Tauranga City Basketball has the honour of hosting the opening round of the 2018 Women's Basketball Championship (WBC).
The three-day tournament starts tomorrow and end\s on Sunday at the Queen Elizabeth Youth Centre at Memorial Park. Home and away games will follow in the lead up to finals weekend in Dunedin in early July.
The WBC represents the pinnacle of domestic women's basketball in New Zealand with some of the country's best talent on show, including Commonwealth Games bronze medallists in Tauranga.
A new three-tier system will cater for five more teams than last season's 11. Tier one has eight teams playing for the national championship but also their place in the 2019 WBC, where only six teams can qualify for tier one.
Tauranga City Coasters are in tier one, along with Canterbury Wildcats, Auckland Dream, Harbour Breeze, Otago Gold Rush, Taranaki Thunder, Waikato Country Cannons and Waikato Wizards.
Tier two has Capital Swish, Nelson Sparks, North Canterbury, Rotorua Lady Vols, Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix, with tier three made up of Manawatu, Otago Gold Rush and Southland.
Tauranga City Coasters include Kaitlyn Morrell and Moneesha Barrett from Tauranga Girls' College and Briarley Rogers from Aquinas College, beside the tournament's oldest player in 50-year-old Audrey Abbot.
They are captained by New Zealand under-20 rep and Junior Tall Fern Makayla Daysh.
"I think the biggest challenge will be belief, we need to believe in ourselves more. Last year we came very close to beating the top teams but think we shocked ourselves when it was so close. So making sure right from the start we believe we can beat anybody is key," Daysh said.
"I think our team has worked hard. We train well together and are getting stuff done, we are excited to have a home tournament and hopefully get some good crowds. We have been busting our butts learning moves and getting ready for this year."
Tauranga City Basketball general manager Mark Rogers is excited to have the best women players in Tauranga.
"We now have to compete with the best of the country and the plan for next year is to cut the top division to six so it will be fairly cutthroat this year," he said.
"It is a great chance for people to see the top level of women's basketball in New Zealand. You have some current Tall Ferns playing in some of the other teams and up-and-coming players in our team, who are aspiring to break into the national women's team.
"So it is a great stepping stone for players to be able to see where that level is and is also an important step on our player pathway for our female players."
Tauranga City Coasters are coached by Tony Webster, who has been with Tauranga City Basketball for just over a year.
Rogers says it is great to have someone of his calibre, who has coached men's national league teams, to be now coaching the women's side.
Door charge $5 adults, $2 students, cash only.
Full draw: www.nz.basketball.co.nz
Tauranga City Coasters team
1. Makayla Daysh (Captain), 2. Courtney Wilson, 3. Rebecca Hughes, 4. Cairyn Rogers, 5. Briarley Rogers, 6. Tash Glasson, 7. Kaitlyn Morrell, 8. Moneesha Barrett, 9. Kay-Hauata Phillips, 10. Riana Murray, 11. Texi Schaeffer, 12. Audrey Abbot.
Head coach Tony Webster, asst coach Jeana Cooney, manager Maria Wilson
Tauranga City Coasters games
Friday 7.30pm v Otago Gold Rush
Saturday 5.45pm v Taranaki Thunder
Sunday 12.30pm v Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons