“It’s bloody amazing, this is all we’ve worked for all week, all year, this is so special for us,” was how Saint Kentigern College’s captain Georgia Ropati summed up her team’s NZSS Netball Championships victory this afternoon in Lower Hutt, immediately after beating Auckland rivals Mount Albert Grammar School in the tournament final.
St Kent’s held on throughout a tense fourth quarter to beat MAGS and deny them what would have been a fifth straight title.
St Kent’s won the final 35-34, but not without soaking up oodles of pressure from the MAGS team, led by defender Elle Temu.
MAGS threatened to derail St Kent’s in the fourth quarter, but St Kent’s protected a slim lead throughout most of the final stanza and MAGS were left to rue a couple of late midcourt turnovers that could have seen them take the final into extra time.
St Kent’s got off to a flying staff, skipping out to an early lead. MAGS came back to trail 11-8 at quarter-time. MAGS’ second quarter was their best period of the match, and they came back to lead 22-17 at halftime.
“We just knew that we had to treasure possession when it got tight, said a relieved Georgia. “We just knew that every centre pass we had to keep hold of, retain the ball and not let them come back,”
St Kent’s goalshoot Vilisi Tavui also had a great final, shooting 22 of 24 attempts, slightly better than MAGS’ goal attack Lahaina-Lee Upu-Toparea who was successful with 20 of 23 shots. Goal Attack Ashleigh Garner also played well.
As it had been all tournament, the St Kent’s midcourt combination of Jami Kolose, Tayla Earle, Mona Silao and Tori Kolose was fast through the court and hard to handle.
Head coach Nicola Lewis praised her team. “It’s a really special win. We have got the upmost respect for MAGS. We always know that playing them is going to be a real competitive, skilful, fast game."
Nicola pointed to the depth in the St Kent’s squad as a key pointer to the win. “To have our squad come together and play like they did all this week and to have two of our senior players [Sydney Fraser and Mererangi Paul] not even to take the court and for these girls to pull this off is special for the hard work that they have put in.”
St Kent’s had played through the tournament with wins over St Margaret’s College (52-20), St Hilda’s (49-26) and Palmerston North GHS (46-27) in pool play. In crossover matches, they defeated Rotorua GHS (50-24), Wellington East Girls’ College (44-42) and Manukura (38-33).
Apart from the final, coach Nicola said the hardest game of the tournament for St Kent’s was the match against WEGC. “We went into extra time in that match. A game like that was good for us; it made it us rise to the challenge a bit more and prepare a bit better for the semi-final against Manukura who were a physical side. Both of those games gave us the preparation we needed to for this final against MAGS.
The win for St Kent’s was their third in four matches this year over MAGS, after earlier wins in the Auckland competition by 37-36 and 40-35. MAGS had defeated them 23-22 in the recent Upper North Island Championships.
In the playoff for third and fourth the Palmerston North based school Manukura beat Auckland’s Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 45-40. Like St Kent’s in the final, Manukura got off to a flyer and led 13-7 at quarter-time. EGGS came back to win the next two quarters 12-11 and 11-9, but Manukura held on to take third spot.
The playoff for fifth and sixth was a blowout win to St Mary’s College over Wellington rivals Wellington East Girls’ College, St Mary’s winning 41-20 and winning the third quarter 11-0.
St Margaret’s College were the best placed South Island school, beating Rotorua GHS 35-22 in the playoff for seventh and eighth.
At the conclusion, an attacker, a mid-courter and defender of the tournament were all named. These were
A Tournament selection was named. These players were:
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