Blood, as it goes, is thicker than water but in many walks of life people choose to bond with those outside their genetic grid because they are prepared to bleed, so to speak, for each other.

Napier Boys' High School juniors exemplify that sort of brotherhood, thanks to their robust and inclusive basketball programme that champions strength in unity.

So much so that they have been deemed the best age-group side in the country - in the absence of an official tourney - after they returned undefeated from last week as champions at the annual tournament in New Plymouth.

Coach Dwayne Davies likes to call his young charges the "Sky Blue whanau" but it isn't possible without the help of parents and their sons who have embraced the desired attitude to work hard for each other.

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"Nate and I take a family-based programme which is healthy for our boys and I think that reflects their performance on the court," he says of his assistant coach, Nate Taylor.

"They are all brothers and that's how we coach them. We get the parents and everyone involved so it's like one big family atmosphere."

That sense of affinity transcends achievements on the court to enhance the boys' life values.

Davies has been mentoring the youngsters from intermediate school days three years ago, after he targeted those heading for NBHS to ensure continuity.

"Their IQ levels were much higher even though we were the smallest team there but we made up for that with speed," he says of the now predominantly year 10 pupils bar five from year 9 in the squad.

"These boys have the highest IQ that I have seen in my time so I knew that with the group we were going to have a successful year."

The community youth officer in Maraenui says they had stepped up their training from three court sessions a week and what they call a "captain's run".

Captain Adam Winnie conducted a fitness session for an hour.

"Our fitness was second to none and it showed in the results and we were too quick for everyone in our defensive pressure and offence."

NBHS crushed Wainuiomata College 107-29 and Aotea College 88-44 on the opening day two Saturdays ago.

The following day they overcame New Plymouth Boys' High School 99-81 before trouncing Francis Douglas College (New Plymouth) 104-52.

Wellington College felt NBHS' heat, 105-60, in the quarterfinals Palmerston North Boys' High School did marginally better in succumbing 108-70 in the semifinals.

NBHS took Scots College in their stride with a 99-79 victory in the final.

St John's College (Hamilton) are the zone 1 and 2 champions. Because NBHS beat St John's (Hamilton) by 20 points earlier in the season, Davies believes that should probably give his team the No 1 tag in the country.

However, Ryan Overmayer, the director of sports at St John's, says his team beat NBHS by 12 points at the Mel Young Memorial Invitational Tournament, a month out from the Junior Premiership.

The latest crown has exorcised the demons of last year when NBHS lost by a couple of points to Palmerston North Boys' High School in the semifinals.

Davies has been at the helm of the NBHS junior programme for four years and two years as assistant to three-minute younger twin brother, Damion Davies, in the senior programme.

The brothers are hopeful the youngsters will carry that success through to the senior ranks.

This is the first time NBHS have won a zone 3 premiership at junior and senior levels.

The NBHS senior team have qualified for their nationals
Dwayne Davies was in for a pleasant surprise during the final when former Tall Black coach and retired Taranaki basketballer Steve McKean approached to declare he had been involved with the junior premiership for 12 years and NBHS was one of the best he had seen in the offensive and defensive departments.

"I actually didn't know who he was until one of my player's parents told me so I was very honoured to receive such a compliment from someone like Steve," says Davies.

NBHS TEAM: Yu Qing Jiang, Adam Winnie (c), Karybe TeKira, Wairehu Waata, Toby Kendon, Clifton Bush III, Talmage Sharrock, Taz Sharrock, Riley Davies, Tremayn Anaru-Beattie
Coach: Dwayne Davies.
Assistant coach: Nate Taylor.
Manager: Shel Davies.
Statistician: Cilla TeKira.