The best age-group basketballers are battling it out in Tauranga this week as provincial teams hunt national titles.
The Aon National Under-15 basketball tournament is underway at Mount Mmaunganui's Trustpower Arena, starting on Wednesday, as girls' and boys' teams vie for a spot in the playoffs from today, ahead of tomorrow's finals.
Each tournament featured 20 teams, with pool play wrapping up last night.
Tauranga is the only Bay of Plenty team competing in the boys' tournament while two Rotorua and one Tauranga team are in the girls' side of the competition.
The Tauranga girls team started their tournament in pool C with a 63-36 win over Southland on Wednesday morning before a 75-29 loss to Waitaha Canterbury A in the afternoon.
Tauranga coach Jeanna Cooney says her side had a challenging process to prepare for the tournament, which included a lot of training and pulling players up from the B team, but they were excited to get underway.
"These are the top talented kids from throughout the county and if you want to be the best have to play the best. Making friendships is a huge part of basketball as well and you make lots of friends from lots of different places at tournaments like this.
"The hope is we enjoy it and play well. That is one of the big values we have had, making sure they are having fun. The girls came up with what their identity is, and they wanted to be best defensive team. Their identity is they are an army of 12 and they have each other's back."
The Rotorua B team is in pool C with Tauranga and the two sides played yesterday afternoon.
The Rotorua A team had a mixed start to the tournament with a 73-27 win over Waitakere West and a 62-55 loss to Harbour.
The Tauranga Boys are on track to top pool B in the boys' tournament. They began with a 83-48 win over Harbour A, a 93-47 win over Wellington and a 99-74 victory over Canterbury Waitaha A. Their final pool game was against Taranaki A last night.
Tauranga City Basketball Association general manager Mark Rogers says it is a great event for the young players.
"It is entry level in terms of national tournaments and their first time at a national event.
"It is quite important in terms of the experience in that sort of environment. There are high performance talent ID people here and it is also the same for referees, it is their first time at this level too.
"There are rules around the style of play, there is no zone defence. That makes sure the players are learning the fundamentals of the game. We have people who are zone busters and there are penalties for that. It is a great initiative."