Day three of the 2016 Under-15 National Championships involved eight hectic quarter-finals and a further four semi-finals as Saturday’s finalists were confirmed.
Both the Harbour A Girls team and the Harbour A Boys team will be competing for Under-15 National Championships glory tomorrow after they took care of their semi-final opponents in Friday’s action.
The first of the two to progress to the final was Harbour A Girls following their 95-83 win over Canterbury. Canterbury looked to be back in the game early in the fourth quarter after trailing for much of the game but Harbour’s star pairing of Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu and Emilia Shearer made sure that Harbour would come out on top.
They will be up against Waikato who held off Taranaki to win their semi-final 72-56.
Wiry guard and captain Quaye Walker-Eketone and the long Dominique Stephens will be important to Waikato’s fast, pressing play-style. As important will be a source of energy for the team, which coach Tyler Wilkinson talked about.
“It’s a hard schedule for these kids. Two games a day plus the turnaround this morning from last night – nine o’clock this morning and then 2:15pm… but we make sure we keep their fitness levels up all through the year, and that’s what’s sustaining them now,” said Wilkinson.
Later in the night, Harbour A Boys comfortably saw off Palmerston North to win the first of the Boys semi-finals.
Up 28-points at half-time, Harbour coach Zac Fitzgerald was able to rest his starters for the majority of the second half in what Fitzgerald believes will be a vital advantage heading into Saturday’s final.
“It’s good to share the minutes around and keep everybody fresh for tomorrow. That way we can come out and really be the best that we can.”
Friday’s later semi-final was a contrast to its earlier, with Wellington edging Waikato 66-65. Despite missing many of their late free-throws, the host city held on resulting in a delighted coach, Jayden Smith.
“It was just so special because I could see the boys really wanted it… Against Canterbury we dug deep and now, as we’ve just seen against Waikato, we held on to get this really crucial win to move onto tomorrow’s grand final.”
Arguably the two deepest teams in the Boys side of the tournament made the final, making for a real duel which can be seen live at nzherald.co.nz/basketball on Saturday at 4.15pm.
Before that, though, is Girls final, tipping off at 2.30pm, which will involve a great contest down low between Stephens and Kailahi-Fulu.
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