The New Zealand Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) resumes this weekend with Nelson hosting the second of three tournament weekends played to decide the best women's provincial basketball team in the country.
The tournament is played this Friday to Sunday, with all games played at Saxton Arena, Nelson, with 10 provincial teams contesting the 2016 championship.
The WBC takes on the same format as last year with some games played outside the three tournament weekends, in an attempt to promote the women's games and profile the players in their local associations.
One of these was played in Auckland earlier in the month when Waitakere Lady Rangers travelled down the Western Motorway and recorded an exciting 84-79 overtime win against Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks.
The major news from the Waitakere camp is that Tall Fern Chevannah Paalvast returns to her former club. Paalvast recently won an Australian WNBL championship with Townsville Fire and her appearance will be a major boost to Rangers coach Aik Ho and his charges.
"Chev is an excellent addition to our squad especially as we have lost the services of veteran guard Amanda Buck. Her experience will be of enormous help to our younger players and obviously her on court ability speaks for itself," said Ho.
The Lady Hawks will have a settled line up in Nelson but will have to manage without the vastly experienced Hailey Moala (nee Purcell) in the third tournament as she is off to play club basketball in the Queensland State League.
Defending champions Oceana Gold Rush Otago were heartened by a 72-70 overtime victory against Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats at Cowles Stadium on Good Friday.
Although a non-championship game the performance was a boost for Otago as coach Todd Marshall explains.
"It was a really pleasing result, we were able to hit our shots down the stretch and trust in each other, the game could have gone either way, it was good for the team to play in front of Canterbury's crowd and show good composure in overtime"
"Both Janet Main (21pts) and Bronwyn Kjestrup (18pts/8rebs) led the way defensively as well as on offense, the longer the game went the more our players were able to take their opportunities on offense to help spread the load"
Marshall is looking forward to the games in Nelson this weekend.
"We have four games that we will need to be up for if we want to be in with a chance of winning. Soraya Umaga-Jensen comes back into the squad bringing some added experience and toughness, however Nicole Ruske is unavailable as she will be away with the Junior Tall Ferns in China".
Canterbury assistant coach Sally Farmer turned out for the Wildcats last Friday scoring 11 points in 19 minutes of action. It is unclear if the 39-year-old double Olympian will suit up in Nelson but this is what Canterbury coach Lori McDaniel said about the former Tall Fern earlier in the season.
"Sally has agreed to be on the roster and we are hopeful she will play in at least one tournament. I think it is great for the younger players to have someone of Sally's experience willing to be in the mix."
Will that tournament be Nelson this weekend?
Jessica Tuki could well be back in contention for a Tall Ferns recall after her outstanding performances for Taranaki Thunder in the opening tournament in Tauranga. The Thunder are in a rebuilding phase with a very young squad and will need Tuki at her dominant best if they are to threaten a top six finish.
Taranaki's encounter with 2012 Champions Nelson Sparks on Friday looks to be one of the key match ups in deciding top six play-off places. The Sparks, with home court advantage, will start out favourites but Kat Jones and her team will be taking nothing for granted.
Another player looking for an international recall is Krystal Leger-Walker. The Waikato Wizards guard, like Tuki, debuted for the Ferns in 2014. Still only 18 Leger-Walker is a key player for the 2013 and 2014 WBC runners-up who have recently recruited Georgia Perrott-Hunt and Olivia Bell from North Harbour.
Capital Flyers, Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix and Tauranga City Coasters all struggled in tournament one and it will need a major change in fortune for any of these teams to be in championship contention come finals time in Porirua in May.
Games get underway at 8.30am on Friday with the hosts entertaining Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix and the undefeated Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats taking on Tauranga City Coasters.