A dominant performance from Deena Franklin propelled Waitakere Lady Rangers to an exciting 84-79 Women's Basketball Championship overtime win against the Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks at Allan Brewster Recreation Centre on Wednesday evening.
The former Harbour Breeze player produced a 34 points and 17 rebounds display that will have caught the eye of national selectors. Waitakere coach Aik Ho was impressed with his forward's form.
"She's a warrior, she's been consistent at the last tournament and in this game. She's definitely got a shot at the Ferns; we've talked about that. The challenge for Deena is to play out in the three spot a bit more and you saw her handling the ball tonight. Really proud of her as traditionally she' been chucked on the inside to be the workhorse".
Franklin got the scoreboard ticking early in the game and aided by a pair of Stevee Theyers threes helped the visitors to a 23-15 quarter time lead. Waitakere continued to pick holes in the ACM zone defence and increased the advantage to 43-31 at the half.
Whatever Hawks coach Tania Hunter said during the interval worked a treat as her charges embarked on a 9-0 run. The run was capped by a Breana Jones triple as the Rangers failed to score in the opening four minutes of the second half.
The momentum was with the Hawks as Jones, Jordan Hunter and Milomilo Nanai, back from injury, continually found their way to the hoop to level the scores at 53 apiece entering the final stanza.
Fortunes ebbed and flowed in the fourth quarter as the lead changed hands on numerous occasions. Franklin scored with just under three minutes to play to give Waitakere a 68-64 lead but Jones struck back with a three. Katelin Noyer then sank a long two to give Waitakere a 70-67 lead with ninety seconds remaining but again Jones hit a triple (5/10 3PG) and although both teams had scoring opportunities the game headed to overtime with the scores locked at 70 all.
The Hawks, last year's beaten finalists, continued to struggle to contain Franklin who scored the first couple of baskets of the overtime period. Her inside presence was complimented by a mature performance from Junior Tall Ferns point guard Darci Finnigan and the all round ability of Maria Milani as the visitors ran out winners, 84-79.
The win moves the Lady Rangers to second on the standings and naturally pleased Ho.
"Awesome game from the girls, I thought we had a good chance in regulation time when we had the last possession but it happened in overtime instead. I'm proud of the defence and also giving up so few turnovers against a good Lady Hawks team."
Both teams head to the second WBC tournament in Nelson, April 1-3.