Stability and growth is the long-term goal for women's basketball in Northland.
Despite losing their only 2019 home game against the Rotorua Lady Geysers at ASB Stadium on Saturday, Northland's senior women's basketball team, the Northland Phoenix, is hoping to lay the platform for the next generation.
The potential success in Northland senior basketball has been underlined by the under-15 girls team, who are showing great promise this year and will enter their age-group national tournament in Tauranga on July 17-20 as the top seed.
Unfortunately, the Phoenix could not replicate similar form against their Rotorua opposition, losing 60-47. Down by 15 points at halftime, the Phoenix could not close the gap to less than eight points throughout the game as they struggled with the Lady Geysers' fast-paced play.
"We made double the number of their turnovers so we lost a lot of ball and they scored on that possession," Phoenix coach Deborah Harding said.
"Rotorua have long-range shooters and we had to work on our defensive style to shut that down which worked reasonably well."
Northland's efforts were not helped by the absence of four players which meant the Phoenix had only two substitutes against a fully staffed opposition.
Harding said 23-year-old forward Leylanni Cameron-Tana shone out on Saturday as well as the team's captain Jaimee-Lee Tito.
"It was good to see [Cameron-Tana] being confident in taking the ball to the hoop and [Tito] was a really strong leader which helped the girls stay on par."
While she would have preferred a win, Harding was happy with how her side rallied in the second half in front of a loud 50-member crowd.
"I didn't walk away disappointed because I thought we held our own for the amount of players that we had out there," she said.
"We had good opportunities, we had good ball, but the shots just wouldn't drop and that would just be from the fatigue."
The Phoenix started the 2019 New Zealand women's basketball division two season with a bang, recording their first win in two years against South Canterbury, 61-50, at a season-opening tournament in Christchurch in May.
The team went on to lose the three remaining games to North Harbour and two Wellington sides, but Harding said the win showed Northland deserved a spot in national women's basketball.
"Within the team, there are different stages of development and fitness but, as a team, it's incredible to see the immediate partnerships which were formed and the team camaraderie."
With players coming from as far afield as Hamilton, the team could train together only a few times a month whereas other teams might train multiple times a week.
Despite the adversity faced by current players, Harding believed it was worth the trouble if it meant the likes of Northland's under-15 team could see a pathway into the senior grades in Northland.
"Basketball itself is growing significantly but, in terms of women's basketball, there's so many talented players through under-17s and under-19s but we just don't have enough coaches so the girls leave and go to netball," she said.
"[The under-15 team] are doing extremely well in their age group and we want to build the women's team from those strong foundations for those girls to transition into, to keep the interest in women's basketball."
The Northland Phoenix next play North Harbour Zephyr in Auckland on June 23 before a season-ending tournament on July 4-6 in North Harbour.