Stage set for the finals of the 'A' secondary schools basketball champs

By Basketball New Zealand

After an action-packed day of four semi-finals, the finalists have been found for tomorrows A finals at the SAS Secondary Schools National Basketball Championships in Palmerston North. St Kevins College and Manukura will meet in the boys final, while Opunake High School will play Waihi College in the girls final.

Boys A Final Preview

The boys final should be a quality encounter, after both sides have already met earlier this week. St Kevins will be favourites after edging Manukura by just six points in pool play, but it promises to be another tight encounter. It also features two of the youngest coaches at the tournament, St Kevins Hamish Robertson (20) and Manukuras Tia Temata-Frost (23), going head to head.

The game will tip-off at 6:45pm tomorrow and will be livestreamed Maori TV.

Girls A Final Preview

Opunake High School will be looking to go one step further after falling short in the final last year. Theyve got a talented side, with Iritana Hohaia leading their side with her control and passing from the point guard position.

Shes well supported by the sharp-shooting Simone Cook and Tara Clement, who are both capable of scoring points in a hurry.

However, Waihi College will be tough opposition. Theyll look for Petra McCowatt to step up with her strong inside game and finishing skills. She forms a fine combination with Korrina Lindsey, whos not afraid to mix it inside or shoot from behind the arc.

Tip-off for the girls final is at 5pm tomorrow and will be livestreamed on Maori TV.

Semi-Final 1 - Stratford High School v St Kevins College (Boys)

Stratford shot out of the blocks in a fast-paced encounter. From tip-off they aggressively attacked the rim and secured an early 9-2 lead. Cameron Trethewey was impressive, knocking down back to back threes to get their offense going. It was a nervous start from St Kevins who struggled to hit their shots and committed a few turnovers. On the back of a first quarter double-double from Trethewey (13 points and 10 rebounds) Stratford took a comfortable 22-12 lead after the first quarter.

It was a different story in the second-quarter as St Kevins fought back to tie the game at 24-24, before edging ahead. They were led by the scoring of Matthew Brien and Youheng Peng, who helped them to a 34-26 lead at half-time.

They continued to push on in the third quarter as the intensity of the game rose. Peng was particularly active, continuing to drive to the rim and athletically finishing as well as shooting from outside the arc. Stratford hammered away inside and got to the foul-line often, but they struggled to get their offense going, allowing St Kevins to extend the lead out to 12 points.

Stratford came right back in the last quarter, Willem Ratu completing an and-one to tie the game at 64-64 with two minutes to go. A Brien corner three pushed St Kevins back out to a two-point lead, before Trethewey converted a lay-up to close within two points with under 30 seconds to go. A costly turnover from Stratford gave the ball back to St Kevins and they made no mistake from the line, securing a 73-69 win in a pulsating match.

St Kevins coach Hamish Robertson was delighted with the win.

"Last year it didnt go the way we wanted so we had our sights on trying to go to the semis this year and the boys really pulled it out, they followed the game plan perfectly and everyone stood up in the clutch."

Top-scorers for St Kevins were Peng, with 27 points and 11 rebounds, while Brien was key with his 24 points and 11 rebounds.

Tretheway was a constant threat for Stratford, ending with 25 points and a huge 24 rebounds, while Morgan Trott chipped in nicely with 16 points and seven rebounds.

Final Score: Stratford 69, St Kevins 73.

Semi-Final 2 - Manukura v Waihi (Boys)

Despite Waihi taking an early lead, it didnt last long as Manukura raced past them with their quick transition game and swarming defence. Manukuras offence was running smoothly, as they blew the lead out to 19-5 after the first quarter. Matangirei Hipango was prominent with 9 early points, but the scoring was spread as they shot 52%. Waihi meanwhile were struggling, putting up only two shots for 13%.

It was more of the same in the second quarter. Waihi looked to battle back, cutting the lead down slightly but three consecutive Manukura shots from behind the arc shut down any thought of a brief Waihi comeback. Manukura continued to have success double-teaming Waihi when they had the ball, who ended up giving up turnovers. This played into Manukuras hands, who looked at their most dangerous when they ran the ball in transition.

The task was made much harder for Waihi when one of their key players, Connor Thurston, landed awkwardly following a drive to the basket and had to be helped off the court. Waihi struggled for baskets early, but they did improve to shoot 33% in the half. Their 11 turnovers proved costly as Manukura led 38-20 at half-time.

Thurston made a quick recovery to re-enter the game at the start of the third, as Waihi kept fighting away despite being down on the scoreboard. Manukuras intensity dropped slightly but they still showed their class, cruising to a 64-39 lead at the end of the third quarter.

All five of their starters notched up double figures in the fourth quarter as they showed their dominance. Waihi were unable to get anything going as Manukura eased through to the final with a 91-55 win.

