Northland basketball is entering a new era with three age-group basketball teams qualifying for their respective national tournaments for the first time in over 10 years.
The under-19 boys', under-17 boys' and under-15 girls' Northland teams will all attend national tournaments in June and July after performing well at regional qualifying tournaments in April and May.
Despite great showings from all three teams, the under-15 girls' group takes the cake after finishing first at their qualifying competition this month, going up against strong sides from Auckland, North Harbour and Waitakere.
The group will go to the national competition in Tauranga on July 17-20 as the first seed and will have a great opportunity to topple 2018's national champions Waikato.
The under-19 side had an extraordinary journey to their national competition spot after coming back from almost certain defeat on two occasions. Down by 20 points against North Harbour B, Northland came back to win by six.
In their second to last, must-win regionals game against Counties Manukau A, the Northlanders won in overtime after trailing by 15 points going into the fourth quarter.
"It was amazing, one of the best games I've ever coached," Northland under-19 coach Ray Cameron said of the Counties Manukau game.
"We just pulled it out of the bag and our determination came through, not only did we have injuries, but we could've easily given up."
Cameron said with Northland's different basketball organisations from across the region coming together, age-group teams had been built from the best players on offer.
"This year has been different because everyone's on board," he said.
"Across the region, all the best players have shown up and everyone says Northland has untapped talent so we've had to have that guidance from all areas."
In addition to the three nationally qualified teams, two Northland players, Roera Tipene and Mahina Kukutai-Wairau were selected in the New Zealand under-14 team which would embark on an Australasian tour this year.
Cameron said the biggest barrier was the travel distance and finances required for teams to regularly train which was a strain on families with low incomes already paying for their child to play other sports
"For the under-15 girls to compete and actually win regionals based on those circumstances is a huge achievement, for any other Northland team to make nationals is huge."
Cameron credited coaches from across the region such as Freda Riwai, Mata Cameron, Ward Davis and Mel Rameka for their dedication and the skill they brought to developing Northland's talent.
The under-19 national competition goes from June 1-4 in Dunedin before the under-17 sides play in North Harbour from July 10-13.