They ran out of legs in the third quarter but a jovial coach Annemarie Kupa isn't about to run the Napier Girls' High School netballers up and down Te Mata Peak anytime soon when they return from Wellington tomorrow.
The high-flying NGHS side created history as the first Hawke's Bay school to make the final of the lower North Island qualifying tournament today despite losing 40-27 to favourites Manukura School, of Manawatu, in the final.
"The girls aren't too disappointed because they knew getting into the final was a huge step up," said Kupa, revealing their goal was to make the top five for the New Zealand Secondary Schools' Championship next month so anything beyond that was a bonus.
The winners had claimed the first quarter 10-8, the second 17-15 but pulled away 30-17 in the match-defining third spell that Kupa had alluded to.
Manukura is the brainchild of Yvette McCausland-Durie, the former Silver Ferns assistant coach and 2019 champion Central Pulse mentor, who is director of learning, teaching and sport at the secondary school in Palmerston North established to groom budding netballers.
They have clinched eight lower North Island crowns since 1999.
"A lot of their players are in the Manawatu [senior women's] side and several are in the NZ Maori side as well so they are very strong all round."
However, NGHS will return to the capital city next weekend to compete in a super zone tourney involving the top five lower North Island qualifiers against elite outfits from Wellington, Taranaki, Manawatu and the Bay.
Today NGHS, who were crowned the Karamu Holden Super 8 champions for the second consecutive year last month, got into the final after beating Wellington Girls' College 33-27, Palmerston North Girls' High School 36-33 and St Mary's College (Wellington) 34-33.
"St Mary's have some players from the Beko Pulse [feeder] team so it was very nail-biting because they are a very strong, physical side and our girls did well to pull that out of the bag," she said of the traditional finalists.
Kupa singled out goal defence Jamiee Tapine, centre Ashleigh Poi and mid-courter Parris Petera as the standouts.