Queen Margaret College (QMC) has had the team on paper to deliver a maiden Sharp Trophy Wellington girls basketball championship for a handful of seasons.
In 2018 and 2019 they were beaten in the final by Hutt Valley High School and last year they were top four finishers.
On Friday night at the ASB centre the Presbyterians finally broke the glass ceiling, narrowly defeating Sacred Heart College 75-72 in the decider. Captain Lilly Taulelei stressed two prior defeats to Sacred Heart earlier in the season were vital in the triumph.
“We lost to them twice in the regular season, which really attests to what a great side they are. The game was really close. The biggest lead for any side was ten points which is nothing in basketball. It felt so great to play such a competitive game after lockdown.
“We talked about staying connected rather than chasing individual accolades. We tried to simplify everything. Instead of analysing everything the opposition does, counting the number of steps they take before a shot, we focussed on how we could make ourselves better which helped us execute when under pressure.”
QMC has assembled a roster accustomed to handling pressure and the ability to “connect” at both ends of the floor was evident.
“Naomi Sopoaga has been in the team since Year 9 and is an amazing performer. She’s a point guard great at controlling the tempo of our offense, dribbling, passing, and shooting.
Lauren Tewhata hit a couple of big three’s at the start which eased our nerves. She’s overcome a bit of adversity. Her ability to score is huge.
“Holly Morgan is the most competitive person I know and that’s not only on a basketball court, it’s eating lunch, in the classroom, whatever. She is amazingly fit and gritty.
Tawhirikura Doyle was the captain of our 3x3 team that won nationals. She’s like a second captain, she is an amazing hustler with great hands and claim.”
Taulelei is a power forward whose represented the Wellington Under 15 and 17 teams. The younger of those sides won a national title. That success has seen Taulelei offered scholarships for Yale, Davidson, Fordham, Hawaii, UNC, Willmington and Manhattan Universities in the USA.
“My main role is leadership, setting a good example for the younger girls so they know what to do when they have to step up and when us older girls have been and gone they can maintain the strength of the program.
“I’m a power forward and I try to get as many rebounds and be as versatile with my scoring as possible. I want to be a threat outside as well as inside.”
Her father Walter Taulelei is the CEO of Wellington basketball and Lilly described Walter as the “guardian angel of the QMC program.” Alongside Junior Hunter, Walter helped coach and manage a team that have become darlings of the college.
“We had to organise a livestream of our semi-final because there was so much interest in the result. There’s a video of one of our games where we hit a shot and it cuts to the crowd and our principal is jumping up and down. It’s a shame no one could go to the final because we would have got unbelievable support which is so humbling.”
Story by Adam Julian, for College Sport Wellington and College Sport Media, October 2021.
Corban Laban-Palmer is head prefect of Tauranga Boys’ College. Unusually he is an out of zone student, but remarkably the top five prefects in 2021 are all outside selections.
“I remember I had to have an interview to get into the school. I can’t even remember what I said, my parents did most of the talking. It was all a bit strange. I think I got in via the ballot,” Laban-Palmer recalls.
Overcoming bemusement swiftly, Laban-Palmer established a foothold in basketball. As a junior he helped Tauranga win a North Island 3x3 title and this year is captain of an undefeated senior team who recently won the Super 8 competition for the first time since 2009 in Rotorua.
It was a eureka moment for a talented team guilty of underwhelming in the recent past.
“Our build up to Super 8 was a bit dysfunctional. Some of the players were getting a bit casual because we were winning games in the local men's league easily. We had a meeting to address that and it got a bit heated.
“Our team is primarily based on last year's team. We are much stronger, more experienced. We train in the mornings, but had to have a bit of an honesty session.”
Tauranga beat Palmerston North Boys’ High School 105-84 in the final, having earlier accounted for Palmerston North 87-76 in pool play.
“The first game was a bit of an unknown for both teams. We spent the first-half getting a feel for their zone and strategy and were able to capitalise on their weaknesses in the second-half.
“In the final we played transition. We're a good shooting team who likes to play fast and move the ball. Because we knew their strengths and weaknesses from the outset we were less hesitant."
Nearest rivals Rotorua Boys' High School had reason to provide Tauranga with hesitancy in the semi-finals. On their home court they boasted a skyscraper weapon who was productive early.
“They had this huge Nigerian who was six foot nine and really hard to stop. When they started hitting outside shots too it was tough. We had to outsmart them because they were stronger, bigger and quicker than us. We moved the ball a lot, hit some shots, and our fitness got the better of them.”
