“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:
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand