In their first year back in division one of the national provincial championship, Waikato are on track to make the semifinals after a commanding performance in their latest outing.
Trust Waikato defeated Auckland-Waitakere 61-48 in an impressive display at the Te Awamutu Events Centre on Saturday .
With one round-robin match to play, Waikato remain in third place, with Bay of Plenty the only team of the six that are out of contention.
Yesterday BoP went down 53-37 to Wellington, while Otago caused a big upset in beating Canterbury 56-45.
Waikato's last round robin-game is against Wellington at Mt Maunganui's Tect Arena on October 3, with the semifinals and final the following two days at the same venue.
A bonus point for losing by five or less would be enough for them to make the semis, while if teams finish on equal points they will be separated on goal difference.
Despite suffering their first losses of the competition, Canterbury and Auckland-Waitakere are guaranteed semifinal places.
Auckland-Waitakere were powered off the court by Waikato, who kept chipping away and building their lead.
At quarter-time they were ahead 14-12, before going to halftime up 30-25, then to threequarter time with a 46-38 advantage.
Goal attack Jessie Waitapu put up a huge 39 attempts and was very successful, netting 35 at 90 per cent, goal shoot Elsa Brown added 26 from 31 (84 per cent) and Amy Christophers and Rachel Fabling in the defence circle were hungry and really attacked the ball.
Auckland-Waitakere's goal attack, Tera-Maria Amani was also the dominant shooter in her team, netting 32 from 37 (86 per cent), while Phoenix Karaka landed 16 from 21 (76 per cent).
The visitors had a fairly experienced lineup and at one point had three Rasmussen sisters - Rachel, Grace and Anne Helen - on court, while also in their squad was Elisapeta Toeava - the sister of former All Black Isaia Toeava.
Waikato made just one substitution during the match, bringing Tennille McDonald on at wing defence for Alix Stevens going into the last quarter.
But Waikato coach Rebecca Gabel said that was far from just a “token gesture”.
“Tennille's been really impressing at training to be out on that court, and she brought something extra and a point of difference from Alix,” Gabel said.
“She's an experienced player.
“And she's a vocal player on court, she brings high energy and she talks a lot. And I think going into the last quarter her vocal stuff really injected some enthusiasm.”
While happy with the result, Gabel was more pleased with her side's performance.
“We spoke about just being really tough out there and I think that came through for us today.
“Physically being in the game and mentally being really disciplined in terms of sticking to our game plan and making sure that we were concentrating on the process rather than the outcome.”
Gabel said her side's consistency through the four quarters was something which hadn't happened in their previous games.
Though they don't play this weekend the team will still be training and Gabel still wasn't looking too closely at a potential semifinal.
“Honestly, I'm kind of just taking one game at a time.
“I don't want to get too caught up in ladders and positions and what might happen and whatever. Our attention now focuses on Wellington and what they put out there and then we'll go from there, see what happens after that.”
- © Fairfax NZ News
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