It took 14 games and an overtime period to decide the regular season champions of the Auckland Secondary Schools Boys Grade and even then three teams had to be split by points differential. At the other end of the ladder St Kentigern College won the decisive match against Macleans College to stay in the top flight next season.
When Mt Albert Grammar led by three points against Auckland Grammar deep inside the final minute of the game it appeared Rosmini College or Westlake Boys would be taking top spot on the ladder.
However Tom Higgins proved to be the Grammar saviour knocking down a basket to take the game into overtime with the scores tied 57 points apiece.
Grammar scored the first five points in the additional period courtesy of Thomas Whyte and Higgins but MAGS stormed back into the lead.
Ryan Laumatia made a triple and Jonty Vink a brace of baskets – an upset appeared to be on the cards.
Grammar, or more precisely Higgins, would not be denied as the NZ Under 18 forward’s triple tied the game and then in apulsating finish landed another trey to snatch victory away from a valiant Mt Albert team.
Earlier MAGS had forged a handy 31-27 half time lead on the back of fine work by Laumatia and Mandela Baledrokadroka who led all scorers at that point with 13 points.
The third belonged to the visitors as Sam Aruwa, Anzac Rissetto and Higgins went to work inside.
Baledrokadroka, with ten points in the final period, appeared to have guided MAGS to a memorable win but Higgins had the final say and Auckland progress to next week’s semi-final match up with Rangitoto College as the regular season champions.
MAGS 67-Baledrokadroka 24, Laumatia 19, Vink 7, Pumipi 7
AGS 70 – Higgins 29, Rissetto 10, Whyte 10, Aruwa 8
It has taken fourteen rounds but finally Dan Fotu, restored to something like full fitness, was able to take the floor for Rangitoto College – coach Kenny Stone also welcomed back Logan Anderson after recovering from a broken nose.
The game was delayed for thirty minutes due to the late arrival of one of the referees who shall not be named – but his daughter is a handy player!
Westlake made up for lost time – or more precisely Thabo Manyere did as the big man threw down an early dunk – 9-1 the opening burst from the hosts.
Fotu landed a triple as Rangitoto worked their way into the contest trailing 19-16 at quarter-time.
Harry Clarke opened the second quarter with a spinning drive – a 9-0 run taking Rangi into the lead for the first time and Westlake coach Zac Fitzgerald needed a timeout.
James Moors responded landing a triple but a thundering Fotu one handed jam kept the visitors ahead 32-26. A pair of Logan Anderson triples carried Lake to a 41-28 half-time lead.
A Reuben Fitzgerald three got the large home crowd involved as Westlake closed to within five points – 44-39 at the mid point of the third stanza – but with Caleb Langridge a menace inside and the Rangi guards in good touch Westlake were unable to get any closer.
Logan McIntosh fouled out with five minutes to play but it didn’t appear that would matter with Rangi thirteen points to the good 72-59.
An Ethan Mandeno triple stretched the Rangi lead to fifteen (75-60) but it also awoke James Moors who took the game by the scruff of the kneck.
The Westlake swingman had only returned from the Adidas Nations Camp in the States 24 hours earlier – where he played alongside Fotu for the Asia Pacific team – and had naturally looked a little jaded.
Moors proceeded to score the next seven points via a triple, a baseline drive and an off balance floater – 76-67 and the crowd came to life.
Fotu scored with a put back but Moors struck twice with back to back threes – 78-73 with 1:15 to play and the crowd more than excited –
Anderson steadied the Rangi ship with a couple of free-throws but Matt Cairns-Hita’s hinted at a grandstand finish by pulling Westlake to within four points (80-76) with 21 seconds to play.
However Westlake were forced to foul in order to stop the clock and the experienced Anderson and Fotu quietened the Lake support by making the free-throws on offer – 19 fourth quarter points from Moors not quite enough.
Westlake head to a semi-final match up next Friday with Rosmini, Rangitoto will take on Auckland Grammar.
Westlake 76 – Moors 29, Fitzgerald 17, Hidalgo 12, Manyere 8
Rangitoto 84 – Anderson 21, Langridge 17, Fotu 16, Clarke 15
Kelston, already relegated to Senior A basketball in 2018, made a useful start against Rosmini only down 18-17 at quarter time as Liam Milne, Matangi Prescott and To’o Mase kept the visitors defence busy.
Rosmini had much the better of the second stanza – a late three in the period from Terrence Abdon plus a trio of buckets from Peter Jenkins took the visitors to a 47-34 half-time lead.
Mase did his best to keep Kelston in the hunt but threes from Thomas Morgan, Sean Murphy, Marvin Williams-Dunn and Abdon stretched the Rozza lead to 74-54 at the three-quarter mark.
Solomon Faapoi fired three straight baskets for the hosts but Rozza were not seriously threatened and can now plan for a semi-final meeting with Westlake next Friday.
Kelston 70 – Mase 18, Prescott 18, Faapoi 8, Milne 6, Arellano 6
Rosmini 90 – Dance 17, Jenkins 13, Williams-Dunn 13, Abdon 12
St Kentigern College preserved their Premier status with an 81-69 victory over Macleans College.
Incredibly St Kent’s made 15 threes on the night – over 50% of their points coming from beyond the arc.
Zac Chan gave St Kentigern’s a great start nailing three triples in the opening quarter, Hyland landed a brace in the second and the home team had a nice ten points buffer at the break – 37-27.
Blake van Uden, Sai Kuvelkar and Alex Arthur brought Macleans back into the game but more threes from Ryan Jones, Max Shorter and Chan -who landed six from the land of plenty – ensured a decisive St Kent’s win.
The result means that Macleans will face a play-off game with the second placed team in Senior A – the winners to play Premier basketball in 2018. Aaron Young and his charges can relax and prepare for the Nationals Qualifying Tournament in a couple of weeks.
St Kentigern 81 – Chan 20, Shorter 20, Hyland 18, Jones 14
Macleans 69 – van Uden 17, Kuvelkar 13, Babaran 13, Arthur 12
Boys Premier Grade Standings
11-3 Auckland Grammar
6-8 Mt Albert
4-9 St Kentigern
* The outstanding Westlake v St Kentigern fixture will be played on Monday August 14th. The result will not affect the above positions as Rosmini and Auckland Grammar hold better head to head records against Westlake.
The top two spots in Senior A are locked in place but on Monday night a couple of important games will decide which out of Pakuranga, Liston and Northcote will take the other two semi-final berth.
I am reliably informed the winner of the Pakuranga tie will finish third but the loser will be eliminated if Northcote beats Massey, that game also to be played on Monday.
Senior A Ladder (unofficial)
13-1 St Peter’s
4-8 Western Springs