The finishing touches are being put on preparations for New Zealand’s 23 top ranked senior girls’ basketball school teams to descend on Arena Manawatu in Palmerston North for next week’s 2015 national secondary schools tournament.
The competing schools will be split into three pools of six and one of five for pool play on Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday, with the crossover rounds on Thursday and Friday, leading up to the third and fourth playoff match and the grand final on Saturday.
The top ranked sides heading into the tournament in New Zealand’s four respective basketball zones are Rangitoto College, St Peter’s Cambridge, Wellington Girls’ College and St Hilda’s College.
The four pools are:
Pool A: Wellington Girls’ College, Auckland Girls’ Grammar School, Rangiora High School, New Plymouth Girls’ High School, Massey High School.
Pool B: Napier Girls’ High School, Christchurch Girls’ High School, Hamilton Girls’ High School, Marlborough Girls’ College, Hutt Valley High School, Palmerston North Girls’ High School,
Pool C: St Peter’s Cambridge, Westlake Girls’ High School, Waimea College, Western Heights High School, Orewa College, Sacred Heart College New Plymouth
Pool D: Rangitoto College, St Hilda’s College, Fraser High School, St. Kentigern College, St Mary’s College Wellington, Tauranga Girls’ College.
New Plymouth Girls’ High School are the defending champions, having beaten Wellington Girls’ College 64-46 in last year’s final. Junior Tall Ferns player Kayla Manuirirangi was the tournament MVP, and is back this this year to spearhead her team.
Wellington Girls’ College Head Coach Steve Graham told College Sport Media this week that his team is looking forward to the chance to compete for the title again.
“Our team is well prepared to give it a shot in Palmerston North and we have almost all our girls back from last year’s team that made the final, “ he said. “Eight of the 12 girls in our squad this year are Year 13s so this is their last hurrah.
So it is really a mental thing now as to how they play, when they pull it together they play magical basketball.”
“There’s great chemistry in our team and we all get on well. We don’t talk about winning national titles; we just talk about our performances game by game. Our mantra is one game at a time, play hard, have fun, this is it.”
Wellington Girls’ College won the lower North Island Championships a few weeks ago, winning all their games, including beating second placed qualifier Napier Girls’ College 100-58.
They won the Wellington Regional Championship Sharp Cup by beating Wellington rivals St Mary’s College 65-28 in the final, with coach Steve’s daughter and Junior Tall Fern Tegan Graham scoring 28 points. They won 10 of their 11 matches in this competition, their only loss being a 61-62 defeat to St Mary’s in round-robin play.
As well as being beating finalists last year, Wellington Girls’ finished fifth in 2013, which Steve said was a great result because they had a young team of mostly Year 11s.
“Last we went into the national tournament which much greater expectations and only lost one game, and that was the final. We had beaten New Plymouth twice before but we had a couple of key players and they were a really good team.”
Steve said that the competition will be tough in Palmerston North next week.
“I think we have a super tough pool to get of first. For example, we are supposed to be seeded number one in our pool. But we are going against the third school from Auckland in a strong competition, and against the third school from the South Island, and they only lost one game this year, and against the defending champions.
“But I remind everyone that last year we had to go through everyone too to reach the final. We played Rangitoto, we played Westlake and we played then reigning champions Christchurch. This year’s no exception – let’s say we do well in our pool we are going to play either Westlake or St Peter’s Cambridge and they are two of the toughest teams.”
Photo Credit - Dave Lintott
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