School Basketball National's final clinched with buzzer beater

By Basketball New Zealand

Boys Grand Final - Rangitoto V Palmerston North Boys' High School

The crowd at the SAS Secondary Schools Basketball Nationals have arguably witnessed one of the most thrilling finishes to secondary sport ever. The foundations of that building will need repairing after the Palmy Boys' supporting schools-mates unleashed a thunderous haka during the final quarter. It added momentum in what was a mighty come back from 25 points down to lead in the final play by one point. If it wasn't for what happened next, a national basketball victory would have been etched into Manawatu folklore... if it had not been for Coach's son, Cameron Stone, who lobbed a prayer from outside the arc.

Everyone was on their feet, the wider fraternity of Palmy Boys' were poised to invade the court and lift their schoolmates to their shoulders, arms in the shape of a V - Palmy Boy's leading by one...

... NOTHING. BUT. NET.

This is a final attempted to be played out in countess basketball films, but even a script writer couldn't have captured the energy that pulsed in this final quarter. And for a normally eloquent Coach Kenny Stone, he was left semi-speechless, but managed a few words on the adrenalized victory.

"We shot the ball really well first half. Didnt think that would continue, I thought our defence would be a little bit better and we got tentative on offence, then it became a game. But Oh wow unbelievable."

So did the team manage to get through?

"I think weve been through this, weve been through tough games, weve got an experienced group, we just held it together and they did a great job. That was better than any NBL game, that was fantastic an honour to play and be in this environment. They showed a lot of heart to come back, we probably didnt do some things we should have, in the end God, were champions so I cant complain"

And on his son, Cameron, nailing the game winner...

"Im stunned. That was fantastic. Im just glad to see anyone nail it, but for Cam to nail it, it was great."

And so Rangitoto College were crowned back-to-back champions, winning 82-80. Rangitoto dominated the first-half with a clinical display of passing and shooting. They were dominant throughout the tournament, going through unbeaten, while Palmerston North improved dramatically on their eleventh place finish they achieved last year. Without doubt Palmy Boys' surprised everyone with their courage and unyielding will to win. Sadly there can be only one winner - Palmerston North Boys' High School should be proud of what was a heart-stopping performance.

Quarters.

1Q: Rangitoto College started the game brightly, knocking down their early shots and troubling Palmerston North Boys High with their ball movement. A great look from Daniel Fotu gave Logan Anderson a three, before Palmerston North big-man Callum McRae went to work inside for two points.

A good drive to the basket from Oscar Oswald allowed him to profit from the free throw line, dragging Rangitotos lead back to one. Fotu then stepped up with a pair of threes as Rangitoto kicked it out from inside to find their shooters. McRae backed down in the post and grabbed another basket, as Palmerston North got back within two after a smooth step-back three from Haize Walker.

Rangitotos offence was clicking however as they pulled away once more, Fotu prominent under the basket on their way to a 31-16 lead.

2Q: Rangitoto kept up their high level of play, Zack Te Puni spinning nicely and finishing. They were dominating the rebounds, giving them plenty of chances to capitalise, and Te Puni landed a three as the lead began to balloon. McRae tried to keep Palmerston North in touch with his play under the basket, but Rangitoto were relentless as they held a 60-35 lead at half time. The stats reflected their dominance; they shot 63% for the half, while Palmerston North could only manage 39%.

3Q: The game really ramped up in the third quarter. Palmerston North stormed back into the contest. Despite an early Sam Waardenburg alley-oop, McRae went to work in the post and got to the free-throw line regularly as Rangitoto struggled to handle his size. They also began to miss shots and give up some turnovers, as Palmerston North steadily chipped away at the lead. Great touches from McRae brought the lead under double-digits, before consecutive threes to Oscar Oswald got the crowd off their feet. They were back within three and as McRae tipped in another basket, the atmosphere was electric. PalmerstonNorth had somehow made their way back into the game, and were only two points down after a frantic quarter.

