'There's going to be banter' - Twin sisters brace for Southern showdown in NBL

Zoe and Brittany Richards have grown up playing basketball on the same team all their lives.

But tonight they'll face off on the court for the first time ever, when Otago takes on Canterbury in a southern derby of the NBL's women competition, 18IN18.

Zoe's Otago are already assured a place in the semis while Brittany's Canterbury will be looking to end the roller coaster year on a high.

"It's the first time we've done it, so I'm really looking forward to it, there's going to be a bit of banter," said Zoe.

"Being able to experience this with my sister is great, it's going to real rough and hard work," said Brittany.

The siblings play the same position and will be marking each other at the Pullman arena in South Auckland.

"In the post i know it's going to get a little aggressive, might be a few fouls there... you'll probably see us on the floor, we wear knee pads," both players joked.

Another question is who will their parents be siding with come tip off.

"It's a bit controversial like obviously I want them to back Canterbury," said Brittany, before being interrupted by her twin.

"I guess we will see what colours they're wearing tonight and see how it gets on." 

The twins are just happy to get a season of basketball under their belts in year that's seen their game time ruined by the Covid-19 pandemic.

They may not be identical twins but their careers have almost been mirror images, both have studied education in America and played college basketball there, Zoe in Florida and Brittany in Alaska.

They were forced to return to New Zealand earlier this year and complete their degrees online from home.

The pandemic also prevented Zoe from playing any international basketball with the Tall Ferns this year.

"Going into next year with the World Cup that was something big, so for women's basketball New Zealand we wanted have something that can showcase the awesome athletes," said Zoe.

Those words echoed by NZBL general manager Justin Nelson.

The league's boss says after staring at the possibility of a year without basketball, he's proud to have been able to scramble a condensed women's competition in the space of 18 days.

"It was really important to us, you know we said during the men's competition that our job hadn't finished yet."

"We wanted to get this competition back up and running desperately, these athletes have been training since February it's been a long, long stretch," said Nelson.