The Nelson Sparks opened their women's national basketball championship campaign with two resounding wins against the Palmerston North Storm and the Taranaki Trojans at Saxton Stadium yesterday.
The Sparks were taking part in day one of the first of three tournaments in the WBC national league, with play continuing today and tomorrow.
In their first run together as a complete squad, coach Tatjana Zizic rotated her players with ease, pressuring the Storm ball carriers into numerous errors.
Good contributions were made by Lisa Book, returning to the team after a year's absence, Jodi Hikuroa, who started at point guard, and Nelson-raised Jane Gowans, returning to the fold after an absence of almost a decade.
The Storm had no answer to the continuing fast pace, quickly running out of puff in an 84-45 Nelson victory.
Louisiana Tech and New Zealand Tall Ferns guard Jelena Vucinic top scored with 22, Gowans added 15 off the bench and forward Jess Bygate had 13.
The Sparks backed up their 39-point opening win with another comprehensive victory, 71-39 over Taranaki.
In a lower-scoring affair, the Sparks took a long time to hit their straps, which they did only spasmodically, missing too many uncontested shots and not playing with the same cohesion as in the first game.
Nelson got energy from bench players Hana Wilkinson, who was the leading scorer with 13, Lily Hospers and Kaitlyn Stringer.
Taranaki played a packed zone defence, not allowing the bigs to operate, and Nelson's shooters were not hitting their mark.
Harbour, Canterbury and Otago were the other unbeaten teams on day one.
The Sparks, who are supported by Richmond Mall and the Radio Network, were to play the Southland Pearls at 3pm today, with matches tomorrow against Waitakere West Auckland at 8am and Canterbury at 3pm.
All matches in the WBC will be played at Saxton Stadium this weekend, with a gold coin donation entry.
Yesterday's results from Saxton Stadium in round one of the women's basketball championship:
Nelson Sparks 84 (Jelena Vucinic 22, Jane Gowans 15, Jessica Bygate 13) Palmerston North Storm 45 (Shanice Swain 11, Alicia McEwen 11)
Canterbury Wildcats 63 (Philippa Connell 17, Courtney Hamblin 16) Rotorua Lady Volcanoes 51 (Aroha Jennings 26)
Taranaki Trojans 64 (Molly McCallum 19, Hannah Flemming 13, Terai Sadler 12, Grace McCallum 10) Harbour Breeze 93 (Brooke Blair 26, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto 15, Claire McCurran 11)
Waitakere West Auckland Rangers 73 (Maureen Tuia 16, Amanda Harris 16, Karli Tuia 10, Penina Davidson 10) Kelvin Hotel Southland Pearls 57 (Morgan Hunter 22, Sarah Hamilton 16)
Waikato Wizards 66 (Natasha Lenden 18, Leanne Walker 16) Hutt Valley Flyers 73 (Lisa Scott 13, Milomilo Nanai 11)
Oceana Goldrush 62 (Janet Main 19, Renee Johnson 12) Rotorua Lady Vols 51 (Aroha Jennings 21, Makayla Daysh 14)
Palmerston North Storm 69 (Rachel Craig 24, Danielle Pomare-Mackay 14, Freya Newton 13) Kelvin Hotel Southland Pearls 49 (Morgan Hunter 19, Sarah Hamilton 12)
Waitakere West Auckland Rangers 54 (Penina Davidson 16, Maureen Tuia 11) Canterbury Wildcats 62 (Philippa Connell 14, Hannah Mackay 11, Melissa Harrison 10)
Nelson Sparks 71 (Hana Wilkinson 13, Jelena Vucinic 13, Jessica Bygate 12) Taranaki Trojans 39 (Terai Sadler 18)
Hutt Valley Flyers 60 (Stella Beck 15, Lisa Scott 13, Milomilo Nanai 11) Harbour Breeze 47 (Shinae Blair 11, Brooke Blair 11).
- © Fairfax NZ News