Women's club title back with Ajax

A champion team... Ajax  after its win over the South Pacific Magic in the  final of the Dunedin...
A champion team... Ajax after its win over the South Pacific Magic in the final of the Dunedin women’s club basketball competition on Saturday. Celebrating are (back row, from left) Dean Ruske (assistant coach), Danielle Frost, Kaylee Bezett, Natalie Smith, Hanna Gallaher, Todd Marshall (coach), (front row) Aleisha Ruske, Nicole Ruske, Olivia O’Neill and Kate Edwards.

Ajax had to withstand an almighty challenge as it reclaimed its Dunedin women’s club basketball title on Saturday.

After a dominant season, it was made to work hard to beat the South Pacific Magic 63-55 in the final at the Edgar Centre in Dunedin.

It trailed 33-30 at halftime and after opening the third quarter with a 14-2 run, Ajax had to weather a storm after a Magic timeout and held just a two-point lead at the final break.

From there it was never comfortable, although Ajax found its groove again and  did not give up its lead.

Ajax captain Natalie Smith said the  players  felt  happy with the result, although  they acknowledged it was a tough game.

‘‘Pretty good, pretty happy with that,’’ she said.

‘‘Finals basketball, regardless of how the season has gone, is always going to be different.

‘‘We made it difficult for ourselves, but [we’re]  happy with the result.’’

She said last year’s final, in which Ajax lost 71-46 to the Magic, had been motivation to claim the title this season.

‘‘Last year we had a similar team to what we’ve had the last however many we won in a row before that.

‘‘I don’t know whether we got complacent, but at the start of this season I sort of looked at the girls and it’s very different — we’ve definitely got a young side.’’

Smith said the Magic played well, and made mention of the notable absence of Soraya Umaga-Jensen, who was  away due to a family bereavement.

The Magic got off to the better start, leading 11-5 as Ajax struggled to get looks against its 1-2-2 zone.

However Ajax ended strongly, as Smith finished at the hoop twice through contact, to  end the quarter at 13-13.

Ajax began to find the seams in the Magic zone early in the third period.

It attacked well through the high post and with the score at 44-35, the Magic called a timeout and began to vary its defence.

Ajax managed just two more points in the quarter and led by just 46-44 at the final break.

However it was able to close the game out, finding its way to the line and hitting several big shots down the stretch.

The league’s most valuable player, Nicole Ruske, led the way with 19 points for Ajax, while Frost had 16 and Smith chipped in with 13.

For the Magic, Kirsty Currie top-scored with 18, while Natalie Visger finished with 15 and Sophie Johns had 12.

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