Last season Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats dominated the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) completing their title surge undefeated. It is early days in the 2017 season but the Wildcats have indicated that once again they are the team to beat. They completed the opening tournament, held on Auckland’s North Shore over the past three days, with an unblemished 6-0 record.
Wildcats coach Lori McDaniel expressed quiet satisfaction at the start her team has made “But we know there are tougher challenges facing us later in the competition. A number of the teams will have stronger additional personnel later in the season and we have plenty to work on before facing them.”
The Wildcats had a number of strong performers including forward Connie Poletti and age group internationals Lauryn Hippolite, Aimee Book and Esra McGoldrick.
On the evidence of the past three days the most likely challengers to Canterbury’s crown appear to be Waikato Wizards, Site Weld Otago Goldrush and newcomers Waikato Country Cannons.
In one of the games of the tournament the Cannons and Goldrush went head to head on day three. Goldrush led 54-45 at three-quarter time but the Cannons leveled at 56 apiece with 4 minutes to play, Kharmen Kereama then putting the Cannons ahead as they rode a 15-2 scoring wave. A Nicole Ruske three pulled the Goldrush to within a single point with 1:30 to play but Donna Fermanis sunk a couple of pressure free throws to restore a three point advantage. Following another basket from Ruske, Fermanis sealed the deal with a floater in traffic to give the Cannons a hard fought 64-61 victory.
Cannons coach Tyler Wilkinson expressed satisfaction at her team’s performances. “We got a wake up call in our first game against the Wildcats (lost 81-41) but after that the team has grown in confidence and improved with every outing. Our goal was to win three games during this tournament and we have improved on that which is very encouraging.”
Also reasonably content will be Waikato Wizards coach Leanne Walker. The Wizards ran the Wildcats very close on day one before going down 65-54 to the defending champions. They followed that with solid wins against Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix, Site Weld Otago Goldrush and Capital Swish.
The young guard pairing of Alyssa Hirawani and Charlisse Leger-Walker were a constant menace to opposition defence’s.
The Swish also made a strong impression with their up tempo brand of basketball. They were involved in a tight tussle with Harbour Breeze on the final day eventually winning 86-77. Camece Salmon (14pts) led the Swish scoring and guard Sariah Penese also caught the eye with a number of strong performances.
Former Tall Fern forward Jessica Tuki was at the heart of Taranaki Thunder’s successes. Opunake High School forward Isabelle Cook also produced some good performances as the Thunder, a semi-finalist last season, look to replicate that success in this campaign.
Thunder coach Angelo Hill was full of praise for the refereeing standard. “Having three officials on each fixture has cleaned the games up. They have allowed legal physicality and tidied up the reaching fouls and hand checking. This has allowed for a much better game for players and a better spectacle for spectators.”
Auckland Lady Rangers was well served by veteran guard Stevee Theyers. Coach Aik Ho was also pleased with two of his youngsters, age group international forward Sharne Pupuki-Robati and livewire guard Shauna Povey.
Tauranga City Coasters forward Mikayla Daysh hopped off an international flight on Saturday morning and headed straight to the game against the Wildcats. Her presence inspired a strong first half performance from the Coasters as they trailed just 32-21 at the break. They eventually lost 85-49 with Daysh scoring 13 points and also providing a strong rebounding presence.
Rotorua Lady Vols opened their win account defeating Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 68 -63 on the back of 25 points from Hinekura Kingi. Awatea Leach also performed strongly for the Lady Vols.
Georgia Agnew put in some fine performances for Harbour Breeze as did Leylanni Cameron-Tana for Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix but both teams, along with the Coasters, still remain winless.
Teams will now embark on home and away fixtures before gathering in Christchurch for the play-offs (July 6-8).
Sat May 13, 5.00pm, Waikato Wizards v Rotorua Lady Vols, St Peter’s School, Cambridge
Sun May 14, 12.15pm, Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats v Capital Swish, Cowles Stadium
Day 3 Results
Waikato Wizards 82 – Ella Bradley 19, Alyssa Hirwani 16, Charlisse Leger-Walker 9
Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 23 – Leylanni Cameron-Tana 6, Jeannie Cameron 6
Waikato Country Cannons 64 – Chelsea Savage 15, Corban Metekingi 12, Mieke Elkington 10
Site Weld Otago Goldrush 61 – Nicole Ruske 24, Soraya Umaga-Jensen 10, Janet Main 7
Capital Swish 86 – Emilina Motu 17, Camece Salmon 14, Sariah Penese 12, Grace Simi Vaofusi 12
Harbour Breeze 77 – Kate Lacey 20, Georgia Agnew 16, Shanee Kiriau 12
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 85 – Hayley Gray 15, Esra McGoldrick 13, Connie Poletti 10
Tauranga City Coasters 49 – Briarley Rogers 17, Maka Daysh 13, Cairyn-Marie Rogers 11
Taranaki Thunder 71 – Eva Langton 15, Simone Cook 11, Vanessa McCarthy 11
Rotorua Lady Vols 51 – Te Ao Leach 13, Hinekura Kingi 10, Awatea Leach 10
Capital Flyers 90 – Sariah Penese 20, Mafua Leah 15, Emilina Motu 13
Tauranga City Coasters 50 – Briarley Rogers 16, Texi Schaeffer 11
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 85 – Hayley Gray 11, Darcy rose 10, Connie Poletti 10
Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 24 – Jaimee-Lee Tito 6
Waikato Country Cannons 69 Corban Metekingi 15, Breana Jones 8, Donna Fermanis 8, Mieke Elkington 8
Rotorua Lady Vols 47 – Awatea Leach 18, Hinekura Kingi 11
Taranaki Thunder 62 – Simone Cook 15, Jess Tuki 13, Courtney Keech 10, Caitlin Preston 10
Auckland Lady Rangers 54 – Milomilo Nanai 15, Shauna Povey 11, Darci Finnigan 11
6-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
5-1 Waikato Country Cannons
4-1 Capital Swish
4-1 Taranaki Thunder
4-2 Site Weld Otago Goldrush
3-1 Waikato Wizards
2-4 Auckland Lady Rangers
1-5 Rotorua Lady Vols
0-4 Harbour Breeze
0-5 Tauranga City Coasters
0-5 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix