Spurred on by their new Moascar Cup holding First XV, Napier Boys’ High School’s premier basketball team have defeated Rongotai College 77-72 in the final of the AA Zone 3 regional championships in Palmerston North.
In the last major event before Nationals, at the same venue in October, Napier rallied from an initial 16-6 deficit and held their nerve against the fast finishing Wellington champions.
With about five minutes remaining Rongotai led 68-67 when both teams struck a barren patch - neither scoring for more than two minutes. Rongotai had four three-point attempts rattle out and Napier failed to convert several layups.
Finally Jissanne Allen converted a shot with 2:30 left to lift Napier to a 69-68 lead. Another 21 seconds elapsed before Qing Yu Jiang missed two free throws. Rongotai responded by sneering the advantage, Jaylin To’o bustling through traffic to make it 70-69.
Tyrese Davies was Napier’s most effective offensive weapon, employing a combination of bulk and finesse to score regularly. Two close range buckets by Davies, in response to another To’o score. had Napier 73-72 ahead with 52 seconds to spare.
Napier committed a shot clock violation, but crucially snaffled a rebound with 28 seconds showing. Rongotai’s defense was smothering and another 14 seconds went by with no change to the score.
Yu Jiang was fouled, but only hit with two of his last six free throws, leaving Napier 74-72 in front with plenty of time for Rongotai to position themselves for a possible win.
Tragically the often fleet-footed Ezrah Vaigafa tripped over with five seconds to go and surrendered possession. Napier eventually settled the contest with a pair of free throws by Allen.
Rongotai on the back of triples by Finn McClure and Ben Robertson started brightly, bursting out to a 16-6 lead. However a three by Tylah Davies triggered a Napier rally and with Tyreese Davies going to work inside, Rongotai only led 25-24 after the first quarter.
Tyreese Davies really caught fire in the second quarter piling on five consecutive buckets as Napier stretched the margin to 11 points. A 6-0 Rongotai run made it 44-39 at halftime.
Rongotai had only scored four points midway through the third quarter as Napier maintained a 12 point advantage.
Klein Salmon eventually stopped the rot with two three’s and a steal as Rongotai closed to 61-56 at three quarter time.
A quick five points by Robertson and another long range connection by Salmon pushed Rongotai 64-63 ahead. Clifton Bush put Napier back in front with a three of his own before the tough and tense dying stages.
Napier's First XV playoff for the National title against St Peter's College, Auckland tomorrow in Palmerston North.
The Zone tournament serves as a seeding and qualifying event for Nationals. Napier and Rongotai will be joined by Palmerston North Boys’ High School, St Patrick’s College, Wellington, Hastings Boys’ High School and New Plymouth Girls’ High School.
The girls final was won by Sacred Heart College, New Plymouth over Wellington champions Hutt Valley High School. Queen Margaret College, Napier Girls’ High School, Wellington Girls’ College and Palmerston North Girls’ High School will also be present at Nationals.
Napier Boys’ High School AA Zone 3 Results
PP: Wellington College, 82-54
PP: Francis Douglas Memorial College, 101-57
PP: Upper Hutt College, 101-59
QF: St Patrick’s College, Silverstream, 102-63
SF: Palmerston North Boys’ High School, 92-82
GF: Rongotai College, 77-72
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