Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats preserved their unbeaten 2016 Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC) record on Sunday – but only just.
The Wildcats won a hard fought encounter in Dunedin on Sunday narrowly beating Oceana Gold Rush Otago 59-57.
The two teams met in Christchurch three weeks ago and on that occasion Otago prevailed 72-70 in overtime in a non-competition fixture.
For the first three quarters of Sunday’s game a repeat result looked on the cards.
The Gold Rush led 20-14 at the first quarter break and 34-28 at half-time. The advantage was extended to 50-38 at the final break with guards Danielle Frost and Aleisha Ruske a constant threat for Otago.
Canterbury, aided by a first appearance this season of former Tall Fern Sally Farmer, stormed back in the final quarter. The full court pressure defence of the Wildcats and the scoring prowess of Hayley Gray turned the game on its head with the Wildcats taking the quarter 21-7 to clinch a victory, that for all but the final ten minutes looked unlikely.
Otago coach Todd Marshall was left to rue the high number of turnovers and lack of offensive execution by his team in the final quarter.
“I was happy with the majority of the game but down the stretch our composure was poor. Canterbury applied good full court pressure down the stretch and hit some key shots to clinch the win,” he said.
Otago 57: Danielle Frost 13, Aleisha Ruske 12, Soraya Umaga-Jensen 9.
Canterbury 59: Hayley Gray 13, Fran Edmondson 10, Terai Sadler 9, Sally Farmer 9.
With the victory Canterbury win the WBC round robin series and carry number one seeding, and the more favourable draw, into the championship deciding Porirua tournament in mid May.
Otago slip to third on the ladder. The Gold Rush have the same 7-2 record as Auckland Counties Manukau Lady Hawks but fall behind the Hawks on the head to head record.
The top 6 teams will compete for the championship in Porirua
WBC Standings ahead of Championship play-offs
9-0 Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats
7-2 ACM Lady Hawks
7-2 Oceana Gold Rush Otago
6-3 Waitakere Lady Rangers, Waikato Wizards
3-6 Taranaki Thunder (Taranaki have a superior head to head record than Nelson or Capital)
3-6 Nelson Sparks, Capital Flyers
1-8 Tauranga City Coasters
0-9 Te Tai Tokerau Phoenix