Two important games featuring four Tall Ferns players were played at the weekend, one in Victoria, Australia and the other in California.
Guards Micaela Cocks and Chevannah Paalvast are members of the Australian WNBL defending champion Townsville Fire and were involved in an important regular season game against arch-rivals Bendigo Spirit.
Some 11,000 kilometers away on the other side of the Pacific forwards Stella Beck and Kalani Purcell were facing off for their respective NCAA Division 1 college teams Saint Mary's University Gaels and Brigham Young University-Provo Cougars.
When it comes to rivalries in the Australian WNBL they don't get any bigger than the Bendigo Spirit and the Townsville Fire. It is a rivalry, built over contesting the past three championship playoffs, Bendigo winning two and Townsville the defending champion.
Townsville had lost the two previous games against the Spirit this season but they limited the Spirit to just 24 first half points to score a rare win at Bendigo Stadium, 75-63, on Sunday.
The fourth consecutive win by the Fire pleased coach Chris Lucas who told the Townsville Bulletin, "It was always going to be tough but we got the job done." The Tall Ferns assistant coach added "I'm really proud of the team, it's a great result for us and they always do a great job on the road." The win propelled Townsville to the top of the WNBL ladder.
Cocks, a starter in the Fire team, didn't have her best shooting night. Her 6 points came from 8 attempts but she did also add 3 rebounds and 2 assists. Rookie Paalvast didn't trouble the statisticians but provided her usual athletic hustle in her 12 minutes on court.
Purcell and Beck have featured strongly in West Coast Conference play all season. Purcell is the league's leading rebounder (13.5rpg) whilst Beck, has the best field goal shooting percentage in the conference - 56%.
BYU Cougars entered the game leading the West Coast Conference standings with an 11-1 record, St Mary's Gaels second (9-2) but it was Purcell and the Cougars that collected the spoils winning the top of the table clash 65-44.
The win was described by BYU coach Jeff Judkins as, "One of the best games we have played all year." His team raced to a 21-5 first quarter lead and dominated proceedings thereafter.
Once again Purcell was outstanding, she had a game-best nine rebounds and 10 assists plus 6 points before fouling out in the closing minutes.
Stella Beck put in a solid performance for St Mary's but her 4 points, 3 rebounds, 3 assists, I block effort failed to put much of a dent in BYU's twelfth straight win and apparent charge towards the Conference title.
Australia - Men
Kirk Penney may have missed the last four games for the Illawarra Hawks due to a hamstring injury picked up against the Breakers last month but he certainly hasn't lost his scoring touch. The Tall Blacks marksman scored 28 points as the Hawks secured a play-offs birth with a tense 104-97 overtime win against Townsville Crocodiles on Saturday. Penney missed with his opening range-finder but was sublime thereafter, caressing 10 from 16 shooting attempts including 5 from 9 triples. Leon Henry was a little more subdued than his Kiwi counterpart contributing 4pts, 4 rebounds and a block to the spirited Crocs cause.
The Perth Wildcats versus Sydney Kings game got off to a stunning start in the first two minutes with the Kings hitting the first 11 points. That forced 'Cats' coach Trevor Gleeson to make an extremely unusual move and pull out his entire starting five replacing them with his back up crew that included Tall Blacks point guard Jarrod Kenny. Perth's second unit played out the rest of the first quarter and worked the home team back into the contest. They were within a point by quarter-time and continued to pull away the rest of the evening to eventually win 95-81. Kenny, benefitting from extended court time produced an industrious 7pts/2rebs/3ast/2steals effort. Fellow Tall Blacks guard Dion Prewster was largely anonymous for the Kings putting up just a single unsuccessful shot although he did manage a block and an assist.
Australia - Women
Australian WNBL side South East Queensland Stars caused a major upset on Saturday defeating top of the table Perth Lynx 87-71 in Western Australia. Cantabrian Toni Edmondson could do little to help turn the tide in the hosts favour grabbing a pair of rebounds, dishing 5 assists but going 0 from 3 from the field.
