The Wildcats will face off against the Harbour Breeze on their home-court tonight
With women’s domestic basketball set to take centre stage tonight and tomorrow with the finals weekend shown live on television for the first time, there’s no doubt that Canterbury Wildcats Coach Lori McDaniel wants her side to be there right to the end.
“This is a great opportunity to showcase the sport and the level the sport is at,” said McDaniel.
“For young girls to see where they can get to, and help inspire more kids into the game, that alone is exciting. But to also be there ourselves, at the finals weekend, I’m really excited.”
In order to advance to the grand final and enjoy the maximum exposure on offer McDaniel admits adjustments within the Wildcats will have to be made when they take on league leaders Harbour Breeze tonight. With the pairing of the league’s leading rebounder Marita Davydova and Tall Fern Tessa Boagni down low, Canterbury found the early season success that helped them qualify for the final 4. But that sometimes came at a cost, with her usual reliable three-point shooters such as Tessa Morrison running more plays for her forwards rather than stepping up to sink the big buckets.
That allowed other sides with strong shooters to apply scoreboard pressure by scoring in three’s, while the Wildcats collected twos. “We definitely dominated down low in those early games, but we need to nail more three’s,” noted McDaniel. “They’ve (our guards) did that against Otago and last week against North Harbour, so we are making those adjustments, we just hope it all comes together in the semi-final.”
That semi-final is against last weeks opponents from North Harbour who finished top of the Women’s Basketball Championship (WBC), in part thanks to the return of Tall Fern Penina Davidson, who sat out the early rounds due to injury but has since been lighting up the league.
Despite the two sides being vastly different to earlier in the season, the Wildcats can take some confidence having beaten the Breeze 69-62 in round three of the WBC. And from there it’s anyone’s competition to win. Waikato and Auckland, the other two teams in the final four, both have plenty of international experience to call upon and have had strong seasons, so getting to the semi finals is firstly something to be proud of and somewhere to build from for the future. The key will be if McDaniel can keep the nucleus of this side together for next year. And while there’s been no confirmation whether Davydova their Russian import is coming back next year or not, I suspect McDaniel has already selected their seats to be next to each other on the plane ride home, so the result of that conversation might not be too far away.