Despite coaching girls at St Mary’s College for several years, many Tawa College boys were familiar with Nixon Penese.
Penese runs the Porirua Heat Basketball Club from the Tawa College gym. The Heat is an incorporated society encouraging the development of basketball players in Wellington.
Tawa College student Malachi Collins has been a regular attendee and invited mates to both the Heat program and those run by Kenny McFadden at the ASB Arena in Kilbirnie.
“I only started taking basketball seriously a couple of years ago,” Collins admitted.
“I have been a Wellington Under 17’s and 19’s rep and went to Las Vegas with New Zealand basketball. Nixon and Kenny have really motivated me to become better.”
Under the assistance of Rob Gold, Tawa won Bill Eldred Division I championship two years in a row. However promotion to the Pohlen Trophy remained elusive until a rumour started by Gould brought Penese, Collins and Tawa College together.
“Rob stepped aside and the boys at the Heat kept saying I was going to coach them,” Penese laughed.
“When I explained it wasn’t happening, the boys complained and suggested I was going to Wellington College or another school out of the region. I didn’t plan on coaching at Tawa, but gauging the boys disappointment at losing Rob, and the fact Tawa is close to home, it made sense to step up.”
On Friday night Tawa thrashed Scots College 96-79 in the final of the Pohlen Trophy. The Tawa crowd was rabid, significantly outnumbering Scots after hordes of free buses were laid on by the school.
Tawa was never seriously threatened. Joshua Johnson top scored with 25 points, Collins contributed 19 and Ben Gold chimed in with 18 in the stirring win. Scots had beaten Tawa 96-87 in their previous meeting.
“The support of the school was massive,” Collins acclaimed.
“They realized it was a big achievement for us just to make the finals. Both teams played really well, but we ran our plays and made out shots which was awesome.”
Scots are stacked with representative talent, but Penese identified the togetherness of Tawa as a reason for success.
“Scots are a very formidable team, but our ability to work together as a unit was crucial. There are no stars on our team. Michael Jordan is the only guy who could win on his own. We’ve worked hard to build a culture of courage, confidence, caring and respect,” Penese stressed.
Collins is at the forefront of driving the culture which emphasis excellence on and off the court.
“Malachi is a very focused kid who likes to win,” Penese observed.
“In fact I had to teach Malachi how to handle losing better. Failure is success in the sense you learn to improve.”
Collins credits “greater experience,” the addition of Johnson from Australia, and a close camaraderie for Tawa’s triumph.
“Were a band of brothers. If one brothers makes a mistake, the other brothers step up,” he said.
Tawa went through the regular season with an 8-2 record. In the semifinals they thrashed defending champions Rongotai College 94-76 with Johnson scoring 31 points and the versatile 6 ft 3 Collins 22.
Tawa will strive to qualify for the Nationals this week when they contest the Zone III Regionals in Wellington. The top six teams in the regionals will contest the Nationals in Palmerston North in October. Tawa is grouped in Pool B where their stiffest opposition is likely to be St Pats Town who were fifth in the Pohlen Trophy this year, but runners up at Nationals in 2018.
Penese won the National girls title with St Mary's in 2017.
College Sport Media is dedicated to telling the story of successful young sportspeople in New Zealand