Basketball: Otago crowned WBC champions

By Mike Lacey

Photo / Getty Images
Photo / Getty Images

Day two was the moving day at the 2016 Women's Basketball Championship (WBC) Play-offs tournament in Porirua on Friday with the finalists for both the Championship and Plate competitions found.

The 2015 champions Oceana Gold Rush Otago

The plate competition will be played between Auckland Counties Lady Hawks

Semifinal 1 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 70 Taranaki Thunder 38

A Courtney Hamblin three opened the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats scoring but it was Taranaki Thunder via Jess Tuki and Jenna Kensington that made the stronger start (11-3) causing Canterbury coach Lori McDaniel to call an early timeout and introduce veteran Sally Farmer. Things didn't improve immediately and it took the emergence of import Ashley Gayle to spark a red and black scoring run. The Nakki led 18-15 at quarter time but there was evidence that the absence of Tuki, pinged for a second personal foul, would hurt her team.

Taranaki coach Angelo Hill inserted Tuki back into the fray to start the second quarter. His gamble misfired when his main rebounding weapon immediately picked up her third foul. Gayle and Fran Edmondson began to dominate inside and it was the American who gave her team the lead midway through the period.
A Shea Crotty three got the sizeable Canterbury support cheering and an identical effort from Tessa Morrison carried them to a 40-27 half-time lead.

Edmondson moved into double double territory with a classy baseline move, Vanessa McCarthy replied for Taranaki but they trailed 49-32 at the third quarter mid point. Bailey Gavin scored five quick points for the Thunder but a Sally Farmer bucket not only extended the Wildcats advantage to 20 points, 57-37, but it also drew a fourth personal on Tuki.

The final period was one way traffic as Canterbury moved into Saturday's Grand Final with a 70-38 win.

Semifinal 2 Waikato Wizards v Oceana Gold Rush Otago

The Wizards led by forward Kelcy Ballantyne edged the first quarter 14-10.

A quality second quarter ensued with no quarter given at the defensive ends. Triples from Aleisha Ruske and Soraya Umaga-Jensen helped Otago edge to a 29-24 half-time lead. No player had more than 6 points at the break, both teams with a balanced scoring effort.
Stifling defence from both teams kept the scoring low but the interest high, Otago finishing the third quarter with a 6-2 run to sneak ahead 40-38, at three-quarter time.

With 5 minutes to play Waikato led 46-43 after a Ballantyne break. Alyssa Hirawani stretched it more but Natalie Visger made a basket plus the bonus - 48-46 to Waikato with 2:59 to play.

Much to the delight of her Hutt Valley fan club Umaga-Jensen tied the scores only for Kendell Heremaia to reinstate Waikato's advantage with a basket and a pair of freebies. Visger again made it close but Waikato held their nerve, Miriam stevens converting a pair of free throws to send the Wizards into the final.

Waikato Wizards 91 Waitakere Lady Rangers 66

There was plenty at stake in this game, the winner progressing to the Championship semi-final the loser dropping into the Plate competition.

Even-Stevens early on Waikato stretched away in the middle stages leading 43-31 at half-time and 67-47 at three-quarter time. The fourth quarter was just a formality as Waikato breezed into the semi's.

Oceana Gold Rush Otago 61 Taranaki Thunder 54

The game was decided in the third period as Otago turned a 27-24 mid term deficit into a decisive 50-36 three quarter time lead. Otago's 26-9 third period run was fuelled by a brace of threes from both Bronwyn Kjestrup and Soraya Umaga-Jensen.

Taranaki attempted to unsettle Gold Rush with some full court pressure and did manage to reduce the arrears to 6 points (58-52) with 2 minutes to play.

Jess Tuki then pulled it to within 4 points inside the last minute but following a Todd Marshall time out the Southerners remained composed to book a semi-final match up with Waikato later in the day.

Waitakere Lady Rangers v Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks

The encounter between the two teams hit hardest by Tall Ferns selection (four in total) played for a place in the Plate Final. Triples from Breanna Jones and NZ Under 16 representative Sharne Robati helped ACM to a 22-15 first quarter advantage.

Oklahoma native Lauren Vetters added some starch to the Waitakere defence and with Darci Finnigan adding some points the margin was just eight points, 38-30, at half time. It was still only a 10 points margin, 55-45, entering the final quarter.

Interestingly the first five baskets scored by each team in the final period were scored by ten different players - ACM still ahead 67-56 with three minutes to play.

A Leiani Tautiepa jump shot and a Mina Tamatoa put back stretched the lead further, ACM moving into the Plate Final with a 17 points victory.

Capital Flyers 91 Tauranga City Coasters 41

The Flyers led by livewire Junior Tall Fern Sariah Penese raced out the blocks to establish a 29-13 first quarter advantage. Despite 9 points from Kaatia Watene the Coasters were struggling to find the basket and trailed 45-23 at half-time. Capital's Tegan Graham (11pts) joined Penese (15pts) in double figures at the break.

Courtney Stubbins scored 9 points in the period as Capital moved ahead 66-36 at three-quarter time eventually cruising to a 91-41.

Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 35 Nelson Sparks 53

Nelson Sparks remained unbeaten with a comfortable win against Te Tai Tokerau. Both teams struggled in a low scoring first half edged by Nelson 21-17 - a couple of neat baskets from Lauren Hippolite the difference between the two teams.

The Sparks found more of a scoring rhythm in the second half as Kirsty Thompson, Kat Jones and Aimee Book found a route to the hoop.

Jaimee-Lee Tito and Reana Hetaraka-Sadler showed some nice touches for the Phoenix but the Sparks progress was rarely interrupted as they moved on for an encounter with the unbeaten Capital Flyers.

Capital Flyers v Nelson Sparks

This game was a virtual semi-final with the winner earning a place in the Plate Final on Saturday. It was the home team that made the early running through Tegan Graham and Junior Tall Fern Sariah Penese dominated the opening exchanges to lead 20-4 at quarter time. Nelson improved greatly in the second period sharing the spoils to trail 34-17 at the interval with Lauren Hippolite nabbing 7 points.

Nelson staged a terrific comeback in the second half as Hippolite and Jodi Hikuroa-Jeffrey kept the Capital defence under pressure. Remarkably the Sparks got the difference down to 5 points, 53-48 early in the final period but Capital re grouped to book a place in the final. Nelson guard Hikuroa-Jeffrey continued her good form with a game high 25 points

- NZ Herald

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