Gold Rush can dare to dream

Otago Gold Rush guard Nicole Ruske takes the ball to the hoop as Auckland Dream guard Casyn...
Otago Gold Rush guard Nicole Ruske takes the ball to the hoop as Auckland Dream guard Casyn Buchman attempts to strip it away during Saturday night's Women's Basketball Championship game at the Edgar Centre. PHOTO: PETER MCINTOSH
A statement has been delivered and the season is back on track.

The Otago Gold Rush fought its way to a 64-56 win over the Auckland Dream at the Edgar Centre on Saturday night.

It opened a big gap early in the fourth quarter and held off a ferocious comeback from the women's basketball championship table-topper.

This was the same team - minus Kalani Purcell - which beat the Gold Rush 62-25 in the season opener.

On that occasion Otago was held scoreless in the second quarter, managing just 13 points in three quarters.

It has improved since then and points are coming more readily.

Forwards Zoe Richards (15 points) and Natalie Visger (12 points) were key scoring threats.

Guard Nicole Ruske led the way down the stretch, scoring 13 of her 23 points in a huge fourth quarter.

Coach Greg Brockbank was thrilled with the performance and felt the team turned a corner with last weekend's wins on the road.

"It shows where we've come and it shows where we should probably be," he said of the turnaround from the season opener.

"I'm not saying we should beat Auckland every time we play them, but we should be competitive with every team.

"That's their second loss this season. Sure, they're missing some players, but that's still a very classy team and it shows we are, too."

Auckland had come out stronger and the Gold Rush offence looked flustered early.

Visger immediately added aggression and decisiveness on her introduction.

She scored twice and the rest of the team followed.

The score remained close before the Gold Rush pulled away early in the second.

Richards showed immaculate footwork to score at the hoop, while Visger shot well to take a 26-18 lead.

Visger got into foul trouble at that point, but the Gold Rush defended well to hold a 27-23 lead at halftime.

Auckland pulled back to 32-29, but the Gold Rush finished strongly to lead 41-33 at the final break.

That quickly became 41-38, before a Bronwyn Kjestrup corner three sparked an Otago run.

Richards and Ruske helped grow the lead to 10, before a Brittany Richards three-pointer made it 51-38.

The Dream increased its intensity and launched its comeback, but the Gold Rush did enough.

While the Dream kept its pressure on, the Gold Rush hit eight of its final 10 free throws - including the final six by Ruske - to close out the game.

The Gold Rush is now likely to need one win from its final two matches to make the top four.

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