“We faced them three times before the final and despite winning each time I told my team we can’t take anything for granted,” Leah Mafua recalls when addressing her Hutt Valley High School (HVHS) basketball team prior to the Sharp Cup final against Queen Margaret College (QMC).
HVHS surged to a 32-17 lead midway through the second quarter, but a 15-2 QMC run leveled proceedings by halftime. In the final two quarters the lead changed frequently with Mafua scoring a game high 24 points. However there was an anxious moment with 15 seconds left.
HVHS led 67-65 when Mafua missed a second free throw. Heroically Jasmine Troke sneered the rebound and with urgent support managed to waste seven seconds before Jordan Rangitawa was fouled. When Rangitawa connected with both shots, the QMC title challenge was finally extinguished.
“It was a team effort to win the Championship. We knew QMC would come out hard. They have too many good players not to,” Mafua acclaims.
It was the first time since 2013 HVHS won the Wellington tittle, a great achievement for longtime coach Brian Yee.
“Brian’s been a great coach. He’s got a great understanding of the game and rapport with the girls. Our improvement throughout the season has been massive,” Mafua enthused.
HVHS won further acclaim at the Zone 3 regionals finishing in second place, losing the final 68-79 to Sacred Heart Girls’ College, New Plymouth. Better was to come at Nationals.
After an initial stumble against St Peter’s Cambridge, HVHS beat Wellington Girls’ College (78-58), St Andrew’s College (74-59), Otago Girls’ High School (72-39) and Tauranga Girls’ College (75-57) with Mafu dropping a season high 40 points in that clash to win a place in the preliminary quarter final against Rangitoto College who were conquered 80-72, before Hamilton Girls’ High School was sent packing 76-69.
In the semi-final HVHS produced a 25-13 opening salvo, with 14 of the points from Mafua,who finished with 32 overall in a 87-60 wn.
“I think the semi-final was our best game. I can’t really put into words what happend. Everybody clicked,” Mafua said.
There have been an abundance of superlatives used to describe the play of Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker this season and the St Peter’s Cambridge gun didn’t disappoint in the final scoring 35 points in a 92-51 win for the Waikato powerhouse. Mafua tried to keep her side in the contest scoring 22 points but concedes St Peter’s was too strong.
“Charlisse is a great player. I’ve faced her a few times and it’s always a great challenge.
Making it into the top two in the country is something I’m really proud of. I think the girls can hang their heads up high,” Mafua reflects.
Mafua started competitive sport as a goal attack in netball, but switched to basketball in Year 10 making the First V in her debut season.
In 2019, Mafua is hoping to join the likes of former student Stella Beck in the US on a scholarship. Where she might be based stateside has yet to be determined.
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