date_range Published 24 Jun 2019

The game slipped away late and the Otago Gold Rush’s season may have gone with it.

It was beaten 71-54 by the Canterbury Wildcats at the Edgar Centre on Saturday night.

An early fourth-quarter rally left the score at 49-47 with seven minutes to go.

But the Wildcats finished stronger and killed the Gold Rush on the offensive glass to pull away late.

A win would have put the Gold Rush in a strong position to make the women’s basketball championship’s top four.

However, now it looks to need Canterbury to beat the Harbour Breeze and then beat the Breeze itself by more than 38 in Dunedin on Sunday.

The start had been more promising, and back-to-back threes from Nicole Ruske and Zoe Richards gave Otago a 6-0 buffer.

That became 8-0 on two Soraya Umaga-Jensen free throws, before the scoring dried up and the Wildcats offence found its flow.

The Gold Rush stuck with them though, and after leading at the first break, trailed 30-27 at halftime.

However, the Wildcats began to make their rebounding presence a factor after the break.

They managed nine offensive boards in the third quarter and pulled out to a 43-29 lead midway through.

The Gold Rush fought back and trailed by 10 at the final break, before seven points in just over a minute from Richards got the score back to 49-47.

But that was as close as it got.

Rebounding again became an issue and the Wildcats made the Gold Rush pay with second-chance points.

Wildcats’ Russian import centre Marita Davydova was influential in that regard - eight of her 19 rebounds being offensive.

It was not unexpected the side would give up a few to her, given her size.

The 17 other offensive rebounds were what were really costly.

Conversely outside of its forward line-up of Richards, Natalie Visger and Natalie Smith, only two other Gold Rush players secured defensive rebounds - one each.

That enabled the Wildcats to pull out to another lead, although two Aleisha Ruske free throws left the Gold Rush in it at 61-52 with three minutes left.

However, a 9-0 run from Canterbury took the game away from the hosts down the stretch.

Richards’ 17 points and eight rebounds made her Otago’s standout player.

Both Davydova and Tessa Boagni managed double-doubles for Canterbury with 12 points, 19 rebounds and 10 points, 11 rebounds respectively.