Whangaruru Tukaiaia had to fight for their 2013 crown after rivals Muriwhenua came quickly out of the blocks in Saturday's Te Tai Tokerau women's basketball final.
Whangaruru eventually won the tight tussle 71-58, a deserved victory, after they set the pace in the competition all season but the Awanui-based Muriwhenua side didn't give them an easy time at Kensington Stadium.
After two straight losses in regular season matches the Muriwhenua coaching staff had obviously worked out a plan for the final and after a frenetic start, they were level 14-all at the end of the first quarter.
"They certainly had us rattled and they were playing our game better than we were to start with, so they'd obviously done their homework," Whangaruru coach Tania Siteine said.
"We always expect a tough game from Muriwhenua, they're tough opposition and I think this was probably their best game against us this year."
Whangaruru recovered to dominate the second quarter, reasserting themselves defensively - which has been the keystone of their success this year. They outscored Muriwhenua by 13 points which turned out to be the game breaker.
Point guard Reanon Hetaraka-Sadler controlled the game and combining with Sian Telfer, the pair ran the press well creating turnovers and turning them into points with fast breaks to finish 41-28 ahead at half-time.
Neither side could dominate after that and the game wound down to a Whangaruru win.
"We've usually relied on our fitness to be able to stretch out our lead toward the end but that wasn't really the case today," Siteine said.
Muriwhenua's Phillipa Campbell worked tirelessly all day on defence and also was the top scorer with an impressive 22 points, closely followed by Waimarie Halkyard with 20. Tukaiaia's Karlene Kingi owned the court inside the key and top scored with 27 points.
Muriwhenua coach Raewyn Jujnovich was delighted with the way her "bushwackers" had given it a go.
The tournament MVP was Reanon Hetaraka-Sadler, with Sian Telfer, Karlene Kingi, Lizzie Chapman, Jaimee lee Tito, Sue Reed-Thomas, Waimarie Halkyard, Lisa Taumara, Deborah Harding, Phillipa Campbell and Hetaraka-Sadler all named in the tournament team.