Every year, culture and basketball excellence combine in a week-long exhibition of all that is great about Māori sport at Rotorua's Energy Events Centre.

This year's National Māori Basketball Tournament, held from Wednesday to Saturday, attracted 192 teams with every player representing their iwi with pride.

Ngāti Toarangatira claimed the overall challenge trophy, awarded to the iwi with the most points aggregated from the finals and their kapa haka performance, which was fitting as the trophy was renamed the Willie Taurima Memorial Trophy this year after the Māori basketball stalwart, who is from Ngati Toarangatira, died last year.

Ngati Toarangatira claimed gold medals in the Under-11 Tama A, Under-15 Tama A, Under-17 Tama A and Under-19 Tane grades. They also finished second in the Tane Premier grade.

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The home iwi Te Arawa picked up one gold medal and it was the Under-17 Kotiro who beat Te Awa Kairangi in their final - their third consecutive title in that grade. Te Arawa also claimed silver in the Under-9 Tama, Under-15 Tama B and Special Olympics grades.

Tauranga iwi Mauao won gold in the hotly contested Wahine Premier grade.

Tournament director Sue Pene said the whole event was enjoyable and the atmosphere was "electric", particularly on Saturday during the finals.

"The level of basketball was very good, it has lifted quite a bit and there was some good competition. We now have A and B grades for some of the age groups, due to the popularity and to make it more fun for everyone.

Te Arawa's Te Mihiroa Tangiroa dribbles the ball during the under-17 Kotiro (girls) final. Photo / Stephen Parker
Te Arawa's Te Mihiroa Tangiroa dribbles the ball during the under-17 Kotiro (girls) final. Photo / Stephen Parker

"During the finals we had all the different iwi supporting each other and doing their haka before and after games."

She said the support the iwi showed for their own teams was what made the tournament special.

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"It was fantastic, it was quite moving. The iwi watch each other, their own teams, and really get behind them - the older ones watching the younger ones. It's that whānau environment that sets this tournament apart from many others.

"The players who were here said they loved it. We had some whānau actually fly in from overseas to play and to watch. We had more teams from the South Island as well, it's pretty big. I think they like that Rotorua is so central and there's a variety of accommodation and things to do here."

National Māori Basketball Tournament Winners

U9 Kotiro:

Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga

U11 Kotiro: Turanganui a Kiwa

U13 Kotiro: Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga

U15 Kotiro: Ngapuhi

U15 Kotiro B: Ngati Maniapoto

U17 Kotiro: Te Arawa

U19 Wahine: Rangitane o Tamakinui a Rua

Wahine Premiers: Mauao

U9 Tama: Ngati Koata

U11 Tama A: Ngati Toarangatira

U11 Tama B: Ngati Raukawa ki te Tonga

U13 Tama A: Turanganui a Kiwa

U13 Tama B: Ahuriri

U15 Tama A: Ngati Toarangatira

U15 Tama B: Ngati Kahungunu Tamakinui a Rua

U17 Tama A: Ngati Toarangatira

U17 Tama B: Tamaki ki te Tonga

U19 Tane: Ngati Toarangatira

Tane B: Ngati Rakaipaaka

Tane Premiers: Tainui

Pakeke (Masters): Ngati Kahungunu ki Heretaunga

Haumene (Mixed): Ngapuhi

Special Olympics: Ngati Toarangatira

Willie Taurima Memorial Trophy: Ngati Toarangatira