The New Zealand Premier team performed with great distinction before going down 77-69 against University of California, Berkeley Golden Bears at North Shore Events Centre on Sunday.
The Premier team was well served by the teenage trio of Sharne Pupuke-Robati (10 points/ 6 rebounds), Esra McGoldrick (9 points/ 6 rebounds) and Charlisse Ledger-Walker who led all scorers with 23 points, 8 rebounds and 5 assists.
Cal forward Penina Davidson, a former Rangitoto College standout, was back on familiar territory at the NSEC and didn’t disappoint family and former school mates in the 1,000 strong crowd. The Tall Fern put together a strong performance bagging 9 points, 8 rebounds and 2 steals in the game promoted by New Zealand International Basketball Tours.
The Bears, one of the top college teams in the USA, play in the prestigious Pac 12 Conference opened strongly forging a 22-13 opening quarter lead.
However the Premiers, with just two training sessions under their belts, made a strong run in the second quarter to close the half down 42-34 at half-time.
With Tall Fern Deena Franklin, Darcy Rose and Connie Poletti helping the Premiers gain parity on the boards the hosts closed to within a single point (61-60) with under six minutes to play.
Cal standouts Asha Thomas (12 points/ 6 assists) and Kristine Anigwe (15 points / 5 rebounds) steadied the Bears – an 8-2 run quashed the threat of an upset.
Premiers coach Lori McDaniel was delighted with the performance of her team. “With just a couple of training sessions together prior to the game I thought the team performed remarkably well.
“Charlisse was outstanding but I thought all the young players acquitted themselves well. We had six players in the team that are still at school and they will have gained a lot of confidence from performing so well against such a high calibre team as Cal.
“The whole occasion was a terrific showcase for basketball in New Zealand and women’s basketball in particular. Hats off to New Zealand International Basketball Tours for hosting an outstanding event.
NZ Premiers 69 – Leger-Walker 23, Pupuke-Robati 10, McGoldrick 9, Ruske 6, Franklin 6, Gray 5, Penese 4, Daysh 4, Poletti 2
California, Berkeley 77 – Anigwe 15, Thomas 12, Cowling 10, Davidson 9
NZ Premier Team
Makayla Daysh (Tauranga City Coasters)
Deena Franklin (Harbour Breeze)
Hayley Gray (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Charlisse Leger-Walker (Waikato Wizards)
Luye Murphy (Capital Swish)
Esra McGoldrick (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Sariah Penese (Capital Swish)
Connie Poletti (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland Lady Rangers)
Darcy Rose (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Nicole Ruske (Site Weld Otago Goldrush)
Sapphire Wairau (Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats)
Coaches – Jody Cameron and Lori McDaniel