Tall Fern Richards helps Ajax inflict Varsity’s first loss of the season

The league’s biggest star shone brightest in the biggest game of the season so far.

Zoe Richards had 26 points as her Ajax team claimed a 72-57 win over Varsity in Dunedin women’s club basketball on Tuesday night.

The Tall Ferns forward showed all of her class in the paint, using her footwork and finishing ability to propel Ajax to a fifth consecutive win.

It handed Varsity its first loss of the season, while Ajax remains technically unbeaten — having lost to Varsity due to Covid-19 shortages on opening night.

While the final score was comfortable enough, Ajax was never able to shake a plucky Varsity team.

It got the score out to double-digits early in the second half, but Varsity always remained in touching distance.

Varsity shaded Ajax in the early exchanges, big first quarters from Elly Koehler (14 points) and Tyler Mitchell (10 points) giving it a slight buffer.

However, Richards kept Ajax’s score ticking over and the first quarter ended with the game tied at 17-17.

Both team’s offences dried up in the second quarter, but Richards kept Ajax going early, before Samara Gallaher (14 points) made an impact later in the quarter.

That helped Ajax to a 33-28 halftime lead, which became double-digits as Hannah Beede (12 points) drained back-to-back three-pointers to open the second half.

While Varsity responded with three-pointers by Mitchell and Koehler, it was a margin it could never close.

It ended the third quarter trailing 53-42, before Ajax closed out the game down the stretch.

Meanwhile, the South Pac Magic overcame a slow start to beat the Andy Bay Falcons Tahi 72-53.

The Magic trailed 30-16 midway through the second quarter, the Falcons getting scoring across the board to take an early lead. However, a 13-4 run from the Magic — sparked by Sarah-Joy Aruwa (21 points) — brought it to within five at halftime.

From there it pulled away to win comfortably enough in the second half.

In the other game, Zoe Melville had 20 points as the Falcons Rua got its first win of the season with a 67-28 victory over Varsity Gold.

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