The 2019 ‘AA’ NZSS Basketball Championships begin next Monday (September 30th) with 24 teams contesting both the Boys and Girls Tournaments.
Nayland College finished sixth in the Zone 4 Boys qualifying tournament over Winter Tournament Week and will be at Nationals for the first time in five years.
Nayland are in Pool A, alongside Zone 1 champions Saint Kenitgern College, Napier Boys’ High School, Zone 4 winners Middleton Grange School, Gisborne Boys’ High School and Mount Albert Grammar School. View the full tournament draw HERE
Nayland College coach Sam Dempster has provided some insight into the team ahead of their trip over the Cook Straight to Palmerston North next week.
School: Nayland College
Coaches: Sam Dempster, Craig Shephard, Corban Christie and Andrew Stevens
Captain: Tysxun Aiolupotea
Team Members: Tysxun Aiolupotea, Troy Wilson, Max McCarthy, Tyler Herbert, Kaha Toitaha, Vojta Bednar, Jordan Garea, Max McGeady, Brodie Seelen, Ollie Walker, Travis Fleming and Phaze-Raku Dry
NZSS AA basketball tournament history: This is the first time Nayland has qualified for Secondary school Nationals in five years. In 2013 we placed eighth at nationals, and before that the best Nayland has ever achieved is 4th on two different occasions.
What’s it going to take for your school to do well in Palmerston North?
We pride ourselves on our great culture in our team, we need to stay together and work hard. We are very small so we need to play a fast paced game and knock down our outside shots. Our rebounding has been a big work on since the South Island tournament and will be a key skill for us to improve to compete at Nationals.
What local/regional competitions has your school played in this year?
We compete in the Men’s A grade, this year we had ups and downs. We lost to a team by 50 points at the start of the year, three months later we played them again and beat them by 20 points. This was a huge achievement and a huge compliment to the hard work the team has put in over the year.
Tell us about a big game in your recent Zone tournament that helped you qualify for the NZSS AA nationals?
A highlight for us was beating Nelson College. After not beating them all year we came together and played a great team game to beat them when it counted and this was a huge highlight. Beating King’s High School to cement our spot at Nationals was a very special moment for us after not qualifying for 5 years.
What’s the age and experience make-up of your team?
We have 6 year 13 students, only 2 of which have been to a national tournament before (age groups). We have 1 year 12 student and 4 year 11 students. We do not have a lot of experience at top level tournaments however having a tough pool and a challenging quarter-final game at South Islands was a good chance for us to gain much needed experience.
What’s the strength of your team?
Definitely our culture, we have a great group of young men that have a genuine care for each other and each of them focus on doing what is best for the team. We have 12 guys that work hard for each other and put the team before themselves.
Individually, Tysxun Aiolupotea (Team Captain) has excelled this year being selected as a non-travelling reserve for the NZ U18 3x3 team. He was also selected as one of 24 Highschool students selected to attend the Steven Adams Invitational camp (top 24 Highschool students in New Zealand). He also was a member of the Nelson Giants for the second year. A player to watch in the future!
Does your team have a motto?
“Hard work will always beat talent when Talent fails to work hard”.
Who are the individuals in your team that are successful in other sports?
Max McGeady – He is going straight from basketball nationals to Australia where he will represent NZ in Volleyball.
What other support has your team received to get to allow it to operate at the level it does?
We have been extremely blessed with community support. We have raised nearly $6000 on a give-a-little page, we also have received donations from local businesses.
It has been amazing the way the Nelson Community has got behind the team, for all of the support the boys are extremely appreciative.
This trip would not be possible without our amazing community support!
Next week 48 of New Zealand’s leading boys and girls basketball teams will flock to the Central Energy Trust Arena to contest the National Secondary Schools AA championships.
Rosmini College (Boys) and St Peter’s Cambridge (Girls) are the defending champions, but are expected to face stiff competition retaining their titles this year.