4Q: Jack Henry made a lay-up to give Palmerston North the lead to start the fourth quarter although Fotu responded with a fighting basket. It was back and forth between both sides as the intensity of the game ramped up. A jumper from Onyekachi Anibueze gave Rangitoto a two point lead with around three minutes to go, as a large group of Palmerston North fans broke into a courtside haka. Oswald then knocked down a pair of free throws and launched himself athletically towards to hoop to tie the game up. Not to be outdone, Fotu popped up as hed done all game with a great move through the defence to put Rangitoto up by two with less than a minute remaining.

Man of the moment Oswald came through for Palmerston North again with a reverse lay-up before Walker was fouled with the scores level. With just over seven seconds remaining, he nailed the first free throw, but was off target with the second, allowing Rangitoto to grab the rebound and throw the ball forward.

It made its way into the hands of Stone, who threw up the shot on the run, and as the crowd held their breath, the ball dropped into the net, prompting wild celebrations from Rangitoto and stunned silence from the Palmerston North fans.

In a pulsating match, Daniel Fotu was vital with 27 points, 7 rebounds and 5 assists. Waardenburg also chipped in with 18 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks.

Special mention must also go to Stone for his miraculous shot, part of his 9 points and 5 assists.

Palmerston North big-man McRae had a monstrous game with 33 points and 17 rebounds while Oswald came through in the clutch with 22 points. Henry also helped to spark the comeback with 10 energetic points. Final Score: Rangitoto 82, Palmerston North Boys High 80.

Boys Final Teams Placing

1st Rangitoto College

2nd Palmerston North Boys High School

3rd New Plymouth Boys High School

4th Auckland Grammar School

5th Rosmini College

6th Westlake Boys High School

7th Christchurch Boys High School

8th Kelston Boys High School

9th Mt Albert Grammar School

10th St Patricks College, Kilbirnie

11th Hastings Boys High School

12th Hillcrest High School

13th St Johns College, Hamilton

14th Te Awamutu College

15th Scots College

16th Melville High School

17th Hamilton Boys High School

18th Fraser High School

19th Kings High School

20th Cashmere High School

21st Nelson College

22nd Christs College

23rd Otago Boys High School

24th Selwyn College

Boys MVP

Samuel Waardenburg (Rangitoto College)

Boys Tournament Team

1. Quinn Clinton (Christchurch Boys High School)

2. Daniel Fotu (Rangitoto College)

3. Thane OLeary (New Plymouth Boys High School)

4. Isaac Letoa (Westlake Boys High School)

5. Takiula Fahrensohn (Auckland Grammar School)

6. Samuel Waardenburg (Rangitoto College)

7. Oscar Oswald (Palmerston North Boys High School)

8. Kruz Perrott-Hunt (Rosmini College)

9. Callum McRae (Palmerston North Boys High School)

10. Braden Inger - (Rangitoto College)

Boys Final Officials

Elliot Duncan and Apai Apai

Girls Grand Final - St Peter's Cambridge V Mt Albert Grammar

St Peter's Cambridge were clinical throughout, with professional performances from one of the youngest players on the court - Charlisse Leger-Walker, a Year 10 student. Leger-Walker played a full 40 minutes, amassed 35 points, 14 rebounds and was clinical alongside her team, particularly gritty Kendell Heremaia and Ella Bradley. When asked how important these player were to the team, Head Coach and Former Tall Fern Leanne Walker agreed they were hard to beat

"They (Leger-Walker, Heremaia) are hugely important, however they're really well supported by our guards that are pressuring the whole time. Ella Bradley had a fantastic tournament. Georgie Edgecombe, with those crucial steels at the end - couldn't have asked for anything more. So while Charlisse and Kendell are real key players for us it's a team effort and that what we go into every game thinking."

With such a young team and so much depth, it has to be considered - how many titles can this team add? Three, four, or five in a row?

"We'll just go one at a time," says Coach Walker. "A three-peat will be fantastic - we lose some key players with our year 13s going this year, but there's a real excitement within the team especially with our young players so hopefully they come back next year and are ready to work hard, and go at it again."

So how does a Coach like Walker prepare a team to return with such confidence? She says there's some key expectations she set early in the season and her team stayed true to those.

