A busy final round of the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC), ahead of the Tournament Playoffs in two weeks time, featured five games at the weekend.
The most significant results were Waikato Wizard’s 82-70 victory over Harbour Breeze and Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 70-42 mauling of Site Weld Otago Goldrush.
The Waikato win not only secured a top two finish but also extinguished Harbour’s hopes of a top six spot. The Canterbury victory ensured the Cantabrians the regular season title.
Kelcy Ballantyne and Charlisse Leger-Walker led a 22-14 Waikato’s opening salvo.
A Natasha Lenden three kept the Waikato advantage in double digits along with a couple of baskets from Zarya Poulava. Harbour guard Shanee Kiriau scored with a couple of spinning lay ups but Harbour trailed 36-28 at half-time
Tall Ferns forward Deena Franklin led all scorers at the break with 10 points.
Tanya Uluheua opened the scoring in the second half and the margin was back to six points when Zara Jillings scored three straight baskets.
Leger-Walker made a couple of triples - Waikato ahead 57-48 at three-quarter time and Harbour’s top six hopes hanging by a thread.
A floater from Stirling Pitman stretched the Waikato advantage to 67-53.
Jillings and Anna Lacey gave Harbour hope but the classy Leger-Walker converted an And 1 play to move the advantage to 76-61 with 4 minutes to play.
Uluheua and Jillings fired a couple more shots but it was too little too late.
Waikato Wizards 82 (Leger-Walker 25, Hirawani 14, Ballantyne 10, Pitman 8)
Harbour Breeze 70 (Franklin 22, Jillings 18, Uluheua 8, Baudry 7)
Site Weld Otago Goldrush made a good start against the reigning champions at the Edgar Centre leading 14-12 at quarter time, Danielle Frost making the first seven points for the hosts.
Terai Sadler and Courtney Hamblin took Canterbury into the lead early in the second stanza and although Nicole Ruske responded with five points Otago trailed 31-23 at half-time.
Ruske further reduced the lead early in the third but Esra McGoldrick ensured Canterbury entered the fourth period with a ten point lead.
The fourth quarter was one way traffic as Canterbury rolled out a 21-3 blitz to wrap up their ninth win of the season and with it the regular season title. They and Waikato both finished with a 9-1 record but Canterbury secured the spot, on the strength of their 65-54 victory over Waikato earlier in the season.
Site Weld Otago Goldrush 42 (N Ruske 13, Frost 9, Main 7)
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 70 (Edmondson 13, Hamblin 12, Sadler 10, Wairau 8)
Harbour’s loss to Waikato meant that both Taranaki Thunder and Capital Swish were guaranteed top six status before their game tipped off.
Played in New Plymouth, Capital Swish led 44-43 at half-time.
The hosts grabbed the initiative after the interval as Lyndi Laborn and Jessica Tuki led an 8-0 start to the second half. Laborn scored a dozen points in the period before Leah Mafua pegged Taranaki back with a couple of threes just before three-quarter time to reduce the advantage to 52-48.
Isabelle Cook kept Taranaki in front but Capital were tenacious in their pursuit - back to back Sariah Penese scores tying the game at 60 points apiece with 2:46 to play.
A possible away victory for Capital was stamped out by Taranaki as the hosts made the last ten points of the game courtesy of Courtney Keech, Cook, Tuki and the relentless Laborn who finished with a game high 27 points.
Taranaki Thunder 70 (Laborn 27, Tuki 13, I Cook 12, Keech 11)
Capital Swish 60 (Penese 18, Mafua 13, Tuisue 10)
In Rotorua the Lady Vols found themselves trailing by double figures early in the second quarter against Harbour Breeze after Anna Lacey sunk a couple of threes.
Rotorua responded via Pareunuora Pene and Dubai Whata but five straight points from Asia Cup bound Deena Franklin, who led all scorers at the break, gave Harbour a 39-20 half-time lead.
Awatea Leach and Matangiroa Flavell caused the Harbour defence some concerns but at the other end Olivia Berry and Zara Jillings maintained the Harbour lead - 56-33 at three-quarter time.
Pareunuora Pene landed a three at the outset of the fourth but eight final quarter points from Berry eased Harbour to a consolation win following their loss the previous day.
Rotorua Lady Vols 48 (Flavell 13, P Pene 11, Leach 9, Raerino 8)
Harbour Breeze 74 (Franklin 15, Lacey 12, Kiriau 9, Berry 9, Baudry 9)
Site Weld Otago Goldrush bounced back from their defeat at the hands of Canterbury on Saturday with an 82-62 victory against Tauranga City Coasters at the Edgar Centre the following day.
It rained threes on Tauranga City in the opening half as no fewer than five Otago players connected from beyond the arc to give the hosts a 45-31 lead. The quintet of Danielle Frost, Bronwyn Kjestrup, Brittany Richards, Aleisha Ruske and Nicole Ruske converted seven treys between them by the break.
Makayla Daysh, Kaatia Watene and the Rogers sisters Briarley and Cairyn-Marie fought back strongly for Tauranga City as they kept pace with Otago from the beginning of the second period onwards. But ultimately the 25 points given up in the first quarter and the heavy shower of threes proved too costly.
Otago Goldrush 82 (N Ruske 17, Smith 13, A Ruske 9, Richards 8)
Tauranga City Coasters 62 (Daysh 20, C-M Rogers 14, B Rogers 12, Watene 10)
The Tournament Playoffs will take place in Christchurch (July 6-8) with the top six teams competing for the Championship and the bottom five teams contesting the Plate.
WBC Standings (at end of regular season)
9-1 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
9-1 Waikato Wizards
8-2 Waikato Country Cannons
7-3 Site Weld Otago Goldrush
6-4 Taranaki Thunder
5-5 Capital Swish
5-5 Harbour Breeze
3-7 Auckland Lady Rangers
2-8 Tauranga City Coasters
1-9 Rotorua Lady Vols
0-10 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix
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Joe Wallace, Basketball New Zealand Communications Manager
M: 021 246 4814. E: firstname.lastname@example.org