Young squad could surprise in champs
The Southland Pearls will be down on firepower when the first Women's Basketball Championship tournament tips off in Nelson today.
Southland will take a relatively youthful squad to the tournament, with 11 of their original 20-strong squad unavailable. Five members of the team heading to Nelson are aged 20 or under, but what they lack in experience, they make up for in fitness and exuberance.
They do have some handy names in their lineup, with former Tall Fern Stacey Hickford, Southland stalwart Sarah Hamilton, Junior Tall Fern Morgan Hunter and under-20 New Zealand international Bailey McDougall.
Pearls coach Richard Dickel said they had endured a disrupted buildup to the first tournament, only being able to hold minimal training sessions as a team.
Southland would be aiming to surprise many of the talented North Island teams at the tournament, and would be relying on their youthful flair and outside shooting to do well.
"We haven't got the most experienced girls out there. We'll go out there and play hard. Our big key is we're going to be pretty perimeter orientated," Dickel said.
"We've got girls who, on their day, can rack up quite a lot of threes, and can shoot the ball from the outside."
Southland will play five games over three days at the tournament. They open up against Waitakere and Palmerston North today, before facing Harbour and hometown side, the Nelson Sparks, tomorrow. The Pearls conclude play against Rotorua on Sunday.
The WBC will be contested over three tournaments, with the second in Hutt Valley from July 20-22, and the championship culminating in Dunedin over August 23-25.
Southland should be a difficult team to match up against at the later tournaments, with the team hoping to have ANZ Championship netballers Donna Wilkins, Te Huinga Reo Selby-Rickit and Hayley Saunders available, once their season finishes up.
The Kelvin Hotel- sponsored Pearls squad also includes prominent Southland netballers Kendall McMinn and Hayley Crofts, who will be not be featuring this weekend.
This is the Pearls' second season in the WBC.
Last year, Southland entered a team in New Zealand's top women's competition for the first time in 20 years – with the Pearls finishing up in 10th place.
TEAM AND DRAW
Southland Pearls team: Sarah Hamilton, Stacey Hickford, Morgan Hunter, Bailey McDougall, Amy Nicol, Amy Ferguson, Paschael Tawhara, Naomi Erskine, Grace Holland. Women's Basketball Championship (Tournament one draw): Today: 11am v Waitakere Rangers 5pm: v Palmerston North Storm Tomorrow: 9am: v Harbour Breeze 3pm: Nelson Sparks Sunday: 1pm: v Rotorua Lady Vols
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