Manukura coach Tia Temata-Frost says itll be a big occasion for his side as a lot of them have never been involved in finals basketball before. Ahead of the rematch against St Kevins, hes hoping his side can pull through.

"We need to make sure our guys heads are in it from the start, stick to our structures and see if we can execute."

There were many good performances from the Manukura side, but Shaka Riddel-Horua led the way with a dominant 33 points. Jeron Hiri-Gush also scored 22 points, while Hipango grabbed a double-double of 10 points and 13 rebounds.

For Waihi, Bradley Colman put up some good numbers with 25 points and four rebounds. Matthew Lithgow also played well with 11 points and nine rebounds.

Final Score: Manukura 91, Waihi 55.

Semi-Final 3 - Opunake High School v Stratford High School (Girls)

It was a close opening quarter, with both sides scoring well. Opunake opened the scoring but Stratford soon took the lead with a three from Bailey Gavin. Opunake were down by six points mid-way through the quarter, but managed to tie it up at 18-18 thanks to eight first quarter points from Iritana Hohaia.

A quick couple of threes from Simone Cook bumped the lead out to double digits for Opunake, as their defence shut down any threats from Stratford. A well-timed jumper form Cook right before the half gave Opunake a 35-24 lead, as Stratford tried to stay in the contest.

More good shooting from Opunake allowed them to extend their lead further, Cook and Tara Clement doing much of the damage. Erin Uhlenberg nailed a three and Bailey a lay-up as Stratford looked to get back into it, but a couple of turnovers stalled their momentum.

Opunake were slick in transition, getting up the court faster than Stratford for easy points. They controlled the game well, with an athletic steal from Hohaia getting the ball rolling in the fourth quarter for Opunake. However, an and-one from Rhiannon Utton showed Stratford were still up for the fight. They werent able to string consistent scoring together as the outside shooting of Opunake continued to be the difference.

As the clock wound down, Opunake allowed their bench to have a run as they cruised home for a comfortable win, 74-61.

Opunake coach Angelo Hill is hoping their experience will get them over the line after they lost in the final last year. He says theyre in a good headspace ahead of tomorrows game.

"You never know in a final, were healthy, were confident but we cant be over confident. Weve got to respect our opponent, if they get a little run on us they can cause us problems."

The combination of Hohaia and Cook was lethal for Opunake, Hohaia finishing with 12 points, seven assists, five rebounds and five steals. Cook shot the ball well for 19 points, while Tara Clement added a nice scoring punch with 18 points.

Bailey Gavin was the best for Stratford with 21 points and eight rebounds while Tasmin Burt chipped in with 15 points.

Final Score: Opunake 74, Stratford 61

Semi-Final 4 - Waihi College v Te Aroha College (Girls)

In a low-scoring match, Waihi took a one-point lead into the second quarter after a tight opening exchange. Te Aroha were happy to look for their mid-range game, although they struggled to knock down their jumpers. Waihi meanwhile were more than happy to look inside for their points, and found success through Petra McCowatt, who grabbed nine first-quarter points.

Te Aroha found it hard to penetrate the Waihi defence, while Waihi kept chipping away on the offensive end. A great driving run to the hoop from Korrina Lindsey grew the lead to eight and the score stayed around that margin throughout the quarter, Waihi leading 26-20 at half-time.

A big block from McCowatt opened up the third quarter, as the pace of the game picked up. Both sides were running the floor and looking to catch the other out in transition, but this only helped Waihi increase their lead. A three from Lindsey indicated a shift in gears as they started to power away from Te Aroha, who struggled to convert close to the basket.

A block from Charlotte Aitchison put an exclamation mark on a big quarter from Waihi, who moved out to a 43-29 lead.

Te Aroha roared back into contention in the final quarter, as Waihi lost their way. They closed the gap to five with under 30 seconds to goal, but their gritty comeback came up just short as they couldnt quite bridge the gap, going down 47-43.

Waihi coach Sterling Huett wasnt overly satisfied with the performance but is looking ahead to the final tomorrow.

"Itll be challenging, were not as well-drilled as wed like to be and we have few niggling injuries, but Im sure we can do better tomorrow."

McCowatt was immense for Waihi with 31 points, 24 rebounds and 9 steals while Lindsey was also crucial with her eight points and six rebounds.

Estelle Schuler was the pick of the bunch for Te Aroha with 18 points and 9 rebounds, alongside Meesha Ross who posted solid numbers of eight points and eight rebounds.

Final Score: Waihi 47, Te Aroha 43.

Clarification of AA and A competitions

The A competition is for schools that have a roll of less than 600 pupils for co-ed schools or 300 for single sex schools. The semi-finals for the AA competition will be played this Friday and the finals on Saturday.

- This story has been automatically published using a media release from Basketball New Zealand

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