The 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) season is only a few days old but there are a number of talking points to emerge from the early rounds.
Unbeaten Auckland Dream have emerged as the Division 1 front runners. Boasting an array of former and current Tall Ferns the Dream swamped defending champions AM I FIT Otago Goldrush in the opening round, followed that with a comfortable victory against Waikato Wizards before recording a hard fought 70-61 win against Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats.
McAlpines M10 MEGA North Canterbury Spirit have made a good start to the defence of their Division 2 title recording three straight wins. Wellington are also unbeaten with an identical 3-0 record and look likely to be the biggest challengers that the Spirit will face.
The Wildcats will be encouraged by their performance against the Dream and if they can get the injured trio of Tessa Boagni, Shea Crotty and Fran Edmondson back for the second half of the season they will surely be in contention. Likewise Harbour Breeze and Waikato Wizards have pieces to add to their squads.
In Division 2 the Harbour Zephyr and Capital Swish will feel they can push for a finals berth as the season progresses.
Women’s national team head coach Guy Molloy was in Christchurch to watch the performances of the record number of past and present Tall Ferns playing in the 2019 championship. It’s just a pity for him, and New Zealand basketball fans, that three of our best young internationals were sidelined with injuries. There were plenty of high calibre players to keep an eye on but Charlisse Leger-Walker, Penina Davidson and Tessa Boagni would have added to the quality of competition on display.
Give youth a chance
Each season the WBC provides up and coming young players, some still at school, an opportunity to showcase their skills. This year is no different and at various times over the weekend a number of teenagers demonstrated their potential.
Rochelle Fourie was Taranaki Thunder’s leading scorer in all three games and Helen Matthews was a real spark off the bench for the Wildcats. Jayzelee Waihi scored 18 points for the Wizards against the Dream and teammate Ella Bradley scored 22 against the Thunder.
Emme Shearer (Breeze) was twice in double figures and both Hannah Matehaere (Goldrush) and Sila Morris (Spirit) enjoyed moments in the spotlight - look for other young players to shine as the season progresses.
There is still a place for the veterans
Every team needs them, the savvy veteran who has seen it all before and demonstrates to teammates by word and deed what it takes to become an accomplished player at this level.
Noni Martin (Breeze), Kat Jones, Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey (both Spirit), Natalie Visger (Goldrush), Tash Lenden (Wizards), Jeannie Cameron (Northland Phoenix), Charmian Mellars and Natalie Taylor (both Dream) are wily veterans of the league but they still have game!
Returning college players
The American collegiate season is grueling and demanding yet a number of players return each year to spend part of their college off-season with WBC teams. This year is no different and the WBC is richer for having NCAA Division 1 athletes Krystal Leger-Walker (Wizards), Akiene Tera Reed (Breeze), Pareunuora Pene (Rotorua Lady Geysers) and Esra McGoldrick (Spirit) back playing in our competition.
New Kids on the Block
In 2018 it was the Spirit that debuted in the WBC and this year it is the turn of the Zephyrs and Canterbury Stealers to join the WBC family - two strong basketball provinces giving more women exposure to representative senior basketball.
Every season the Northland Phoenix make those long journeys south to participate in the WBC and often it has been for little reward in terms of wins on the board. The Phoenix didn’t have to wait long for a win in this campaign as they recorded a 60-51 opening round victory against newcomers South Canterbury Stealers.
Article by Mike Lacey
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Watch the following livestream games on www.nz.basketball/tv :
- Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats V Taranaki Thunder
- Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats V Harbour Breeze
- Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats V Auckland Dream
- Watch the 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship on the livestream though Facebook @BasketballNZ, hashtag #NZWBC.
- See the draw, results and teams and more at www.nzwbc.basketball
- Want to play basketball? Contact your local association through www.thehuddle.co.nz