GM keen to have teams at basketball nationals

Southland Basketball Association general manager Jill Bolger hopes to have girls and boys Southland under-17 and under-19 teams competing at national tournaments this year.

Zone 6 under-17 and under-19 qualifying tournaments were held in Invercargill at the weekend with teams from North Otago south attempting to qualify for this year's nationals.

The top two teams in the under-17 boys and girls sections booked tickets to the Auckland tournament, while just the winner in the under-19 grades gained automatic selection to their tournament in Nelson.

The shinning light for Southland during the weekend was the performance of the Southland under-17 girls team which is coached by Tania Culhane and managed by Pauline Flanders.

SBA development officer Kevin Braswell has also played a hand in getting the team up to speed.

The Southland under-17 girls A team won the qualifying tournament in Invercargill with a big gap to second placed Otago.

The hope is the Southland team can now take that form through to the nationals in Auckland in July.

"To put it into perspective Otago went last year as the number one seed [from our zone] and they finished fifth so for our girls to beat them by 30 points you would hope we could have a top half of the draw finish," Bolger said.

The Southland under-17 boys team finished second behind winners Otago but will also head to the nationals.

Both the Southland under-19 boys and girls team also finished second behind Otago.

Despite only Otago getting automatic selection in the under-19 grades Bolger was still hopeful they would be part of the nationals in Nelson.

"Zone 6 only get one qualification spot in the under-19s and Otago have both of them but you can apply for extra places which we have done," she said.

In general Bolger said she was happy with the progress of Southland in the age-group ranks as they start to bridge the gap on Otago in some age-groups, and in the case of the under-17 girls over take Otago.

She said the success of the Sharks in the NBL seemed to have had a spin-off in terms of growing the number of boys who want to play the game.

"We had a camp and we had 45 boys and five girls so it shows what role models can do doesn't it, the boys are going nuts. Now we have to do something for our women's programme."

Southland has not had a senior women's team for two years as they do not have the player quality to compete in the national WBC competition.

"What we are hoping to do is run our own womens tournament for the lesser association, so Eastern [Southland], Central [Otago] and Marlborough and West Coast so we've something going underneath the WBC."

The Southland Times