Ajax looking to carry on from last year

Defending a title is very familiar territory for Ajax.

However, even by the club’s own lofty standards, last season’s success will be tough to match.

The club will look to continue its 12-game unbeaten streak — the entire 2020 season — as women’s club basketball begins at the Edgar Centre tonight.

It will have to do so without Tall Fern and last year’s league most valuable player Zoe Richards.

It will also be without key guard Aleisha Ruske and stalwart forward Natalie Ivamy.

They are big holes to fill, but the side has picked up Junior Tall Fern Hannah Matehaere, who adds quality to the guard line-up.

It brings back a strong trio in Olivia O’Neill, Bronwyn Kjestrup and Nicole Ruske.

Veteran forward Tracey Kelly returns to the league and coaches Todd Marshall and Brent Matehaere ensure there is plenty of experience in the team.

The South Pac Magic has been its primary rival in recent years and it will be among the contenders once again.

The Magic, which handed Ajax its last loss, in the 2019 final, has added to its depth.

Te Araroa Sopoaga has returned to Wellington and is a significant loss in the guard line-up.

However, it has picked up a trio of perimeter scoring threats in Stirling Walker-Pitman, Sereana Rokotakala and Lawrin Tipene.

It retains the core of its team in the likes of experienced bigs Natalie Visger, who is player-coach, and Lisa Wallbutton, and Georgia Te Au and Millie Simpson in the guards.

Otago University will look to take another jump this season, having returned to the playoffs last year.

It has retained its entire team from a year ago, which includes Otago Gold Rush duo Tara Clement and Kelly Thompson in its backcourt.

The addition of Sophie Adams brings quality inside, while point guard Caitlin O’Connell and shooting guard Tyler Mitchell are similarly useful pick-ups.

The Andy Bay Dandelions, who have been Andy Bay Kavanagh the past two seasons, remain a side heavily influenced by Kavanagh College.

In Annabelle Ring and Dre Whaanga the side has a key duo who were the league’s second and third leading scorers respectively a year ago.

The side has made the playoffs the past two seasons and in 2019 was in a three-way fight at the top of the table with Ajax and South Pac.

The Andy Bay Falcons will look to Jenna Small and Brittney Young to help close the gap on the top four.

South Pac OGHS did not submit a roster by deadline.


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