The final score was 99-88 to Tauranga, their narrowest victory of the tourney. Commentator Ben O'Brien-Leaf calling the action for Sideline was most impressed with what he witnessed from Laban-Palmer.
“Corban is very quick up and down, gusty taking the ball to the basket fearlessly against all comers. His much smaller team beat Palmerston North with all-round quickness and athleticism. I thought they were magnificent.”
“I think our biggest strength is adaptability. We play men in Tauranga and do a lot of interschool exchanges which brings us into contact with lots of different styles and referees,” Laban-Palmer said.
Braydon Iueli played for the Franklin Bulls in the National Basketball League and was top points scorer at the National Under-23 championships. He’s been in commanding form for Tauranga in 2021. In addition to Super 8, Tauranga have knocked over powerful outfits like Westlake Boys’ High School, Auckland Grammar School and New Plymouth Boys’ High School. They also won the Tauranga City Basketball Association Premier Men's Competition. Their best placing at Nationals is fifth.
“Our goal is to make the top four of Nationals, but we are not getting too far ahead of ourselves. It feels like our season has only just started. Winning Super 8 was big for us.”
Sharp shooter Izaak Taula and high flyer Garth Jepsen have been other standouts this season.
The role of head boy entails serious responsibility.
“I never expected any leadership roles. I just did my own thing. Because I’m half Samaon I guess I have that respectful Samoan, manner. I just try to be true to who I am and show qualities I like in others.”
Corban grew up in Wellington before shifting to Papamoa. His father Lennie is an engineer and mother Annette is a primary school teacher. Uncle Ken Laban is a rugby commentator on Sky TV.
Tauranga Boys’ College Super 8 Results
Palmerston North BHS, 87-76
Hastings BHS, 105-72
Napier BHS, 90-68
Rotorua BHS, 99-88 (Semi)
Palmerston North BHS, 105-84 (Final)
“We never had a basketball community until a couple of years ago. We are still a young team and more and more girls want to play,” Jazz Kailahi-Fulu of St Mary’s College, Ponsonby warns rivals.
The Auckland outfit have just completed their best ever season, finishing with a 30-1 record.
St Mary’s was third at the Nationals in Palmerston North last week and won their first Auckland and Zone I regional titles.
“Our results don’t surprise me. We have worked really hard this season and had a talented team. The support of the school has been amazing and our coach Jody Cameron is really experienced. The girls know she can teach them a lot,” Kailahi-Fulu acclaimed.
Kailahi-Fulu concedes she needed plenty of teaching when she first started playing basketball at the age of 11.
“I was really bad,” she laughed.
“But I stuck at it. When I was 13, I was picked for the Harbour team that went to Nationals. I made the tournament team and I thought that was really cool.”
The accolades have continued for Kailahi-Fulu who first made a New Zealand age group team in 2017, traveling to Perth for the Australian State Championships. Last year Kailahi-Fulu was a member of the New Zealand Under 17’s at the FIBA World Championships in Belarus.
Driving the ascent of St Mary’s has been perhaps her most impressive achievement to date.
Kailahi-Fulu averaged 23.8 points per game at Nationals to lift them to their best ever finish. St Mary’s beat fierce rivals Westlake Girls’ High School 70-64 in the playoff for third with Kailahi-Fulu scoring 19 points. St Mary’s also beat Westlake in the Auckland and Zone I final.
“Westlake is a great team and have been up there for a long time. I guess we got a mental block on them this season. The first time we played them it was a really tough game and we beat them with a buzzer beater which gave us a lot of confidence,” Kailahi-Fulu observed.
St Mary’s won the Zone I final 78-70 victory with Kailahi-Fulu scoring 14 points alone in the third quarter to keep St Mary’s in the contest. She had contributed 20 points in the Auckland final where St Mary’s won 83-74. Westlake was only down by three points heading into the last two minutes.
Jazz’s sister Zaaluyah Kailahi-Fulu has been a major part of St Mary’s success too. The New Zealand Under 16 representative and Jazz have a strong relationship.
“We get on most of the time, but sometimes there is some sibling rivalry. I’m proud of my little sister,” Jazz said.
In 2020, Jazz is seeking a US scholarship and insists St Mary’s results aren’t a flash in the pan.
St Peter’s Cambridge is anything but a flash in the pan. The Waikato private school won the Nationals for the fourth time in the last five years, beating provincial rivals Hamilton Girls’ High School 78-66 in the final.
