We take a quick look back at the Wildcats’ 2018 WBC season
Written and collated by Bruce Martin, James Lissaman and BBNZ. Photos courtesy BBNZ/Angela Ruske
After a bit of time to reflect on this year’s WBC campaign, Head Coach Lori McDaniel was able to see the positive side of a result it was hard not to be discontent with:
“We had a new look team for 2018 with five new additions to start the season, then with injuries and college players leaving, we had several other players rotate into the team for games and the finals tournament.
“It was great to have Tessa Morrison, Mary Goulding, and Tessa Boagni in our team at different points throughout the season.
“The level of competition in the WBC this year has certainly improved, with the addition of Tall Ferns, college players and even a few imports. We also saw the introduction of some junior players with international experience into the competition, which is another great addition.
“Our 2018 season for the Wildcats was bumpy from the get go, with an immediate loss to Waikato, followed by losses to Otago and Auckland. A season ending knee injury to Fran Edmondson, during our first game against Auckland, dealt the team a gigantic blow. On the upside, after losing badly in the first game, all our other games were extremely close, with the Wildcats showing some fantastic defence.
“Finals weekend summed up the season for the Wildcats, with a narrow loss to Auckland in pool play, followed by a heart-breaking one-point defeat to eventual champions Otago.
We finished out finals weekend with three strong wins to end on a positive note, but everyone involved was left feeling a sense of disappointment. I can’t help but feel that this emotion will become great motivation for us in 2019, and will fuel us throughout the campaign”.
For the Finals Weekend in Dunedin, the eight teams from Tier One were split into two even pools. Knowing only two of the four teams would progress through to the semi-finals, the team knew they needed at least two wins to have a chance to achieve a three-peat.
First up, the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats held the Auckland Dream to just 17 first half points. The guard duo of Shea Crotty and Tessa Morrison laid the foundations for the nine-point half-time lead, but the Wildcats could only muster the same number themselves after the break as they saw their lead eroded and eventually conceded.
Auckland played with far more offensive cohesion in the third period and closed to within three points (35-32) with ten minutes to play, Charmian Mellars (21 points, 14 rebounds and 5 steals at the heart of the Auckland revival.
Tall Fern Natalie Taylor gave Auckland their first lead of the game (36-35) but departed the action immediately with a leg injury. Tessa Boagni (12 points and 22 rebounds) dominated the defensive boards as Canterbury closed to within two points (45-43). However, Taylor returned to make a decisive three inside the final thirty seconds to secure a Dream win.
The nightcap on day one saw the Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats two-year reign as WBC champions come to an end after they suffered an agonising 67-66 loss to the Otago Gold Rush.
An outstanding South Island derby had been close throughout. Darcy Rose briefly gave Canterbury the lead in the third quarter (40-38) but a three from Zoe Richards late in the period kept Otago three points ahead with ten minutes to play (48-45).
Tessa Boagni scored three straight baskets for the Wildcats to trim the Otago advantage to two points (58-56) before a Sapphire Wairau three gave the Cantabrians a 59-58 lead, Connie Poletti then extended that advantage to 61-58 with only 2:30 to play.
Dana Goularte narrowed the gap to 61-60 but when Shea Crotty calmly knocked down a pair of free throws the Wildcats led 63-60 with 25 seconds to play. The impressive Goularte scored immediately from an in-bounds pass before Tessa Morrison scored a pair of freebies 65-62 after a quick Otago foul.
After Nicole Ruske tied proceedings with a long three, and with Darcy Rose making one free throw at the other end it was Goularte that had the final say knocking down a jumper with three seconds remaining – Canterbury cruelly denied in a thrilling finish that saw 12 points scored in the final 27 seconds.
On Day Two the Wildcats thumped Tauranga City Coasters 80-56 in their final pool game, then met their 2017 Finals’ opponent – the Taranaki Thunder in their Plate Semi-Final matchup. The Thunder pushed the Wildcats all the way before succumbing 84-71 to the red and black, with forwards Tessa Boagni (15 points and 9 rebounds), and Connie Poletti (14 points) leading the Canterbury effort.
The final game of the tournament for the Wildcats was the Plate Final against the Power Chill Waikato Country Cannons. Twenty-six points and sixteen rebounds from Tall Ferns forward Tessa Boagni paced the Wildcats to a 69-64 win.
Waikato Country started the stronger, leading 18-8 at the first break but Boagni powered up with support from Connie Poletti, Darcy Rose and Shea Crotty as the Wildcats had a 21-10 second quarter, where they grabbed the lead 29-28 and never looked back.
On a sadder note, Wildcat’s Captain Shea Crotty who was also outstanding as an ambassador for the game in the community, mentoring and coaching, announced her retirement from representative basketball shortly after the tournament:
“This is by far the hardest and most emotional decision I have had to make. After an incredibly colourful 16 years with the Canterbury Basketball Association and nine for the Wildcats I’ve taken the red and black singlet off for the last time.
“A decision a lot will not understand but the physical pain and gradual damage I am doing to my body most specifically my knee is not doing any favours for my future self. If it were up to the top two inches, I would be playing for the next 20+ (years). But it is time to make a smart decision for once in my life and I know I have given everything I possibly could have to this amazing game.
“There are too many people who have been a part of this journey with me to even begin to say names. (But) the number one thank you is to mum and dad. What you have sacrificed and given for me to live my dreams is something I am forever grateful for.
“It’s been nothing but a privilege to put on the red and black for so many years!”
The entire CBA community is proud of how much Shea has given to our game here, and the success Shea has had in her basketball career, and can’t wait to see what is next in store for her!