No longer flying under radar
Denise Morgan is no coaching rookie, but she’s kept a low profile and admits her style is somewhat unorthodox.
Yet her Hutt Valley Flyers were the talk of the town last month as they emerged from the 2012 Women’s Basketball Championship opening tournament in Nelson with a perfect 5-0 record, including wins over the previous two champions – Otago Oceana Goldrush and Harbour Breeze.
And they did so, essentially, without a “star” player. Their two best-known performers – teenagers Stella Beck and Milomilo Nanai of the champion Hutt Valley High School squad – started on the bench, and Beck was the only Flyer to average double-figure scoring with just 11.8 points per game.
“I’m not a great believer in running an offence to get the ball to one so-called star,” says Morgan (57), who has stayed out of the Basketball New Zealand coaching programme, while plying her trade with Hutt Valley age-group teams.
“I like my girls to believe anyone can score – everyone is in the game on offence.
“Fundamentally, we’re pretty strong on offence, so our focus has been in developing defence.”
Morgan is under no illusions how difficult it’ll be for the Flyers to maintain their top-of-the-table standing on their home court at Walter Nash Stadium this weekend. Injury will force at least one change to the starting five and bereavement may yet account for another.
While the Tall Ferns were attempting to qualify for the London Olympics, Hutt accounted for some of the WBC’s most dangerous teams four weeks ago, but one in particular still looms.
Last year, they beat Nelson in overtime on the penultimate night of the finals, but then couldn’t repeat the result when the two sides met again the next morning in the semis. With the Sparks compiling a 4-1 record at home last month, their encounter tomorrow afternoon will be a top-of-the-table contest.
“I’m not in any way over-confident,” says Morgan. “I just hope we can maintain what we did at the last tournament – there’s no way I’m making predictions about winning.
“We have to be playing good basketball game in and game out. When that happens, then maybe a win will occur and maybe several wins will occur.
“And that may put us in a final with a championship a possibility.”
In other key match-ups tomorrow, the Breeze (3-2) take on crosstown rivals Waitakere West Auckland Rangers (4-2), while titleholders Otago (1-3) have much ground to make up, beginning with their game against winless neighbours Southland Kelvin Hotel Pearls (0-5).
Women’s Basketball Championship
Tournament Two, Lower Hutt
Friday, July 20
Taranaki Trojans v Hutt Valley Flyers
Otago Oceana Goldrush v Southland Kelvin Hotel Pearls
Waikato Wizards v Palmerston North Storm
Harbour Breeze v Waitakere West Auckland Rangers
Southland Kelvin Hotel Pearls v Taranaki Trojans
Nelson Sparks v Hutt Valley Flyers
Canterbury Wildcats v Palmerston North Storm
Harbour Breeze v Waikato Wizards
Nelson Sparks v Rotorua Lady Vols
Otago Oceana Goldrush v Waitakere West Auckland Rangers