For a fourth year in a row Charlisse Leger-Walker was named tournament MVP. The Tall Ferns guard amassed 30 points, 19 rebounds, 6 assists and 3 steals in the decider.
Jazz and Charlisse played together at the World Under 17 championships and are friends with bright futures on and off the court.
Schick ‘AA’ Girls Tournament Team:
The ‘A’ Boys and ‘A’ Girls champions were crowned at the 2019 Schick Secondary Schools National Championships in Palmerston North on Thursday.
Te Aroha College, runners-up at last year’s Schick Nationals, again had to settle for silver losing 68-54 to Kavanagh College in the Girls ‘A’ Final.
A closely fought Boys ‘A’ Final went the way of Opunake High School, who outlasted St Kevin’s College to win 58-56.
Kavanagh made the slightly better start to the contest, edging the opening quarter 10-8 and were still ahead 18-17 midway through the second quarter.
The respective captains then made a move as Dejaan Schuler, on her way to 15 first-half points, peeled off a pair of threes for Te Aroha. Annabelle Ring knocked down a three of her own in reply, but it was Te Aroha who was happier at the break leading 29-26.
Kavanagh, with guard Annalise Wilson and all her hustle, took the reins and outscored Te Aroha 8-2 to lead 36-31 in the middle of the third. A Te Ana Barrett three was answered by Kyra McEntyre, but it was Ring who had the last say in the frame – Kavanagh led 45-40 at three-quarter time.
Kavanagh was in firm control with 4:30 to play when Dre Whaanga dropped an arching three to give her team a 56-47 lead.
Te Aroha threw everything they had at Kavanagh in the closing minutes. Dejaan Schuler (31 points and 11 rebounds) dropped her seventh three of the game but Wilson, McEntyre, Whaanga and MVP Annabelle Ring (19 points, 7 rebounds, 3 assists, 4 steals and 4 blocks) had all the answers – each adding to their points tally to send the travelling supporters from Dunedin home with a smile.
Kavanagh Coach Gerard Mullin was delighted for his team.
“The girls wanted that one, the boys have won one before, so the girls wanted one hanging in the gym as well.
“It’s taken four or five years to get there, but all the hard work and training pays off in the end. They deserve it.
“I’d like to think Annabelle will get the MVP title, she was awesome. She had to keep fighting in that game as it wasn’t all going her way but she showed her grit, determination and belief.”
Kavanagh College 68 – A Ring 19, D Whaanga 18, K McEntyre 13/8r, A Wilson 12
Te Aroha College 54 – D Schuler 31/11r, B Schuler 10, A Nicholas 6, T Barrett 5
Officials – Logan Start and Mikayla Willis
‘A’ Girls 3rd/4th play-off game.
Tararua College 58 – S Oswald 23, L Powick 14, R Ngaruhe 9, H Ngaruhe 6
Mercury Bay Area School 85 – J McCleery 36, O Clague 22, L Murie 8, E Hinds-Senior 8
Schick ‘A’ Girls Tournament Team
Hineaupounamu Nuku – Te Kura Kōkiri
Breeje Schuler – Te Aroha College
Dejaan Schuler – Te Aroha College
Dre Whaanga - Kavanagh College
Holly McCleery – Mercury Bay Area School
Leah Powick – Tararua College
Te Ahikaa Bidois – Te Wharekura O Mauao
Olivia Clague – Mercury Bay Area School
Kyra McEntyre – Kavanagh College
‘A’ Girls Schick MVP – Annabelle Ring
Opunake had won the pool game against St Kevin’s by 20 points on the opening day of the tournament, but nine points in the opening quarter from centre Jack Andrew gave St Kev’s a 19-14 advantage at the first break.
A tight second period ensued, scores late in the half from point guard Mark Xie and Paea Fifita giving St Kevin’s a narrow 32-28 lead at the half. Kenan Sionetama led the Opunake effort at the interval with 10 points.
Andrew was soon into double-double territory as the St Kevin’s lead increased to nine points (41-32).
Joel Clement scored six straight points for Opunake and when Scott Quinnell sunk a corner three on the buzzer the St Kevin’s lead was suddenly cut to six points (49-43) going into the fourth.
The Opunake fans were in full voice when Sione Tama made a three. It was near noise deafening when Clement tied proceedings at 51 points apiece and then put his team ahead by two with five minutes to play.
The Opunake defence was smothering the St Kevin’s attacking weapons, who only managed one score in seven minutes.
