The result of the Final of the Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Basketball Competition was the same as the Nationals Qualifying Tournament Final last Saturday but the game was quite different. Last Saturday Rosmini College opened up an early, unassailable lead and cruised to victory but on Thursday night the contest was closely fought throughout, Westlake Boys putting up, as expected, a much improved performance.
The game began with Tohi Smith-Milner swatting away a Jaylen Gerrand shot but Logan Hunt connected on the next attack to give Westlake the lead. The first quarter was won by Westlake 23-18, ‘Lake’ benefitting from the return of Josh Howe who had 6 points and 3 boards in the first period.
Rosmini opened the second period with an emphatic 16-2 run, Ray Penny and Steve Robertson connecting regularly from the perimeter to lead 32-25. Westlake regained their composure, a drive and finger roll finish from Gerrand on the half time buzzer reducing the Rosmini lead to just three points, 38-35.
Jack Salt was his normal effective self in the paint and his couple of quick scores helped tie the contest 42 apiece before Smith-Milner and Penny connected with threes on consecutive plays to forge a 48-42 advantage for Rosmini. Matt Freeman and Jackson Stent converted strong drives to the basket as the quarter finished, Theo Johnson did the same and the quarter was tied, Rosmini ahead 55-52.
Robertson opened the final quarter with a brace of baskets, Salt replied in kind as both teams fought to gain the initiative. Rosmini remained ahead but when Howe blocked a Robertson drive and scored in traffic at the other end coach Boucher called a time out, his team just ahead, 64-62 with 2:30 to go. Robertson converted a lay-up despite being fouled and slotted home the resultant free throw to open up a 68-62 lead with 1:51 remaining, the Rosmimi support breaking into another raucous rendition of ‘Oh When the Saints Go Marching In’. Westlake had a number of open looks in the closing seconds but only one was successful, Rosmini collecting their second trophy in six days.
Both teams will head to Nationals knowing they have the players to win the title but it will be Rosmini feeling the most confidence as they have, leading their title bid, probably the best all-round schoolboy basketball player in the country. Tohi Smith-Milner in the right mood, as he has been this last week has a powerful all round game that no other player can match. Blessed with strength and athleticism he can rebound, block and threaten shots at one end and score from behind the arc or in the paint at the offensive end. He will be hoping to play in a third straight final at Secondary Schools Nationals but Westlake and others will provide major hurdles before that eventuates – should be worth following.
Rosmini 68 (Smith Milner 24pts/10 rebounds, Penny 15, Robertson 12) Westlake 64 (Salt 23pts/15 rebounds, Gerrand 11, Howe 8)
If Smith-Milner is the best schoolboy player in the country then surely Rangitoto College’s Penina Davidson is the best schoolgirl player in the country. Davidson scored 40 points in a losing cause last Saturday but last night she and her teammates avenged that loss by defeating Westlake Girls 76-65 in the Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Final, Davidson scoring a mere 35 points! The scores were level at half time 33-33 but a decisive 19-10 third quarter by Rangitoto earned them a lead they never looked like conceding. Both teams have a piece of silverware to adorn the school display cabinets but it will be the Schools National title that both will desire most.
Rangitoto 76 (Davidson 35pts/13 rebounds, Ella Fotu 15, Sophie Bond 12) Westlake Girls 65 (Tera Reed 19, Bronwyn Kjestrup 13, Tiarna Clarke 13).