There is an abundance of talent on display. Here is a select group of boys and girls to watch.
Malachi Collins (Tawa College) - Tawa College won their first Wellington title this year under the coaching of Nixon Penese (who coached St Mary’s College, Wellington to a National girls title in 2016) and the on court leadership of Malachi Collins. Collins scored 22 points in the Wellington final as Tawa thrashed the highly rated Scots College. Collins has the height (6ft3) and skill to cover multiple places on the court. Joshua Johnson, who bagged 31 points in the final, is another major scoring threat. Both boys have been regulars in various rep squads. Other players to watch from the capital include: Julius Korent (St Patrick’s College, Silverstream), Tafara Gapara (Scots College), Jaylin To’o (Rongotai College) and Filimone Waqabaca (St Patrick’s College, Wellington).
Jazz Kailahi-Fulu & Zaaluyah Kailahi-Fulu (St Mary’s College, Ponsonby) - The dynamic sisters have led St Mary’s to a faultless 22-0 record this season. St Mary’s won their maiden Auckland Premiership and followed that success with a 78-70 victory over Westlake Girls’ High School in the Zone I final in September. The sisters scored 35 points combined with Jazz scoring 14 alone in the third quarter to keep St Mary’s in the contest. Jazz is a Junior Tall Fern and scored 20 points in the Auckland final when St Mary’s again conquered Westlake 83-74. Zaaluyah is the younger of the sisters, but she too has featured in New Zealand age group teams. Emme Shearer (Westlake Girls’ High School) will be very familiar with St Mary’s threats. She was recently included in a Tall Ferns extended squad of 24 players and shapes as a key figure in an experienced squad.
Charlisse Leger-Walker (St Peter’s Cambridge) - Leger-Walker is on international duty with the Tall Ferns at the Asia Cup in India. That Tournament concludes on Sunday, September 29th with Leger-Walker, the youngest ever Tall Fern, not due in Palmerston North until late Tuesday. Even withstanding Leger-Walker’s absence, St Peter’s should get through pool play. Charlisse is a twice reigning MVP and will again look to show her class. Perhaps the most memorable performance by Leger-Walker at the Nationals was in the 2016 final when she scored 48 of St Peter’s 62 points.
Jenna-Rose Mafua (Hutt Valley High School) - The 2019 Wellington Sharp Cup winners will be hoping to go one better than the 2018 Nationals where they were runners up. Jenna-Rose Mafua, sister of 2018 New Zealand rep Leah Mafua, has been outstanding in maintaining the high standards in Lower Hutt. A prolific scorer and inspiring leader, Mafua is unselfish to, bringing out the best in her teammates. Zone 3 champions Sacred Heart Girls’ College, New Plymouth, with the front court punch of Izzy Cook and Raquel Sampson, are strong contenders and their contest with Westlake Girls’ will be an early highlight in pool play.
Ethan Mandeno (Rangitoto College) - In 2018, Rangitoto College was embarrassed 110-59 in the Auckland Premiership by Rosmini College. Mandeno did himself proud though by scoring 25 points. A leader and accomplished national age group rep, Mandeno has the ability to bring out the best in others and helped drive Rangitoto to an Auckland title this year. Mandeno top scored in the final against St Kentigern College with 25 points. Harry Payne and Zach Riley are also significant contributors for Rangitoto, who were National Champions as recently as 2015 and 2016. Rangitoto are coached by Tall Blacks great Lindsay Tait. St Kentigern College, winners of the Zone 1 Premiership, extracted revenge upon Rangitoto recently and with Shalom Broughton, an Under 18 3x3 New Zealand representative this year, pose a serious threat to anyone.
Taine Murray (Rosmini College) - The athletic shooting guard, still only Year 12, was selected for the Tall Blacks this year and made quite an impression on coach Paul Henare who said: "Taine has impressed us all these past few days and quite simply played his way into the 14…He has a composure beyond his years and is going to develop into a very good player, but already at 17, he has shown that he feels at home at this level." Rosmini haven’t fired this year, but the two-time defending champions haven’t had a full squad due to rep duty and with Murray on board are a formidable prospect. Auckland Grammar School spearheaded by Junior Tall Blacks shooting guard Jaga Mete are another threat as are perennial contenders Westlake Boys’ High School spurred on by the big and experienced Junior Tall Black, Sam Mennenga. Zone 2 Premiership winners St John’s College, Hamilton with Akiva McBirney-Griffin and Finn Lally in their ranks are looking to make a splash and win their first National crown since 1996.
Mac Stodart (St Andrew’s College) - Two years ago Mac Stodart received news of making a national basketball team when he was in class at James Hargest College. His mother, Maria Alcock, a teacher at the college, saw the email first and made a swift visit to Mac's classroom. At the time Stodart was named in the New Zealand Under 16 team and has since advanced to the Under 17 outfit and has been a key driver in the improvement of St Andrew’s who were second in the Zone 4 Premiership in September. At over two metres tall, Stodart has the size and ability to dominate anyone. He has attended the NBA without borders program on India. Thompson Trophy MVP Ben Carlile-Smith will be a major force for Middleton Grange School who are likely to lead the South Island’s bid for a National title. Mitchell Hughan is a player to watch in the Otago Boys’ High School roster.
Boys ‘AA’ Premierships
The four ‘AA’ Schick Premierships concluded on Saturday - the competitions that determine which 48 schools will be attending the 2019 Schick Championships in October.
Seven of the 24 spots available for the ‘AA’ Boys National Championship were on the line in Schick Premiership Zone 1.
St Kentigern College made up for the disappointment of losing the Auckland Premier League Grand Final a couple of weeks ago by claiming the Zone 1 Premiership crown with an 88-79 win against defending National champions Rosmini College.
As expected, the top six teams from the Auckland Premier Competition progressed safely, although 2019 Auckland Premier Champions Rangitoto College had to settle for fifth after beating Mount Albert Grammar in the 5th/6th encounter.
Auckland Grammar edged Westlake Boys 68-66 in the play-off for third with Whangarei Boys outlasting Liston College to claim a treasured seventh spot and break the Auckland schools’ monopoly. Whangarei, to the delight of their travelling supporters, won 89-74.
There were just five spots up for grabs in Rotorua in the Zone 2 Tournament with the all-Hamilton final won 97-69 by St John’s College over Hamilton Boys’ High.
Rotorua Boys High were too good for Gisborne Boys High in the 3rd/4th play-off contest, but both head to Palmerston North next month with high expectations.
Fraser High, Mt Maunganui College and St Peter’s, Cambridge won’t be joining them. All three made the top eight but it was Tauranga Boys’ College that finished in fifth place.
Held at the ASB Sports Centre in Wellington, the AA Zone 3 held 6 spots for competing teams. Scots College and St Pat’s Silverstream contested the Zone 3 Grand Final – Scots College prevailing 112-86.
Napier Boys High edged Tawa College 94-88 in the 3rd/4th play-off game, with St Pat’s College Kilbirnie beating Rongotai College 82-67 in the 5th/6th game.
Palmerston North Boys High (PNBH), regular top eight finishers at the Schick Nationals, failed to qualify for this year’s event from Zone 3.
In Zone 4, Christ’s College was a major casualty, failing to progress from a ‘Pool of Death’ that included Waitaki Boys High, eventual finalists St Andrew’s College and Middleton Grange.
Thomson Trophy winners Middleton Grange added the Zone 4 Premiership to their trophy cabinet going on to beat St Andrew’s 95-74 in the Final.
They will be joined at Nationals by Cashmere High (3rd) and Shirley Boys’ High (4th) with Otago Boys’ High and Nayland College claiming the fifth and sixth places – Otago’s ten-hour drive back to Dunedin made a little easier with a place at the Nationals secured.
Girls ‘AA’ Premierships
The Girls ‘AA’ Schick Premierships also determined the 24 teams that will head to Palmerston North next month. All zones carrying 6 spots making up the 24.
In Zone 1, the surprise qualifiers were One Tree Hill College who played their regular season in Open Grade, the third tier of Auckland Secondary Schools basketball. They claimed their spot after defeating Senior A champions Baradene College in a crucial play-off game. They will be joined by the top five Auckland Premier League teams; Westlake Girls’ High, St Mary’s College, Rangitoto College, Carmel College and Massey High School.
St Mary’s completed the double of Auckland Premier League and Premiership title with a 78-70 win against Westlake Girls’ High. Carmel College claimed third place, as they had in Junior Premierships earlier in the week, with a 92-60 win against Rangitoto College, while One Tree Hill edged Massey High 69-63 in the 5th/6th placing game.
2018 Schick ‘AA’ National Champions St Peter’s School, Cambridge, winners of the title in three of the last four years, took top honours at Zone 2 Qualifiers. They beat Hamilton Girls’ High in the final.
Melville High shocked Rotorua Girls in the 3rd/4th play-off game, winning 73-54. In another upset result, Hauraki Plains College shocked Mt Maunganui College in one of the 5-8 placing semi-finals. Hauraki were defeated by Tauranga College in the 5th/6th placed play-off game but both teams are headed to Palmy North next month.
Defending Champions Sacred Heart Girls, New Plymouth, as expected, won the Zone 3 title by beating Queen Margaret College 77-64.
Earlier, Queen Margaret had avenged their Wellington Schools Sharp Cup Final defeat by beating Hutt Valley High in the semi-final.
There was misery for Sacred Heart College, Lower Hutt who missed out on qualifying for the quarter-finals to Manukura and Hutt Valley High in a very tough Pool A. Manukura, the 2018 Schick Secondary Schools ‘A’ champions, and Hutt Valley High ended up contesting the 3rd/4th play-off game and will make the trip up State Highway One in October.
Napier Girls’ High and Wellington East Girls’ College claimed spots five and six, with Wellington East winning their play-off game 79-72.
Christchurch Girls’ High claimed the Zone 4 Premiership title with a 77-45 win over Otago Girls’ High.
Rangi Ruru Girls’ College recently won the Whelan Trophy, the pinnacle of Canterbury basketball, but had to settle for third place.
James Hargest College and Kaiapoi High were the two top eight teams to miss out, with Rangiora High and St Andrew’s College claiming the final two South Island places.
Boys ‘A’ Premierships
Twelve Boys teams and twelve Girls teams will gather in Palmerston North in October to contest the 2019 Schick ‘A’ Secondary Schools National Championships.
With just 7 of the 23 competing Boys teams able to qualify, it was Opunake High that claimed top spot after beating a young Mana College team in the final. Also through are Manukura, who beat Te Aroha College, runners-up to Stratford in last year’s ‘A’ Schick Championships.
Stratford High School had won back-to-back ‘A’ Boys National titles, but surprisingly they will be absent from 2019 Nationals after failing to qualify at the North Island Tournament held at the Central Trust Arena in Palmerston North. Stratford lost the do-or-die 7th/8th play-off spot to Waihi College 99-78.
Nga Taiatea Wharekura and Melville High School are the other qualifiers.
Fourteen teams contested the South Island Boys Tournament in Greymouth, with St Kevin’s College, Oamaru going one better than last year to claim the title with an 85-61 win against Catholic Cathedral School from Christchurch.
Last year’s winners Hillmorton High were too good for Hornby High in their bout for third place. Hosts Greymouth High missed out on a place at Nationals, going down 83-55 to Kavanagh College in the play-off for the fifth spot.
Girls ‘A’ Premierships
Otago Secondary Schools Finalists Kavanagh College lived up to their favouritism tag by claiming the South Island Girls Premiership with a 57-42 Grand-Final win against Buller High.
Greymouth High, to the delight of the local supporters, beat Hornby High in the 3rd/4th game and Ellesmere College beat fellow Cantabrians Rangiora New Life School to claim the remaining spot.
Mercury Bay Area School had an outstanding run to claim the North Island Girls’ Premiership title with victory against Te Aroha College.
Tararua College beat Te Kura Kōkiri Wahine 70-57 in the 3rd/4th play-off and Whangamata Area School defeated Te Wharekura o Mauao 72-49 in the 5th/6th encounter.
Ngā Taiātea Wharekura will head down to Palmerston North from Hamilton for the ‘Big Dance’ after defeating Reporoa College to claim the seventh and final North Island spot.
Schools who qualified for the Schick Championships;
Despite coaching girls at St Mary’s College for several years, many Tawa College boys were familiar with Nixon Penese.
Penese runs the Porirua Heat Basketball Club from the Tawa College gym. The Heat is an incorporated society encouraging the development of basketball players in Wellington.
Tawa College student Malachi Collins has been a regular attendee and invited mates to both the Heat program and those run by Kenny McFadden at the ASB Arena in Kilbirnie.
“I only started taking basketball seriously a couple of years ago,” Collins admitted.
“I have been a Wellington Under 17’s and 19’s rep and went to Las Vegas with New Zealand basketball. Nixon and Kenny have really motivated me to become better.”
Under the assistance of Rob Gold, Tawa won Bill Eldred Division I championship two years in a row. However promotion to the Pohlen Trophy remained elusive until a rumour started by Gould brought Penese, Collins and Tawa College together.
“Rob stepped aside and the boys at the Heat kept saying I was going to coach them,” Penese laughed.
“When I explained it wasn’t happening, the boys complained and suggested I was going to Wellington College or another school out of the region. I didn’t plan on coaching at Tawa, but gauging the boys disappointment at losing Rob, and the fact Tawa is close to home, it made sense to step up.”
On Friday night Tawa thrashed Scots College 96-79 in the final of the Pohlen Trophy. The Tawa crowd was rabid, significantly outnumbering Scots after hordes of free buses were laid on by the school.
Tawa was never seriously threatened. Joshua Johnson top scored with 25 points, Collins contributed 19 and Ben Gold chimed in with 18 in the stirring win. Scots had beaten Tawa 96-87 in their previous meeting.
“The support of the school was massive,” Collins acclaimed.
“They realized it was a big achievement for us just to make the finals. Both teams played really well, but we ran our plays and made out shots which was awesome.”
Scots are stacked with representative talent, but Penese identified the togetherness of Tawa as a reason for success.
“Scots are a very formidable team, but our ability to work together as a unit was crucial. There are no stars on our team. Michael Jordan is the only guy who could win on his own. We’ve worked hard to build a culture of courage, confidence, caring and respect,” Penese stressed.
Collins is at the forefront of driving the culture which emphasis excellence on and off the court.
“Malachi is a very focused kid who likes to win,” Penese observed.
“In fact I had to teach Malachi how to handle losing better. Failure is success in the sense you learn to improve.”
Collins credits “greater experience,” the addition of Johnson from Australia, and a close camaraderie for Tawa’s triumph.
“Were a band of brothers. If one brothers makes a mistake, the other brothers step up,” he said.
Tawa went through the regular season with an 8-2 record. In the semifinals they thrashed defending champions Rongotai College 94-76 with Johnson scoring 31 points and the versatile 6 ft 3 Collins 22.
Tawa will strive to qualify for the Nationals this week when they contest the Zone III Regionals in Wellington. The top six teams in the regionals will contest the Nationals in Palmerston North in October. Tawa is grouped in Pool B where their stiffest opposition is likely to be St Pats Town who were fifth in the Pohlen Trophy this year, but runners up at Nationals in 2018.
Penese won the National girls title with St Mary's in 2017.
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