Andrew finally broke the drought to lock the scores at 53 points each, but in a frantic final two minutes, when defences ruled, free-throws from Clement and Quinnell settled a thrilling contest. St Kevin’s captain Jack Souness knocked down a three as the final hooter sounded but it was too little too late for him and his team.
Opunake Coach Jeneane Taamaru felt her team’s defence got them over the line.
“Defence won the game, they were committed, they wanted it, 100% no regrets.
“It was our goal all through the season, we’ve accomplished it and I’m so proud of these young men,” added Taamaru.
Opunake High School 58 – J Clement 21, K Sionetama 13/10r, R Bloemen 7, A Hepi-Karena 6, C Taamaru 6
St Kevin’s College 56 – J Andrew 19/18r, D Cooper 11, P Fifita 10/10r, M Xie 6, J Souness 6
Officials – Brendan Douglas and Samuel Roberts
‘A’ Boys 3rd/4th play-off game
Manukura 54 – S Brown 24, K Millar 12, T Richmond 8
Mana College 81 – L Ware 24, W Wana 17, K Hippolite 16, N Salmon 11
Schick ‘A’ Boys Tournament Team
Jack Andrews – St Kevin’s College
Manaaki Kaumoana – Te Aroha College
Tetuhikiterangi Lewis – Ngā Taiātea Wharekura
Ahurei Hepi-Karena – Opunake High School
Levi Ware – Mana College
Mosiah McDonald – Manukura
Paea Fifita – St Kevin’s College
Kawharu Hippolite – Mana College
Regan Bloemen – Opunake High School
‘A’ Girls Schick MVP – Joel Clement
The semi-final matchups were also decided in the Schick Nationals ‘AA’ Tournament on Thursday with defending champions Rosmini College and St Peter’s School, Cambridge, still on track in the defence of their titles.
St Peter’s School, Cambridge, will face Westlake Girls High School in one girls semi-final while St Mary’s College, Ponsonby will take on Hamilton Girls High School in the other semi.
St Kentigern College faces Mt Albert Grammar School in an all Auckland boys semi-final with Rosmini College to meet Cashmere High School in the other matchup.
‘AA’ Girls Quarter-Final results
St Peter’s School, Cambridge 83 – A Paewai 18, E Bradley 10, C Leger-Walker 10, D Stephens 8, L Vaetoe 6
Christchurch Girls’ High School 33 – I Luhetoa 6, A Peterson 6, M Faitaua-Nanai 5
St Mary’s College, Ponsonby 60 – J Kailahi-Fulu 19, Z Kailahi-Fulu 10, S Te Nana-Williams 8, R Matiseni 7
Manukura 55 – H Stanshall 23, R Fourie 15, H Coleman 9
Sacred Heart Girls’ College, New Plymouth 71 – C O’Connell 24, R Sampson 14, I Cook 10, G Walsh 9
Hamilton Girls’ High School 74 – R Walker-Pitman 20, K Leith 18, K Lewis 17, Q Walker-Eketone 11
Queen Margaret College 76 – P Lokotui 20, T Sopoaga 19, R Tawera 14, L Taulelei 9
Westlake Girls’ High School 78 – E Shearer 18, J Moors 17, J Maddix 15, P Manolas 11
‘AA’ Boys Quarter-Final results
St Kentigern College 94 – S Broughton 38, M Gan 17, L Kerr 17, K Evans 12, E Watson 10
Westlake Boys’ High School 78 – S Mennenga 24, J Kooiman 24, R Natusch 11, J Wuthrich 8
Rangitoto College 56 – H Payne 21, L Judd 10, Z Riley 9, J Thornton 8
Mt Albert Grammar School 68 – N Wilson 19, S Tawera 13, P Sorensen 10, D Elia 7
Rosmini College 64 – C Bush 22, J Murphy 11, T Kendon 8
Napier Boys’ High School 57 – T Murray 22, S Murphy 16, R Maxwell-Topia 10,
Cashmere High School 110 – T Webley 50, L Oskam 23, F Barclay 15, L Williams 13
Tauranga Boys’ College 97 – K Harema 26, J McManaway 21, B Iuli 17, J Preston 11
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.
The FIBA Under 17 Oceania Championships tip-off next Monday in Noumea, New Caledonia, with both our boys and girls looking to go one better than their predecessors.
The tournament will feature eight different nations in a men’s women’s divisions, with all of them set to stake their claim as the best in the region.
The last Under 17 Oceania Championship saw both National teams finish runner’s up to Australia, each side was well beaten in the big dance.
Under 17 Men's Head Coach Aaron Ferne said whenever you’re playing international basketball the opposition can never be taken lightly.
