The new Westlake Boys High School gym was packed to the rafters for the local derby with Rangitoto College on Monday night.
The game appeared to be heading for a tight finish before Westlake guard Isaac Letoa was forced from the court with blood streaming from a head wound in the third period.
After receiving attention on the sideline the international guard headed to hospital for further treatment and took no further part in proceedings. His presence was sorely missed by Westlake as they slipped to an 83-65 defeat, outscored 56-25 in the second half.
Logan Anderson landed a three for Rangitoto but they were off the pace in the early stages forcing coach Kenny Stone to call a timeout with his team trailing 15-5 after 5 minutes.
Stone took the opportunity to introduce Dan Fotu and Sam Waardenburg into the fray and the move paid dividends as both scored in a 12-1 run to edge them ahead 17-16 at quarter time.
The pair had arrived at the game straight from Auckland airport having attended the prestigous Basketball Without Borders Asia Camp in Melbourne at the weekend.
Raw pace took Marc Malingin to the basket on consecutive Westlake offences and he then unloaded an impressive pass for a Lucas Mennenga basket that took them ahead 26-21.
Brayden Inger cut the Westlake advantage to a point but Reuben Fitzgerald countered, 30-27.
A Thabo Manyere two and an Isaac Letoa three excited the home crowd and when Letoa landed an NBA range three on the half time buzzer Westlake boasted a 40-27 lead.
A Letoa intercept and layup opened the second half scoring but consecutive threes from Inger and Harry Clarke gave the visitors some momentum.
A Fotu put back cut the Westlake advantage to 44-39 but on the same play Latoa suffered that crucial injury.
Initially Westlake coped adequately as Fitzgerald and James Moors made baskets but a Waardenburg And 1 play followed by scores from Inger and Harry Clarke took Rangitoto to a 63-59 three-quarter time lead.
The fourth quarter was largely one way traffic as Waardenburg, Fotu and Clarke shared 18 points in the period.
Rangitoto are yet to field a full team this season due to injuries and international calls. This performance suggests they will be the team to beat when the silverware is on the line later in the season.
Final Score: Westlake 65 – Fitzgerald 19pts/9rebs, Letoa 19, Manyere 8, Moors 5pts/9rebs Rangitoto 83 – Waardenburg 26, Fotu 23, Clarke 12, Inger 9pts/9rebs
Footnote: Sam Waardenburg claimed the Camp MVP Award at the Basketball Without Borders Clinic held in Melbourne last weekend. In addition Christchuch Boys High guard Quinn Clinton was voted the MVP of the All- Star game.
Boys Standings after 8 rounds:
7-1 Westlake Boys HS, Rangitoto College
5-3 Auckland Grammar, Rosmini College
4-4 Mt Albert Grammar
3-5 Kelston Boys HS
1-7 Liston Coll
0-8 Onehunga HS