The first Women’s semi-final at the 2016 Under 23 National Championships in Tauranga featured hosts Tauranga City and Otago.
Otago were missing the services of Zoe Richards after breaking her leg in the final pool game against Waitakere on Thursday. The injury has occurred 6 days before Richards and twin sister Brittany return to Gillette Junior College in Wyoming.
Nicole Ruske opened the scoring for Otago with Mikayla Daysh replying immediately for Tauranga.
Daysh scored the first nine points for the hosts as they led 22-12 at quarter time.
A long three from Renee Bennett was sandwiched between triples from Brittany Richards and Aleisha Ruske as Otago closed to within 6 points, 27-21, – home coach Rachel Gwerder calling a timeout.
Courtney Wilson scored after the timeout but a couple of fouls by the experienced Tauranga guard presented Otago with a couple of visits to the charity stripe accepted by Richards and Aleisha Ruske.
Daysh led all scorers at half-time with 20 points but Otago had closed the gap trailing by a single point – 30-29.
An early second half trey from Richards propelled Otago into the lead for the first time in the game, 41-38. A tight third ensued with no more than a single basket separating the teams a floater from Aleisha Ruske keeping the southerners ahead 45-42 at the last break.
The Ruske sisters exchanged baskets with Kaatia Watene and Wilson but neither side could grasp a telling lead although an Aleisha R put back gave Otago a 60-55 lead with 4:30 tp play.
Cairyn-Marie Rogers made it a single possession game with a three but a finger roll basket from Olivia O’Neill forced a Tauranga timeout – the hosts trailing 58-53 with 3:20 to play.
The Tauranga cause was hampered with Daysh and Briarley Rogers fouling out on consecutive plays and with Jeanie Pattinson making a basket Tauranga were facing a challenge trailing 60-53 with 2 minutes to play.
Otago were able to snare a couple of important offensive rebounds to take time off the clock and when Cairyn-Marie Rogers fouled out Tauranga were forced to play the last 90 seconds with just four players.
Final Score: Tauranga 55 – M Daysh 32/12, C Wilson 7, K Watene 6
Otago 65 – A Ruske 24, N Ruske 15/11, B Richards 11, J Pattison 8