It was a good weekend for Leanne Walker. After being named the 2018 Female Coach of the Year at the Basketball New Zealand Awards ceremony on Friday night the Waikato Wizards head coach led her team to successive Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Division 1 road wins on Saturday and Sunday.
The Wizards completed its successful South Island swing by beating Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 68-63 on Saturday and AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush 53-48 the following day.
In other games Auckland Dream remain the only unbeaten team with four straight wins after beating Harbour Breeze on Friday – the Breeze bouncing back in style the next day beating Taranaki Thunder in New Plymouth.
Friday May 17 - Auckland Dream 68 Harbour Breeze 54
Auckland Dream won the ‘Battle of the Bridge’ at Epsom Girls Grammar School on Friday night beating Harbour Breeze 68-54. Trailing by 3 points at half-time the Dream produced a dominant third spell to break the game open outscoring the visitors 17-5.
Natalie Taylor scored seven of her 12 points in the period and although the Breeze recovered in the fourth they were unable to threaten the Dream’s unbeaten start to the season.
The Dream’s fourth straight win was built around major contributions from the Purcell sisters as in addition to Taylor’s dozen points Kalani Purcell also scored 12 points, to accompany 14 rebounds, while Charmian Mellars was also in double double territory with 12 rebounds and a game high 18 points.
The Breeze made the better start as double figure contributions from Tayla Dalton and Akiene-Tera Reed took them to a 24-19 first quarter lead then 34-31 at the main break.
The Dream applied the defensive squeeze after the interval holding their cross-city rivals to just 20 points in the second half.
Auckland Dream 68 – C Mellars 18p/11r, K Purcell 12p/14r, N Taylor 12, K Kiriau 9
Harbour Breeze 54 – T Dalton 13, T Reed 11, M Flavell 10, D Franklin 8
Photographer Credit Amanda Beets Photography
Saturday May 18 – Taranaki Thunder 50 Harbour Breeze 99
Harbour Breeze shrugged off the effects of the Friday night loss to Auckland Dream and an early flight to New Plymouth the next morning putting in a strong performance to defeat Taranaki Thunder 99-50 on Saturday.
Tayla Murray and Raquel Sampson scored early points for the Thunder but six straight points from Emme Shearer helped Breeze to a 20-9 quarter-time advantage.
Tayla Dalton (21 points) moved into double figures in the second frame as the Breeze established a 43-16 half-time lead.
The Thunder offence began to function more effectively in the third quarter as Murray, Sampson and Teesha Smith kept the scoreboard moving.
However Ella Fotu, Deena Franklin and Matangiroa Flavell joined the back court duo of Dalton and Shearer in double digits as the Breeze won every quarter on their way to a third win of the season.
The Thunder, seeking their first win of the campaign, travel to Auckland next weekend for a doubleheader against the Dream and the Breeze.
Taranaki Thunder 50 – R Sampson 16, T Murray 12p/10r, T Smith 8, A Chubb 7
Harbour Breeze 99 – T Dalton 21, D Franklin 16, E Shearer 14, E Fotu 13p/6a, M Flavell 11
Photographer Credit Rebecca Langton
Saturday May 18 – Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats 63 Waikato Wizards 68
An outstanding display by Krystal Leger-Walker propelled the Waikato Wizards to a 68-63 victory at Cowles Stadium on Saturday night. The University of Northern Colorado guard amassed 34 points, the highest single game tally of the WBC season. In addition she added 7 rebounds, 4 assists and a steal as the Wizards recorded their second win of the season.
Welcoming back the experienced duo of Shea Crotty and Tessa Boagni the Wildcats established a 17-8 early lead and, still ahead 29-23 at the interval, appeared on track for another home victory.
The game changed complexion in the third period as the Wizards outscored their hosts 26-16 with Leger-Walker scoring 19 - Koha Lewis knocked down a triple late in the frame to take the Wildcats to a 49-45 lead with ten minutes to play.
Marita Davydova (14 points and 19 rebounds), Tessa Morrison and Boagni made scores early in the fourth but every Wildcats move was countered by Leger-Walker and Ella Bradley.
A Laken Wairau triple kept the Wildcats within five points (58-63) with three minutes to play but Alyssa Hirawani and Bradley scored on consecutive plays to seal the Wizards win.
Canterbury Wildcats 63 – M Davydova 14p/19r, A Pepe 12, L Wairau 9/6a, T Boagni 8, C Poletti 8
Waikato Wizards 68 – K Leger-Walker 34/7r, E Bradley 13, A Hirawani 5, K Lewis 5
Photographer Credit Toni Smith-Hunwick
Sunday May 19 - AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush 48 Waikato Wizards 53
Another fine performance from the Wizards, this time in Dunedin, carried them to a second win of the weekend and their third of the campaign, as they defeated AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush 53-48 on Sunday.
Ahead 47-33 at three-quarter time the Wizards appeared to be headed for a comfortable victory but Nicole Ruske had other ideas. The 2018 Tall Ferns guard reeled off 11 fourth quarter points on the bounce to drag Gold Rush to within six points (46-52) with 90 seconds to play. Natalie Smith reduced the deficit by another point from the foul line but the defending champions were unable to close the gap any further as they fell to a third loss of the season.
Earlier the Wizards forged a 28-20 opening half lead as Krystal Leger-Walker, Koha Lewis and Riva Walker-Pitman punctured the Gold Rush defence.
Ruske and Smith shared 11 points in the third period but with Ella Bradley and Leger-Walker combining for 17 it appeared the Wizards would cruise to a win. Unfortunately for the Gold Rush the Ruske initiated revival came up just short.
I AM FIT Otago Gold Rush 48 – N Ruske 19, N Visger 8, N Smith 8
Waikato Wizards 53 – K Leger-Walker 17, E Bradley 12, K Lewis 7, R Walker-Pitman 6
Photographer Credit Angela Ruske
Article by Mike Lacey
WBC Division 1 Standings
4-0 Auckland Dream
2-2 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
3-2 Harbour Breeze, Waikato Wizards
1-3 AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush
0-4 Taranaki Thunder
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- Livestream game for round 2 was Auckland Dream vs Harbour Breeze.
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