Last season Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats dominated the Womens Basketball Championship (WBC) completing their title surge undefeated. It is early days in the 2017 season but the Wildcats have indicated that once again they are the team to beat. They completed the opening tournament, held on Aucklands north shore over the past three days, with an unblemished 6-0 record.

Wildcats coach Lori McDaniel expressed quiet satisfaction at the start her team has made "But we know there are tougher challenges facing us later in the competition. A number of the teams will have stronger additional personnel later in the season and we have plenty to work on before facing them."

Canterbury had a number of strong performers including veteran forward Connie Poletti and age group internationals Lauryn Hippolite, Aimee Book and Esra McGoldrick.

On the evidence of the past three days the most likely challengers to Canterburys crown appear to be Waikato Wizards, Site Weld Otago Goldrush and newcomers Waikato Country Cannons.

In one of the games of the tournament the Cannons and Goldrush went head to head on day three. Otago led 54-45 at three-quarter time but the Cannons leveled at 56 apiece with 4 minutes to play, Kharmen Kereama then putting the Cannons ahead as they rode a 15-2 scoring wave.

A Nicole Ruske three pulled Otago to within a single point with 1:30 to play but Donna Fermanis sunk a couple of pressure free throws to restore a three point advantage. Following another basket from Ruske, Fermanis sealed the deal with a floater in traffic to give the Cannons a hard fought 64-61 victory.

Cannons coach Tyler Wilkinson expressed satisfaction at her teams performances.

"We got a wake up call in our first game against Canterbury (lost 81-41) but after that the team has grown in confidence and improved with every outing. Our goal was to win three games during this tournament and we have improved on that which is very encouraging."

Also reasonably content will be Waikato Wizards coach Leanne Walker. The Wizards ran Canterbury very close on day one before going down 65-54 to the defending champions. They followed that with solid wins against Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix, Otago Goldrush and Capital Swish.

The young guard pairing of Alyssa Hirawani and Charlisse Leger-Walker were a constant menace to opposition defences.

Capital also made a strong impression with their up tempo brand of basketball. They were involved in a tight tussle with Harbour Breeze on the final day eventually winning 86-77. Camece Salmon (14pts) led the Capital scoring and guard Sariah Penese also caught the eye with a number of strong performances.

Former Tall Fern forward Jess Tuki was at the heart of Taranaki Thunders successes. Opunake High School forward Isabelle Cook also produced some good performances as the Thunder, a semi-finalist last season, look to replicate that success in this campaign.

Thunder coach Angelo Hill was full of praise for the refereeing standard. "Having three officials on each fixture has cleaned the games up. They have allowed legal physicality and tidied up the reaching fouls and hand checking. This has allowed for a much better game for players and a better spectacle for spectators."

Auckland Lady Rangers was well served by veteran guard Stevee Theyers. Coach Aik Ho was also pleased with two of his youngsters, age group international forward Sharne Pupuki-Robati and livewire guard Shauna Povey.

Tauranga City Coasters forward Mika Daysh hopped off an international flight on Saturday morning and headed straight to the game against Canterbury. Her presence inspired a strong first half performance from the Coasters as they trailed just 32-21 at the break. They eventually lost 85-49 with Daysh scoring 13 points and also providing a strong rebounding presence.

Rotorua Vols opened their win account defeating Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 68 -63 on the back of 25 points from Hinekura Kingi. Awatea Leach also performed strongly for the Vols.

Georgia Agnew put in some fine performances for Harbour Breeze as did Leylanni Cameron-Tana for Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix but both teams, along with Tauranga, still remain winless.

Teams will now embark on home and away fixtures before gathering in Christchurch for the play-offs (July 6-8)

Upcoming fixtures:

Sat May 13, 5.00pm, Waikato Wizards v Rotorua Lady Vols, St Peters School, Cambridge

Sun May 14, 12.15pm, Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats v Capital Swish, Cowles Stadium

Day 3 Results:

Waikato Wizards 82 - Ella Bradley 19, Alyssa Hirwani 16, Charlisse Leger-Walker 9

Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 23 - Leylanni Cameron-Tana 6, Jeannie Cameron 6

Waikato Country Cannons 64 - Chelsea Savage 15, Corban Metekingi 12, Mieke Elkington 10

Site Weld Otago Goldrush 61 - Nicole Ruske 24, Soraya Umaga-Jensen 10, Janet Main 7

Capital Swish 86 - Emilina Motu 17, Camece Salmon 14, Sariah Penese 12, Grace Simi Vaofusi 12

Harbour Breeze 77 - Kate Lacey 20, Georgia Agnew 16, Shanee Kiriau 12

Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 85 - Hayley Gray 15, Esra McGoldrick 13, Connie Poletti 10

Tauranga City Coasters 49 - Briarley Rogers 17, Maka Daysh 13, Cairyn-Marie Rogers 11

Taranaki Thunder 71 - Eva Langton 15, Simone Cook 11, Vanessa McCarthy 11

Rotorua Lady Vols 51 - Te Ao Leach 13, Hinekura Kingi 10, Awatea Leach 10

Capital Flyers 90 - Sariah Penese 20, Mafua Leah 15, Emilina Motu 13

Tauranga City Coasters 50 - Briarley Rogers 16, Texi Schaeffer 11

Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 85 - Hayley Gray 11, Darcy rose 10, Connie Poletti 10

Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix 24 - Jaimee-Lee Tito 6

Waikato Country Cannons 69 - Corban Metekingi 15, Breana Jones 8, Donna Fermanis 8, Mieke Elkington 8

Rotorua Lady Vols 47 - Awatea Leach 18, Hinekura Kingi 11

Taranaki Thunder 62 - Simone Cook 15, Jess Tuki 13, Courtney Keech 10, Caitlin Preston 10

Auckland Lady Rangers 54 - Milomilo Nanai 15, Shauna Povey 11, Darci Finnigan 11

Current Standings

6-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats

5-1 Waikato Country Cannons

4-1 Capital Swish

4-1 Taranaki Thunder

4-2 Site Weld Otago Goldrush

3-1 Waikato Wizards

2-4 Auckland Lady Rangers

1-5 Rotorua Lady Vols

0-4 Harbour Breeze

0-5 Tauranga City Coasters

0-5 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix

Home & Away Games

Refer to http://www.basketball.org.nz/WBC

Tournament 2 - FINALS: Christchurch - July 6-8

Host: Canterbury Basketball Association

Cowles Stadium, Christchurch

This tournament will also be live streamed.

To read the draw, rosters and tournament programme go to http://www.basketball.org.nz/WBC
- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand