“I have never played a better quarter. I don’t know what happened. I knew we could play better, but I just went to work and the energy in the building was unreal,” Callum McRae recalls of his third quarter performance in the National Secondary Schools basketball final recently.
At halftime McRae’s Palmerston North Boys’ High School side was down by 25 points to reining national champions Rangitoto College. What happened next was truly extraordinary. McRae scored 11 points in a row and in a Herculean display of character Palmerston North erased the deficit.
“We decided at halftime to stop hesitating and leave it all out there. The energy of the home crowd really spurred us on. It was an incredible thing to be apart of,” McRae reflects.
In the fourth quarter, Palmerston North nudged ahead 80-79 in an intense defensive struggle. With six seconds remaining Rangitoto secured a rebound from a missed free-throw. With no time-outs left Rangittoto had to hurry to tie or win the game.
“I thought they would give it to Sam Waardenburg as they only needed a two and he was their best scoring chance inside. When Cam Stone hit the long three I was stunned. My heart sunk, but I thought there was still time so I protested with the referee. When he said it was over I was gutted,” McRae says.
What did McRae, who finished with 35 points, say to Stone afterwards?
“Good shot, I couldn’t say anything else. It was a pretty quiet dressing room to be honest.”
McRae’s time at Palmerston North BHS isn’t over. The seven-footer is returning to school next year determined to take the next step and capture National glory.
“We were really proud of our comeback. We were getting smashed. I am adamant though we could have won that game and that’s why I am returning next year. I could have left this year, but I want to work on my game more and we have four of our five starters back in 2017,” McRae enthuses.
Palmerston North last won the National title in 1995. Their run to this year’s final included a triumph over the Auckland Champions Rosmini College (McRae scored 23 points) and a thrilling semi-final victory over New Plymouth Boys’ High School.
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