The 2016 Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) Finals tournament began on Thursday in Porirua and it was a good day for Taranaki Thunder, Oceana Gold Rush Otago and Canterbury Wildcats.
In Championship section B both Taranaki Thunder and Oceana Gold Rush Otago advanced to the semi-finals after both teams inflicted a defeat on the Auckland Counties Lady Hawks.
In Section A Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats are assured of a spot in the semi-finals but Waikato Wizards and Waitakere Lady Hawks will meet on Friday morning to determine the other team to progress.
There is still all to play for on day two in the Plate section as any two from Capital Flyers, Te Tai Tokerau Flyers and Nelson Sparks can progress. Even Tauranga City Coasters despite two losses have a mathematical chance of advancing.
Taranaki Thunder 58 Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks 53 AOT
Taranaki had to overcome a spirited Auckland Counties Manukau second half comeback before eventually winning in overtime.
A strong opening half propelled the Thunder to a 27-18 half time lead.
The mother and daughter combination of Sharne Robati and Paddy Pupuke-Robati began to get things going for the Lady Hawks along with Breana Jones and Hannah Turton and they pulled within 4 points, 41-37 with 6 minutes to play. Taranaki were unable to shake off ACM despite regular scoring contributions from Bailey Gavin and Joellen How.
Pupuke-Robati finished under pressure for an and one play before Leiani Tautiepa tied the scores 47-47 in the closing seconds to force overtime.
Robati made the first points in the extra period but Gavin and Tuki made a pair of baskets each to clinch a hard fought Thunder win.
Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks 46 Oceana Gold Rush Otago 72
The first quarter was a disaster for ACM as Otago jumped out to a 16-0 lead. ACM took 6:30 to get on the scoreboard, Breeze Leonard finally getting a shot to drop. Aleisha Ruske nailed a couple of long range threes to help Gold Rush to a 19-8 lead at the first break. Things didn't get any better in the second quarter for the Lady Hawks as Otago stretched out to a 39-18 half-time lead with Soraya Umaga-Jensen (7pts) leading a balanced scoring effort.
A long three Nicole Ruske trey on the three-quarter time buzzer extended the Southerners lead to 57-31. The final period was a formality, Otago advancing to the last four with a game to spare.
Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 84 Waitakere Lady Rangers 60
A depleted Lady Rangers, shorn of three starters on Tall Ferns duty, conceded an early lead against Canterbury but to their credit never allowed the deficit to balloon out.
Hayley Gray (10pts) led all scorers at half time as her Wildcats led 44-27.
American Lauren Vetters, debuting for the Rangers, opened their account in the third quarter, replying to a Shea Crotty long three. Spoils were shared in the period as both teams logged 19 points.
Canterbury forwards Pip Connell and Ashley Gayle, both recovering from injuries, were used sparingly by coach Lori McDaniel allowing Fran Edmondson the opportunity to play extended minutes and she led all scorers as Canterbury eased to a comfortable 84-60 victory. Guards Darci Finnigan and Stevie Theyers led the Rangers effort with 15 points each.
Waikato Wizards 50 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 66
Waikato made the early running of this up-tempo affair before the Wildcats answered with 9 straight points to lead 16-10 at quarter time.
Courtney Hamblin and Fran Edmondson (9 points in the half) were driving the Canterbury effort as the lead extended into double figures but Waikato were still very much in the picture trailing 37-25 after twenty minutes.
Nice touches from Alyssa Hirawani kept Waikato ticking along but they were not able to make much impression on the red and blacks lead.
Opposition center's Ashley Gayle and Miriam Stevens got into a mini wrestling match but when Edmondson brought up 50 points for Canterbury the advantage was 15 points. A Natasha Lenden three followed by a driving two plus the bonus freebie brought the Waikato bench to life - 53-46 with ten minutes to play.
A real battle ensued in the final quarter as the defence of both teams dominated proceedings but Canterbury kept their noses in front to record a 66-50 win and a place in the semi-finals. Wildcats forward Fran Edmondson capped a fine performance with a second double double of the day.
Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 63 Tauranga City Coasters 58
Freda Riwai and Jeannie Cameron made ten points between them in overtime as Te Tai Tokerau just managed to hold off Tauranga City Coasters.
The Phoenix, with Jaimee-Lee Tito in fine scoring touch, charged out of the blocks quickly establishing a double figure lead and were well in command at half time leading 36-14. Tauranga were smarting from a poor first half and responded to coach Rachel Gwerder's words to reel of a 10-0 start to the second term and pull back to 41-30 at three-quarter time.
The momentum stayed with the Coasters as Kaatia Watene and Briarly Rogers made long threes to pull their team to within two points with 6:40 to play. A Marion TeWhui basket steadied the ship for the Phoenix but Tauranga were not finished and they tied the scores via a Courtney Wilson three with a minute to play.
A Watene triple looked to be the winner but it was cancelled out by Jaimee-Lee Tito's effort in the dying seconds to force overtime.
After that Riwai and Cameron had the final say.
Capital Flyers v Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix
Early trapping defence from the Flyers caused some problems for the Phoenix resulting in turnovers capitalised on by the hosts for a commanding 26-9 opening gambit.
The Phoenix responded with the first half dozen points of quarter two and with Capital finding scoring a little more difficult it was just 34-15 to the Flyers at the main break. Tegan Graham (12pts) led all scorers at the half.
Capital scored the first 10 points of the second half to take a strangle hold on the game with a 44-15 advantage eventually cruising to a 65-20 victory.
Nelson Sparks v Tauranga City Coasters
A low scoring first quarter was shared 14 points apiece.
The game sprung to life in the second period as consecutive threes from Rebecca Hughes and Briarley Rogers (twice) propelled Tauranga to a 27-20 lead. The ever industrious Kat Jones and Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey (15 points in the first half) struck back for the Sparks as they edged ahead 32-31 at half-time.
Tayla Kendrick was a livewire at both ends of the court for the Coasters racking up a double double midway through the third stanza. Her efforts and those of Ellen McManaway kept Tauranga in touch, down 43-39 at the three-quarter mark.
Six points from Lauren Hippolite were key as Nelson piled on 17 points in six minutes to break the game open. Rebecca Hughes knocked down a pair of jump shots for the Coasters but it was not enough to threaten the Nelson lead. Hikuroa-Jeffrey was outstanding as Nelson closed out a solid 50-69 victory.