The first round of the Women's Basketball Championship (WBC), held in Tauranga last weekend, has been hailed a great success on and off the court.
The three-day tournament finished on Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre at Memorial Park.
It featured the top 16 teams from throughout New Zealand, including members of the Tall Ferns team who won bronze at the Gold Coast Commonwealth Games.
The teams were split into three divisions, with the top eight including the Tauranga City Coasters. Home and away games will follow before finals weekend in Dunedin in early July.
The WBC continues a successful period for women's basketball with the Tall Ferns winning the bronze medal, the Aon New Zealand Under-17 girls qualifying for the 2018 FIBA Under 17 World Cup in Belarus in July and the Tall Fern 3s beating Australia to win the 2018 FIBA 3x3 Asia Cup.
Tauranga City Coasters found the step up challenging.
They lost their opening two games to Otago Gold Rush 66-46 and Taranaki Thunder 67-30 before taking on Waikato Country Cannons on Sunday.
Tauranga got off to a flying start, led by the sharp shooting of Briarley Rogers (33 game points), to lead 33-18 after the first quarter but could manage only 11 points in each of the next two stanzas for Waikato to lead 59-55 heading into the final quarter.
Tauranga finished strongly, just missing two three-pointers in the final 11 seconds before losing 70-64.
Tauranga City Basketball director of development Rachel Gwerder says the first quarter against Waikato showed the team's potential.
"Until the (Waikato) game they haven't really had the balance right, so the shooters and the inside game has not been working well as a unit. It has taken a while for us getting used to playing again at this level, from playing locally to the highest level with nothing in between.
"It is really important we see young girls seeing quality basketball because on TV you see a lot of netball but not a lot of quality women's basketball. There is a real pathway for girls in basketball. You can go to the states and get four years of education for free, and you can play professionally," Gwerder said.
The standard of play has definitely lifted from last year in the WBC, according to Tauranga City Basketball general manager Mark Rogers.
"Women's basketball in New Zealand is going up, so it is a good time for women's basketball as there is growth there. I suppose the challenge is how do you resource it and how do you keep the growth and momentum going.
"This event for us has been huge, having the top teams in the country here in Tauranga. The support we get from the volunteers is amazing, the feedback from Basketball New Zealand has been really positive.
"Their tournaments' manager Marie Taylor is here, and she is stoked with how it has gone. It has been a great event for them. It has been easy to do stuff here which is what we want to hear, but it is an on-going challenge to keep bringing tournaments to Tauranga."