Tournament 1 of the 2016 Women's Basketball Championship wrapped up on Sunday at ASB Arena, Tauranga with a number of teams feeling good about their form.
Particularly satisfied are Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats that with a 4-0 record boast the only unbeaten record. Their 61-49 win against Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks was pivotal in propelling the Wildcats to the top of the table. American import Ashley Gayle put together a double double of 13 points and 11 rebounds in that game.
Despite the loss ACM Lady Hawks are still travelling well after a 56-43 victory against the win less Capital Flyers on Sunday. Breana Jones (13pts) led the Hawks effort with Grace Vaofusi (11pts) a standout for Capital.
Hawks captain Jordan Hunter bemoaned the poor second and third quarter effort against the Wildcats.
"We have been starting well but it's that middle block we move away from what our focus is. Canterbury have some good players so we can't afford to relax, they took over, then it was too hard to get back."
With a nice blend of youth and experience Waikato Wizards are certain to be in the mix come play-off time. Veterans Natasha Lenden and Miriam Stevens compliment the exuberance of a talented young group that includes Krystal Leger-Walker and Kendell Heremaia.
Nelson Sparks looked in a comfortable position at half time against south island foes Oceana Gold Rush Otago leading 40-28 in the final game on Sunday. However that lead was completely obliterated in the third period with Otago taking a 50-49 advantage into the final quarter. Otago's momentum continued in the fourth as they triumphed 73-60 with Aliesha Ruske (22pts) outstanding. 16-year-old Aimee Book capped a fine weekend for the Flyers as she recorded 11 points and 7 rebounds.
Otago coach Todd Marshall is philosophical about losing 2015 WBC All Star Five members Samara Gallaher and Jillian Harmon as they defend their title.
"I still have a really good core group, we've lost a wee bit of firepower and that's really obvious to everybody. However the girls have been around for three years now so hopefully they have learnt something to help them step up this year."
"Janet Main is our leader but for us it is about team cohesion and if we can really share the ball. We are not going to have one or two people dominate the scoring so it's really a matter of us involving everybody.
We are the sort of team that really needs to fight for everything we get because most of our games are going to be close especially against the better teams."
Hosts Tauranga City Coasters recorded their first win of the tournament with a hard fought 45-41 win against Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix on Sunday. Jaimee-Lee Tito (17pts) and Sian Telfer (8pts/11rebs) were outstanding for the Phoenix but Georgina Richards (14pts) paced the Coasters winning effort.
Taranaki Thunder (2-2) and Waitakere Lady Rangers (3-1) will meet in the second tournament and the outcome of that clash may well determine which of the two teams finishes in the top six.
The teams now move on to the second tournament in Nelson (April 1-3) before the championship is decided in Porirua, May 12-14. With only the top six teams able to contest the championship play-off's there is all to play for in Nelson next month.
Standings after the Tauranga tournament:
4-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
4-1 ACM Lady Hawks
3-1 Waikato Wizards, Oceana Gold Rush Otago, Waitakere Lady Rangers
2-2 Taranaki Thunder
1-3 Tauranga City Coasters, Nelson Sparks
0-4 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix
0-5 Capital Flyers