14r, N Taylor 12, H Moala 5/12r
The game of the day saw Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats two year reign as WBC champions come to an end after they suffered an agonising 67-66 loss to Otago Gold Rush.
It was a basket from the outstanding Dana Goularte (29 points and 9 rebounds), with just three seconds to play that denied the Wildcats a come from behind victory.
An outstanding South Island derby had been close throughout. Darcy Rose briefly gave Canterbury the lead in the third quarter (40-38) but a three from Zoe Richards late in the period kept Otago three points ahead with ten minutes to play (48-45).
Tessa Boagni scored three straight baskets for the Wildcats to trim the Otago advantage to two points (58-56) before a Sapphire Wairau three gave the Cantabs a 59-58 lead.
Connie Poletti extended that advantage to 61-58 with 2:30 to play.
Goularte narrowed to 61-60 but when Shea Crotty calmly knocked down a brace of free throws the Wildcats led 63-60 with 25 seconds to play.
The impressive Goularte scored immediately from an in-bounds pass before Tessa Morrison scored a pair of freebies 65-62 after a quick Otago foul.
Nicole Ruske tied proceedings with a long three and with Darcy Rose making one free throw at the other end it was Goularte that had the final say knocking down a jump shot with three seconds remaining – Canterbury cruelly denied in a thrilling finish that saw 12 points scored in the final 27 seconds.
Otago Gold Rush 67 - D Goularte 29/9r, Z Richards 15, N Ruske 11
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 66 – A Siosiua-Pepe 15, T Boagni 12, C Poletti 12/12r, D Rose 11
In an exciting encounter Nelson Sparks edged Rotorua Lady Vols after the Vols had led midway through the final quarter.
Vols captain Aroha Haumaha (17 points and 10 rebounds) scored back to back baskets to give her team a 47-43 lead with six minutes to play.
That drew a response from Frances Tilly and Jelena Vucinic – the pair combining for six points before Hannah Crabtree extended the Sparks lead to 51-47 with under three minutes to play.
Haumaha and Grace McCarththy scored on consecutive possessions to make it a one-point game (52-51) with eighty seconds to play. Vucinic (16 points) calmly stepped up to stroke a pair of free throws – Rotorua unable to conjure up a game leveling score.
Rotorua Lady Vols 51 – A Haumaha 17/10r, P Pene 11, G McCarthy 8
Nelson Sparks 54 – J Vucinic 16, J Hikuroa-Jeffrey 14/9r/5a, F Tilly 9, K Jones 6/9r
Taitokerau Northland Phoenix were outgunned 70-20 by North Canterbury Spirit.
Charlotte Whittaker led the Spirit’s scoring spree with 22 points, assisted by double digit efforts from Kendal Hastie and Taneisha Nutira.
Keani Shelford and Jeannie Cameron worked tirelessly in a losing cause for the Phoenix.
North Canterbury Spirit 70 – C Whittaker 22, K Hastie 12, T Nutira 10, T Placid 5/10r
Taitokerau Northland Phoenix 20 – J Cameron 6, K Shelford 5/10r
North Canterbury Spirit were indebted to a monster double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds from Charlotte Whittaker to see off the challenge from Rotorua Lady Vols, eventually winning 61-52.
Awatea Leach (18 points and 8 rebounds) was terrific throughout and when the equally impressive Aroha Haumaha (11 points and 10 rebounds) made it a five-point game (51-46) with 4 minutes to play a Rotorua victory looked a distinct possibility.
However consecutive scores from Caoimhe Colgan, Caitlin Grice and Whittaker saw off the spirited Rotorua challenge.
It was a second single digit loss of the day for Rotorua but they remain serious Tier Two title contenders.
North Canterbury Spirit 61 – C Whittaker 25/14r, B Watson 9, B Couto de Aguiar 8, C Grice 7/8r
Rotorua Lady Vols 52 – A Leach 18, P Pene 11, A Haumaha 11/10r
Leiana Cameron-Tana led all scorers with 13 points but Nelson Sparks prevailed 59-40 against Taitokerau Northland Phoenix.
Nelson built on a 25-10 half-time lead to close out their second victory of the day. Jelena Vucinic and Rebecca James scored a dozen points each for the Sparks who also benefitted from a ten points and eight rebounds contribution from Hannah Crabtree.
Nelson Sparks 59 – J Vucinic 12, R James 12, H Crabtree 10/8r
Taitokerau Northland Phoenix 40 – L Cameron-Tana 13, A Curtis 6, T Daniels 6, K Shelford 4/11r
The full draw is available here.
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