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The women's NCAA March Madness has reached the final four and it's a huge positive for young women in Canterbury.

Coby Moratti

NCAA women's basketball has soared in popularity this season, helping light a path for young female ballers in Canterbury.

Maia with players sideline
Maia stood on the bench- In her coaching role with the Mainland Eagles Supplied-Katrina Parish

March Madness is the collegiate basketball playoffs, where 64 teams battle to be crowned American college champ. In past years, the media has been mostly dominated by the men's tournament and future stars of the NBA but collegiate women's basketball in America has grown exponentially over the last few years and it's having an effect on women's basketball in Christchurch.  

Fox Sports has reported that women's college basketball has been averaging 981,000 viewers per game compared to 946,000 for the men on their platform in the US. 

Canterbury's Maia Williamson, a lifetime basketball player, and now NZ coach and Sky Sports commentary personnel, believes this is just the beginning and she knows why.  

"For me growing up, I loved watching the NBA and men's basketball but that wasn't something I could accomplish. Now that majority of the women's basketball March Madness scene is on ESPN, that level is something tangible for young women in Christchurch." 

"We have young Kiwi girls doing amazing in America now too. The Whittaker sisters, Lauren and Charlotte, two Canterbury girls playing for teams who made a run in the March Madness tournament. both teams making the sweet 16 which is an admirable effort and would've been an awesome experience." 

Happy coach- Maia in the moment with her team Mainland Pouākai
Happy coach- Maia in the moment with her team Mainland Pouākai Supplied- Katrina Parish

Players in the college basketball scene, such as Caitlin Clark, are turning heads for those who may not have watched women's basketball much before.  

"Caitlin Clark is generational," Maia said.   

"She is a shining light for so many of the young girls I coach in Canterbury. She's just six foot and isn't overly athletically gifted, her ridiculous scoring ability and passing skills have come from hard work, determination and self-confidence.

"All traits attainable by a young girl who is willing to put in the work." 

On the 4th of March, Caitlin Clark's Iowa beat Ohio State in a record breaking game. Not only did the viewership peak at 4.42 million as the most watched game in women's college basketball history, Caitlin Clark also broke the all-time NCAA scoring record (both men and women) passing late NBA legend Pete Marovich. 

Maia isn't looking at it as a men vs women battle, she says that's not what it's about. It's about making young women believe they can perform on a stage the same size as the men, and continue to inspire young athletes - as males have been doing for years.