"Just a commitment from the team, ability to work hard, get it really good shape because we are going to play full-court most games. I didn't go too far down the bench today, but our fitness just pushed through. I couldn't have asked for anything more."

Despite the loss Mt Albert Grammar's heads should be held high. They are a young team who competed admirably throughout the tournament and getting to the final was a mighty achievement in a field of talented teams, something that MAGS has not achieved for some time. It is a tough road to the final and perhaps that counted against MAGS - it's long week and will take some toll. Special mention must go to Paeu who top-scored with 14 points and 8 rebounds, and Pupuke-Robati with her 13 points, 10 rebounds and five assists.

Final score: St Peters Cambridge 68, Mt Albert Grammar 53.

Quarter by Quarter

1Q: Abigail Roache got the girls final underway with a three as Mt Albert Grammar took an early lead. But as was the case throughout the game, Charlisse Leger-Walker replied close to the hoop, before Kendell Heremaia sunk a corner three to give the lead back to St Peters Cambridge.

St Peters were looking to attack inside but their kick outs were also proving effective as Heremaia landed another three. Trinity Paeu found success for Mt Albert Grammar with consecutive baskets inside the paint before team mate Sharne Pupuke-Robati connected on a mid-range jumper.

It was a smooth start to the game, but St Peters edged ahead on the back of an and one drive from Leger-Walker and a slick step-back three. Pupuke-Robati got herself involved inside for Mt Albert Grammar, although St Peters took a 21-18 lead after the first quarter.

2Q: A pair of baskets from Paeu closed the lead back to one, before the lethal combination of Heremaia and Leger-Walker pushed St Peters ahead once more. Mt Albert Grammar were battling with their outside shooting, although this was reflected from both sides as they struggled to get any consistent scoring going. A lacklustre quarter was given some life as Leger Walker cooly drained a step-back three with the clock running down, giving St Peters a 32-27 half-time lead.

3Q: Heremaia showed off her reliable jumper to open up the third quarter, before Paeu answered with a nice move and finish off the glass. Leger-Walker began to leave her mark on the game, breezing past her defender with ease for a basket and then slotting another three. She was controlling the game for St Peters, allowing them to build a 50-38 after the third quarter.

4Q: Pupuke-Robati tried to spark a Mt Albert Grammar comeback with a strong move under the basket, while Paeu found space inside to get another two points back. They closed within eight points after a Jada Manase three, but Leger-Walker and Heremaia responded once more to seal the game. Some late steals from Georgie Edgecombe added the icing on the cake, as St Peters became back-to-back champions with a deserved 68-53 victory.

Girls Final Teams Placing

1st St Peters School, Cambridge

2nd Mt Albert Grammar School

3rd Auckland Girls Grammar School

4th Westlake Girls High School

5th Hamilton Girls High School

6th New Plymouth Girls High School

7th Melville High School

8th Waimea College

9th St Marys College, Wellington

10th Rangitoto College

11th Rotorua Girls High School

12th Napier Girls High School

13th Hutt Valley High School

14th Wellington Girls College

15th Rangi Ruru Girls School

16th Hastings Girls High School

17th Fraser High School

18th Christchurch Girls High School

19th Middleton Grange School

20th Tauranga Girls College

21st Massey High School

22nd Rangiora High School

23rd Epsom Girls Grammar

24th Marlborough Girls College

Girls MVP

Charlisse Leger-Walker (St Peters School, Cambridge)

Girls Tournament Team

1. Charlisse Leger-Walker (St Peters School, Cambridge)

2. Alyssa Hirawani (Hamilton Girls High School)

3. Kendell Heremaia (St Peters School, Cambridge)

4. Sharne Pupuke-Robati (Mt Albert Grammar School)

5. Rhyannon Poto (Mt Albert Grammar School)

6. Zara Jillings (Westlake Girls High School)

7. Eliana Tuaiti (Auckland Girls Grammar School)

8. Mele Latu (Auckland Girls Grammar School)

9. Tiarna Clarke (Westlake Girls High School)

10. Ella Bradley (St Peters School, Cambridge)

Girls Final Officials

Jacob Cromb and Jason McCabe

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

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