“Our trainings are harder than most games. We are close friends off the court, but practice is intense. Palmerston North is a small town and the local competition isn’t strong. If we want to compete nationally we have to get stuck into each other,” Oscar Oswald concedes when attempting to explain how Palmerston North Boys’ High School has become a National basketball powerhouse.
Palmerston North has won 28 out of 30 games in 2017 and is stacked with National representatives. Rangimarie Mita, Tama Fa’amausili, Cooper Boyce-Towler, Callum McRae and Oswald have all represented New Zealand teams. Last year Palmerston North was National Secondary Schools runners-up. Oswald laments the last few seconds of the 80-79 defeat to Rangitoto College.
“There were seven seconds left and I was standing around the free throw line. I thought they would try and get inside the key because they had time to advance up court. Cameron Stone got the ball and he had a defender in front of him. When he let the ball go I thought there was no way it would go in. It was an ugly shot, but he hit it. That was really hard to accept.”
Palmerston North had rallied from 25 points down at halftime.
“We started in a zone defence figuring they were a lot bigger than us and would try and go inside and dominant close to the hoop. When there big men starting hitting shots we were in big trouble. At halftime we decided to man up and when we got on a roll the crowd was huge,” Oswald reflects.
Palmerston North made the crowds roar again at the Super 8 tournament held at Tui Ridge Park just outside Rotorua this week. Palmerston North were victors for the first time in nine years and at last assembled their full strength roster. Injuries and higher honours have prevented that from happening. Oswald himself has already travelled to China and Guam in 2017.
“It was awesome to get our top team on the court. We played hard all week against some quality opponents and really clicked,” Oswald warns.
Palmerston North breezed through pool play accounting for Hamilton BHS, 88 – 60, defending champions Napier BHS, 103 – 61 and hosts Rotorua BHS 100-52.
In the semi-final New Plymouth BHS was tamed 86-44, but there was a surprise on the opposite side of the draw.
“We expected Hastings to beat Hamilton, but that didn’t happen. Hamilton beat Napier by 50 something points so they showed they could really play.”
In the decider, Hamilton came out firing and genuinely challenged Palmerston North who only led by two points at halftime. In the second-half Oswald caught fire top scoring with 23 points as Palmerston North pulled clear to win 92-75. Mita contributed 17 points and McRae added 16.
“I didn’t realize until afterwards I had scored so many points. The shots started to fall which was great.”
Palmerston North had different leading scorers in all five games of Super 8, an ominous sign for opponents at the zone tourney in three weeks’ time. The top six of 21 teams will earn qualification for Nationals.
“We expect to face a lot strong teams. Wellington College, Scots College and St. Pats Town can play some amazing ball and though we’ve handled New Plymouth this year, we play them lots so they are always tough,” Oswald concludes.
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