“It’s an honour to play for your country and anyone in any singlet will tell you that.
“Getting intel and scouting some of the Pacific nations is pretty difficult, so we’re going in a bit blind and with that, we’ll have to play what’s in front of us and adapt.
“We want to qualify for FIBA Asia and that means playing well in Oceania. If we play with belief and effort we’ll give ourselves a chance.”
The men will be without FIBA World Cup bolter Taine Murray as he continues to press his claims for a boarding pass to China. He has been replaced by Harbour representative Harrison Payne.
Payne will join the team in Noumea after taking part in the Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Tokyo, Japan, which kicked off yesterday and runs until Sunday.
The women’s squad has also made one change, with Chynelle Marama coming in for the injured Waiata Jennings. Jennings alike Murray is a big blow, but the team is still spearheaded by three members of the 2019 Aon Under 19 National Championships tournament team; Rochelle Fourie, Jess Moors and Caitlin O’Connell.
Under 17 Women’s Head Coach Hernando Planells said the Oceania Championships are a great opportunity for players to develop, but also to gain life experience.
“Being able to travel anywhere for basketball is a privilege, and so our time in New Caledonia is sure to be a great cultural experience.
“In saying that though, we have to remember that this is a business trip and we have some goals to achieve while we’re there.
“We want to play to our strengths and so over the next few days we’ll be relearning a lot of things, which will put us in a good position for next week.”
Earlier this year, Basketball New Zealand hosted the New Caledonian Under 17 National teams, as they took part in Basketball New Zealand age-group selection camps.
Both teams will tackle Australia, Guam and Samoa in the group stages, with a high placing setting them up for a playoff contest against a lower placed side in the other pool.
The top two teams from each division will advance to the FIBA U18 Asian Championship in 2020, which is the official qualifier to the 2021 FIBA U19 World Cup.
All matches streaming live at https://www.youtube.com/user/FIBAWorld/
“We love it. It’s a great feeling to play in front of a big crowd. It’s about bragging rights in Takapuna. If we lose, the whole school suffers,” Jayden Boucher responds when asked about the increasing hype surrounding the Rosmini College basketball fixture against Westlake Boys’ High School.
This Friday, the two North Harbour powerhouses will clash in front of a crowd of more than a thousand at Eventfinda Stadium.
With only three rounds remaining in the Auckland Premiership, both schools are in desperate need of a win to remain in the semi-final hunt.
Westlake have a 7-5 record and Rosmini are 7-4. The leaders in the competition are Saint Kentigern College (10-1), Rangitoto College (9-2) and Auckland Grammar School (6-6).
“It’s been a tough season,” Boucher admits.
“We’ve been National champs the last two years so we’ve definitely got a target on our backs. We’ve had a lot of boys away with rep camps and national duties.”
On Monday, Rosmini beat Rangitoto 85-74 to strengthen their position in Auckland.
Boucher is no stranger to big games having recently returned from a US trip with a Under-19 North Harbour representative team.
Competing in two tournaments in Phoenix and Dallas, Harbour won the second event featuring 175 teams.
“We only won a game in Phoenix, but were competitive in each one. We were hopeful of doing well in Dallas. Our team approach is quite different to the individual way the American’s play.” Boucher revealed.
In Texas, North Harbour dropped just one game in pool play. The tournament was unique in the fact that there was no shot clock.
“You’d have teams holding the ball for over a minute trying to end the game,” Boucher explains.
“Managing a different clock put a greater emphasis on teamwork. The American’s were more athletic than us, but our lack of ego was important.”
Alongside Rosmini teammates Taine Murray (recently selected for the Tall Blacks) and Marvan Williams-Dunn, Harbour eventually toppled Texas Elite One in a final that stretched to triple overtime.
“The final was an amazing adrenaline rush. All the other teams finished their games so they came to watch us. The Americas loved to trash talk, but their attempts to get inside our heads only strengthened our resolve,” Boucher said.
Rosmini showed resolve in their previous meeting with Westlake, winning 86-80. Down in the fourth quarter, Williams-Dunn top scored with 22 points and a brace of buckets from both Boucher and Thomas Morgan, in addition to a long Terence Abdon three put Rosmini in the ascendancy.
Westlake’s Sam Mennenga presents a serious threat for Rosmini. Mennenga recently returned from a global NBA camp in Atlanta. Mennega finished second highest scorer overall, and top rebounder in the final for the World Select team.
Rosmini against Westlake tips off at Eventfinda Stadium at 7:30pm.
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