It was quite a week for the Stars who called in the receivers on Wednesday, sacked coach Shane Heal but were rescued Thursday, won in Adelaide on Friday and prevailed in Perth on Saturday.
Europe - Men
In the Eurocup CAI Zaragoza stayed in the fight to make it out of pool play by downing Turkish side Galatasaray Odeabank 85-68 at home in front of over 7,000 fans on Wednesday. Zaragoza, Galatasaray and Sassari (Italy) have a 3-2 record in Group N so it will all come down to next week's games to decide which two teams progress to the last 16 knockout stage. Isaac Fotu was in fine form for the hosts scoring 14 points at a very efficient 6 from 7 shooting.
Zaragoza scored a major victory over FIATC Joventut in their struggle to move away from the lower reaches of the Spanish League on Sunday. A dominant 31-17 second quarter helped propel Zaragoza to a 94-83 success and improve their record to 6-13. Fotu was in double figures again with 10 points (4/7FG) along with 5 rebounds.
Duane Bailey only managed to convert one of six scoring attempts but he did amass 11 rebounds plus a pair of assists and a block as Plymouth Raiders beat Leeds Force 75-62. The win enabled the Raiders to jump over the Force into a play-off spot in the British Basketball League. Former Breakers player now Plymouth's player coach Darryl Corletto led all scorers with 21 points.
In Belgium Rob Loe, recovering from knee ligament damage is targeting a return to the court in early March. His Limburg United team are tracking reasonably well in his absence sitting third on the Scooore League ladder with an 8-6 record.
Europe - Women
Jillian Harmon and Erin Rooney both enjoyed a weekend off for their respective clubs Le Mura Lucca (Italian League) and COB Calais (French League). Both face midweek assignments in the coming days.
American College - Men
Nebraska had a chance to tie in the final seconds against Number 4 ranked Maryland but the Huskers fell just short, 70-65 on Wednesday evening in front of a home crowd of 15,693.
Tai Webster made 6 from 7 free throws as he contributed 8 points, 5 rebounds and a game high 3 steals for Nebraska.
The Huskers broke a three game losing streak on Saturday comfortably beating Rutgers 87-63 to improve to 5-6 in Big Ten Conference play. Just 5 points, 2 rebounds and an assist for Webster in that one.
Jack Salt didn't suit up for Virginia University as the Cavaliers beat Pitt 64-50 on Saturday. The Cavaliers, 8-3 in the Atlantic Coast Conference, have won six straight and its early January stretch in which it dropped three of four seems like a distant memory.
American College - Women
Colgate University Raiders fell to Navy on Saturday and now have a 2-9 record in Patriot League games. Hawkes Bay centre Josie Stockill scored 11 points and added 7 rebounds, 3 assists and a customary block as the Raiders slipped to a fourth straight loss, three of those by single digits.
Seattle University Redhawks (3-5 WAC) took an early lead but was eventually beaten 57-49 by Chicago State in Western Athletic Conference play. Forward Jacinta Beckley had 4pts (2/4FG), 2 rebs, and 1 steal for Seattle
Cal State Northridge Matadors (5-18, 3-6 BWC) lost 83-76 Saturday afternoon at UC Riverside in a Big West Conference game. Cantabrian Tessa Boagni had 8 points and 5 rebounds with the Matadors now 3-6 in conference play.
In Pac-12 Conference play Univ of California, Berkley Golden Bears went down 53-46 at No 15 ranked Stanford on Tuesday in the first of the Battle of the Bay encounters. The two fierce rivals met again on Friday but the outcome was the same as Cal was defeated at home 60-55 to slip to 2-10 in Pac-12 Conference play. Penina Davidson was a strong defensive presence for the Golden Bears accumulating 11 rebounds and 4 steals but her shooting form deserted her as she went 2 from 14 over the two games.