The two Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) Division One South Island teams face difficult away assignments this coming weekend.
AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush have arrived at a critical juncture in their season as they face a double‑header road trip to Opunake and Hamilton. The Taranaki Thunder, equally desperate for a win, lie in wait for the Gold Rush on Friday while the game in Hamilton on Saturday will be a repeat of the 2018 Grand Final.
Good news for Gold Rush Head Coach Greg Brockbank is that he has almost a full complement of players heading north. Leading scorer Nicole Ruske is back from international duty after playing at the FIBA 3X3 Asia Cup in China and the Richards sisters, Brittany and Zoe, have returned after fulfilling their college commitments in the States. The only disappointing news is that stalwart Aleisha Ruske is unavailable due to exams.
One win from the two games is a minimum requirement for the Gold Rush if they want to keep their top four hopes alive.
Taranaki Thunder expect a big crowd in Opunake on Friday night for the visit of the defending champions. Teesha Smith will be back to running the point and Raquel Sampson will be suiting up after her strong showing at the Aon U19 Nationals – she scored 16 points in the Thunder’s last home game against Harbour Breeze. Unfortunately power forward Rochelle Fourie is unavailable.
The Waikato Wizards will still be without Charlisse Leger-Walker for their clash with the Gold Rush. The Tall Ferns guard has missed the first five games of the season due to an ankle injury and is now unavailable as she is in Mongolia playing for the New Zealand team at the FIBA 3X3 U18 World Cup. Otherwise the Wizards are likely to be at full strength with a number of players backing up from the Aon U19 National’s.
2017 champions Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats take on Auckland Dream at Epsom Girls Grammar on Saturday evening where the two leading rebounders in the competition, Kalani Purcell (11.8rpg) and Marita Davydova (13.8ppg), go head to head in an intriguing individual encounter.
Charmian Mellars and Kayla Kiriau are unavailable but the Dream welcome back guards Amanda Buck and Casyn Buchman after injury.
Both sides will be without one of their young guns. Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Auckland) and Ashlee Strawbridge (Canterbury) are playing alongside Leger-Walker at the U18 3X3 World Cup.
There will be tremendous anticipation in Whangarei as Northland Phoenix play a WBC home game when they entertain Rotorua Lady Geysers. Both teams will be looking for their second win of the season.
Leiani Tautiepa and Jaimee-Lee Tito will lead the Phoenix effort who have Roana Paterson and Truly Harding unavailable.
Round 5 Fixtures
Friday June 7 - Taranaki Thunder v AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush, 6.30pm at Sandford’s Event Centre, Opunake (Livestreamed)
- Thunder – Teesha Smith, Simone Cook, Tayla Murray, Raquel Sampson, Eva Langton
- Gold Rush - Natalie Smith, Natalie Visger, Bronwyn Kjestrup, Olivia O’Neill, Aleisha Ruske
- Tayla Murray led the Thunder scoring last round against Auckland dream with 25 points.
- Nicole Ruske is the Gold Rush leading scorer averaging 10.8 points per game.
Saturday June 8 – Waikato Wizards v AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush, 6.00pm at Hamilton Boy’s High School, Hamilton
- Wizards - Krystal Leger-Walker, Alyssa Hirawani, Ella Bradley, Kelcy Ballantyne, Koha Lewis
- Gold Rush - Natalie Smith, Natalie Visger, Bronwyn Kjestrup, Olivia O’Neill, Nicole Ruske
- Kryatal Leger-Walker leads the league in steals (3.8spg) and is second in both assists (4.2apg) and points (15.2ppg).
- Natalie Visger leads the Gold Rush rebounding count averaging 7.4rpg.
Saturday June 8 – Auckland Dream v Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats, 7.30pm at Joyce Fisher Sports Centre, Epsom Girls Grammar School, Auckland (Livestreamed)
- Dream - Kalani Purcell, Amanda Buck, Natalie Taylor, Milomilo Nanai, Hailey Moala
- Wildcats - Marita Davydova, Ajiah Pepe, Tessa Boagni, Laken Wairau, Tessa Morrison
- Jordan Hunter leads the league in assists averaging 4.5 dimes per game.
- Tessa Boagni is finding form after injury curtailed the early part of her season – she averages 12 points and 8.5 rebounds per game.
Saturday June 8 – Northland Phoenix v Rotorua Lady Geysers, 2.00pm at ASB Stadium, Whangarei
- Phoenix – Jaimee-Lee Tito, Leiani Tautiepa, Jeannie Cameron, Leylanni Cameron-Tana, Karena Hemmington
- Lady Geysers – Aroha Haumaha, Pareunuora Pene, Kararaina Pene, Awatea Leach, Amelia Palmer
- Leiani Tautiepa leads the Northland Phoenix scoring averaging 10.8 points per game.
- Aroha Haumaha leads the Lady Geysers in points (21.8ppg) and rebounds (9.4rpg).
Division One Standings
5-0 Auckland Dream
4-2 Harbour Breeze
3-2 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats, Waikato Wizards
1-4 AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush
0-6 Taranaki Thunder
Division Two Standings
3-2 Harbour Zephyr
3-0 McAlpines M10 MEGA North Canterbury Spirit, Wellington
1-4 Rotorua Lady Geysers
2-1 Capital Swish
1-3 Northland Phoenix
0-3 South Canterbury Stealers
Article by Mike Lacey
Photographer Credit Angela Ruske
Watch selected 2019 Women’s Basketball Championship games through livestream on BBNZ’s Facebook @basketballNZ hashtag #NZWBC or website www.nz.basketball/tv.
Livestream games for round 5:
- Friday, 7 June - Taranaki Thunder vs AM I FIT Otago Gold Rush
- Saturday, 8 June - Auckland Dream vs Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
Available for games click here.