A five year journey has finally culminated in Manawatu Secondary School A Grade silverware as Phillips Electrical Whanganui High School A1 won the championship final in a 34-33 thriller on Saturday morning.
Rematching against Manukura Red, who WHS had also beaten by just one goal the weekend before in their last round-robin match, the travelling team found themselves trailing by five goals in the first quarter.
Coach Lisa Murphy said the offence then began to settle into a groove, with a two goal difference at halftime, before taking control of the match in the third quarter.
"I thought my attacking end did really well. My senior girls, they stepped up."
Goal attack Imogen Flower popped in a few long range shots to take some of the workload off goal shoot Montel Vaiao-Aki, while at the other end, goal keep Kara Adrole was collecting rebounds and slicing a hand through the channels to pluck intercepts.
Now leading by four goals heading into the fourth quarter, WHS had to weather a last-ditch comeback by Manukura Red, but kept a one-goal advantage up their sleeve through the final minute to reach fulltime.
"It was a really good final, a close final," said Murphy.
"We knew that [Manukura] were like, they've got a tall shooter.
"They give her the ball, it's an easy game for them. So we worked to counteract that.
"The girls knew they could do it, they just believed in themselves."
It was the second high pressure final for WHS in as many weeks, after they had been upset by Wanganui Car Centre Kaierau A1 in the Netball Whanganui Premier championship game on August 13.
But an outdoor daylight schools final, even with a lot of spectators, does not have quite the same intense atmosphere as an indoor evening game surrounded by rowdy crowd noise, and this time WHS showed the composure to see it through.
Murphy said it was also the "end of an era" as the five Year 13 players will all finish up this season in defender Teagan Tapa plus the entire offence in Vaiao-Aki, Flower, Rebecca Tamati and Keilani Tyrell.
All of them have been in Murphy's team for the last three years, as part of a five year campaign where WHS were competitive but ultimately finished third overall in Manawatu for every season until finally breaking through on Saturday.
Over that time frame, Murphy and team manager Kim Flower have seen several talented players, including their own daughters, come through the squad without getting to lift the trophy.
The coach shared a Facebook post her daughter Sammy Murphy sent to another former team mate Renee Butler when they heard the quest had been achieved.
"She said, 'finally, the 'babies' have done it down in Palmerston North'."
The WHS squad will receive their trophy at the Manawatu prizegiving this coming Friday.
After that, they will be heading to the ASB Sports Centre in Wellington to compete at the Lower North Island Secondary School tournament, as will Whanganui Collegiate and Whanganui Girls' College, starting next Monday.
The 32 teams will be divided into eight pools of four teams, with the Top 2 from each advancing to a round of 16, followed by quarterfinals, semifinals and the championship game.
While the competition will be "cut throat", Murphy said they wanted to do better than their 10th place finish of 2018.
As well as the Manawatu schools, they played the likes of Hawera High and New Plymouth Girls High in preseason, which just leaves the Wellington and Hawke's Bay squads as unknowns.
"They'll be some strong teams we have to battle with, but will take it one game at a time," Murphy said.
It will also be the end of an era for the coach and manager, as Murphy and Flower are leaving the team this year after eight years at the helm.