The Final of the 2015 Women’s Basketball Championship featured Oceana Gold Rush Otago and Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks. Otago entered the game boasting the best record in the competition, a 13-1 record. When the two teams met during the regular season Otago had recorded a 64-59 win.
Kalani Purcell amassed 11 first quarter rebounds as ACM edged a low scoring stanza 14-12. The second quarter was equally tight as both sides struggled to find any shooting rhythm, ACM still ahead 28-26 at half-time – ACM point guard Jordan Hunter led all scorers with 9 points at the break.
Four points each from Janet Main and Samara Gallaher kick started an Otago surge early in the second half before Hailey Purcell replied for the Hawks. When Soraya Umaga-Jensen banked in a three with 3:30 left in the third period the Otago lead had blown out to almost game winning proportions, 49-30, further extended to 53-34 with 10 minutes remaining.
Gallaher and Jillian Harmon dominated the early exchanges in the the fourth quarter to ensure there would be no hint of an ACM come back, Otago cruising to their second WBC title. The first achieved in 2011.
Jordan Hunter, Hailey Purcell and Kalani Purcell battled valiantly for the Hawks but the Otago effort, paced by point guard Janet Main, Harmon and Gallaher was relentless.
Otago Coach Todd Marshall was naturally delighted with his team’s performance, particularly the third period when ACM were outscored 27-6.
“That third quarter, it doesn’t get much better than that. We struggled in the first half and you wonder if it is going to come good for you. I’m very proud of the team, they train hard they play hard and they enjoy each others company, it’s just been a fantastic season”
Having the competitions MVP, Jillian Harmon in the team was a major factor in the team’s success.
“It certainly adds a bit of spice to it. When you already have a good team a player of that quality turns you into a stunning team. She releases pressure on other players”
Harmon herself was very satisfied to pick up her second title this year. She was an important cog in the Townsville Fire team that won the 2014-15 Australian WNBL championship.
“It feels pretty good to win this New Zealand one, I played two completely different roles on the two teams but this is an
awesome group of girls here, I had so much fun and I’m so fortunate they let me into the group.”
Otago trailed at half time by two points but surged ahead in the third period.
“I think we were a bit tired in the first half but in the third quarter we took it to a different level and we were hitting shots from everywhere and everyone was contributing. We got contributions from everyone and that made it hard for ACM to guard us, you never knew who was going to drive to basket or who was going to make a three. Also our team defence was also awesome.”
Oceana Gold Rush Otago 67 – Jillian Harmon 14p/12r, Janet Main 13p, Soraya Umaga-Jensen 11p, Samara Gallaher 9p/21r/5a
Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks 43 – Jordan Hunter 15p, Hailey Purcell 11p, Kalani Purcell 8p/18r
The Plate Final was match up between old foes Canterbury Wildcats and Harbour Breeze. The Breeze had the better of the first half leading 29-18 despite being behind 25-20 on the rebounding count.
That lead was reduced considerably as Canterbury opened the second half with a 7-0 run, Harbour just ahead at three quarter time 41-38.A three from Tessa Stewart-Morrison put Canterbury ahead with six minutes remaining but Harbour regained their composure to close out a 57-54 victory. Harbour small forward Morgan Roberts made 10 from 12 free throws to help nullify the double double effort from Darcy Rose.
Harbour Breeze 57 – Morgan Roberts 18p, Deena Franklin 6p/13r
NZ Home Loans Canterbury Wildcats 54 – Darcy Rose 15p/17r, Laken Wairau 9p, Tessa Stewart-Morrison 9p