Auckland Dream recorded a sixth straight victory and strengthened its grip at the top of the Division 1 table outlasting Alloyfold Canterbury Wildcats to win 72-62.
The battle in the paint between Kalani Purcell and Milomilo Nanai for the Dream and the Wildcats pair Tessa Boagni and Marita Davydova lived up to the pre-game expectations that their confrontation would be something to savour. The four contributed hugely to an entertaining game but ultimately it was the experienced Auckland guard line-up that proved to be the difference between the teams.
Natalie Taylor with a game high 18 points (3/6 3PG), fellow Tall Fern Jordan Hunter with 10 points (and 9 assists) and American Casyn Buchman posed serious questions for the Wildcats at both ends of the floor. They not only outscored their opposition counterparts but hustled the visitors into 23 turnovers, a number Wildcats Head Coach Lori McDaniel admitted was far too many.
Nine of those turnovers came in the decisive third quarter when the Dream turned a 41-34 deficit into a 57-43 lead. Hunter and Taylor combined for 15 points during that time and Hailey Moala added rebounding and scoring potency off the bench as the Dream took control of proceedings.
Laken Wairau reduced the Dream advantage to eight points with 2:23 to play but that was as close as the 2017 champions could get.
Earlier it had been anything but plain sailing for the league leaders as the Wildcats opened a 20-11 lead – the floor running of Davydova and Boagni particularly impressive as they beat defenders down the court to score easy transition baskets.
The industrious Tessa Morrison stretched the Wildcats advantage to 26-14 before Purcell and Taylor trimmed the lead. An Ajiah Pepe jump shot kept the Wildcats ahead at half-time but that advantage soon evaporated in the pivotal third period.