Varsity win repeat of last year’s final

Varsity have grafted their way to opening night honours in a rematch of last year’s final.

The students beat Ajax 54-48 as the new season of women’s club basketball began at the Edgar Centre on Tuesday night.

It was a far from polished display from either side, although there was enough to show both will be competitive once again.

Varsity looked to push in transition and, while the execution was not always present, it was there that they were at their most potent.

Point guard Caitlin O’Connell was particularly dangerous on the break, last year’s most valuable player dictating the open floor to lead Varsity with 13 points.

However, it was a typically balanced scoring effort from Varsity, Abby Harris adding 12 points, and several chipping in with seven and six.

Elise Gilbert, a highly touted newcomer to Dunedin, led Ajax with 19 points.

She showed her class, particularly in the second half, while fellow youngster Kiana Brown added 12.

The students started fast, jumping out to a 7-3 lead on the back of two baskets and an assist from O’Connell.

However, the baskets dried up and Ajax rallied to lead 13-10 at the first break.

The second quarter followed the same trend.

A basket from Ajax’s Nanaia Haua was followed by a 10-0 run from Varsity, taking the students to a 20-15 lead.

But again, Ajax clawed their way back and stemmed the flow to trail 23-20 at halftime.

A period of full-court pressure from Varsity proved telling through the third quarter.

It generated both turnovers and scoring opportunities, allowing Varsity to jump to a 32-22 lead.

Yet, just as in the previous quarters, Ajax fought back.

Brown ignited the early part of the run, before back-to-back three-pointers from Gilbert propelled Ajax to a 35-34 lead.

But at that point Varsity edged in front, a lead it would hold for the rest of the game.

Tyler Mitchell hit a triple with six minutes to play to make it 48-39.

Ajax reduced the margin to six, before O’Connell took over late to close out the game.

In the early game, Millie Simpson collected 22 points as the South Pac Magic beat the Andy Bay Falcons 83-48.

The Falcons stayed in touch until halftime, before the Magic rode a dominant second half to pull away.

Tia Pavihi and Fay Fualau had 17 points each for the Magic, while Laura Ring led the Falcons with 18.