Gold Rush fades in fourth quarter to lose again

Again it battled hard.

But again it slipped away in the fourth quarter.

The Otago Gold Rush fell 63-55 to the Waikato Wizards, dropping its second game of the National Basketball League in Auckland last night.

It led 37-31 at halftime, following a brilliant second quarter in which it poured in 27 points.

However, it managed just 18 points after halftime.

The pace dropped from the Gold Rush, perhaps a sign of playing the final quarters on the second night of a double-header.

The Waikato defence locked in, while it came up with several big plays on offence.

It opened an eight-point gap midway through the fourth quarter and, while the Gold Rush hung around, it could not haul it in.

Zoe Richards led the way for the Gold Rush with 13 points and eight rebounds, while Lisa Wallbutton’s nine points, seven rebounds and four assists came in an efficient 19 minutes.

Star duo Kayla Manuirirangi and Esra McGoldrick, both in their first games for Waikato, had 14 and 10 points respectively.

For the second night in a row, it was defence that was key early for the Gold Rush.

After Alyssa Hirawani hit a three-pointer on the first play of the game, Waikato took another six minutes to score.

At the other end, Te Araroa Sopoaga’s penetration was critical as Otago took a 6-3 lead.

However, it was unable to take full advantage of its defensive start and the Wizards took a 13-10 lead to quarter-time.

A big second quarter followed for the Gold Rush. It started on an 8-0 run as two Wallbutton baskets ignited the scoring.

Shortly after, a pair of Tara Clement baskets was followed by a Richards four-point play, taking it to 29-24.

A shaky period followed, before Otago finished the quarter with its best period.

Richards hit her second three-pointer, before Wallbutton completed a three-point play to give Otago a 37-31 lead at halftime.

But the Gold Rush managed just five third-quarter points.

Penetration was hard to come by with Sopoaga in foul trouble and the team’s pace slowing.

It struggled to create good looks as Waikato hauled in the deficit, before McGoldrick gave it the lead at 42-41.

The Gold Rush kept in touch at 46-42, a gap Wallbutton reduced to two with a jump to start the fourth quarter.

Another run from Waikato followed though and, when a Matangiroa Flavell three-pointer made it 56-48, it was a gap Otago could not haul in.

Savanna Handevidt scored twice inside, before Richards pulled it back to 59-55.

But that was as close as it got, Waikato executing better down the stretch to secure the win.

The Gold Rush now has three days off, before playing the Capital Swish and Auckland Dream on Saturday and Sunday respectively.

National Basketball League

The scores
Wizards 63
Kayla Manuirirangi 14, Matangiroa Flavell 
Gold Rush 55
Zoe Richards 13, Lisa Wallbutton 9, Tara 
Clement 9
Quarter scores: 13-10, 18-27, 15-5, 17-13.

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