The 2016 Boys and Girls Under 17 National Championship titles were retained in convincing fashion at North Shore Events Centre on Saturday evening.
North Harbour beat Palmerston North 94-63 to win the boys title and Waikato defeated Waitakere West 64-46 in the Girls Final.
Tournament MVP Charlisse Leger-Walker scored 25 points for Waikato who never looked back after opening an early 9-0 lead.
The Waikato opening burst was ended by an Elianna Tuaiti free throw but a pair of Leger-Walker triples pushed the Waikato advantage out to 19-7 at quarter time.
A long three from Mele Latu briefly reduced the arrears but Ella Bradley and Leger-Walker (again) reinstated a double digit Waikato lead.
The Waikato defence was stifling the Waitakere offence although baskets late in the half from Abigail Roache, Shauna Povey and Mele hinted at better things for Waitakere.
That was somewhat nullified when Riva Walker-Pitman scored a couple of neat jumpers to give Waikato a 34-17 half time advantage.
Leger-Walker led all scorers with 19 points at the interval.
A Latu three plus a Sylvia Wieczorek deuce spurred the Waitakere support but a couple of nice Zhanay Hettig scores kept the Waikato advantage close to twenty points.
A couple of long threes from Waitakere West guard Priscilla Tuala kept Waitakere in the contest trailing 47-34 at three-quarter time.
Harriet Berry buried a three to extend the Waikato lead to 53-37 with six minutes to play. Riva Walker-Pitman extended the Waikato advantage and Zhanay Hettig capped a fine performance with a banked two to see off the Waikato resistance.
Final score: Waikato 64 – Charlisse Leger-Walker 24, Riva Walker-Pitman 10, Zhanay Zettig 9, Koha Lewis 9 Waitakere 46 – Mele Latu 15, Priscilla Tuala 11, Elianna Tuaiti 9, Abigail Roache 6
Waikato coach Anthony Corbin was understandably pleased with the win.
“We have built towards this performance and I think our fitness levels really shone from the start of the game. Leanne (Walker) has done a great job with our defence up the floor and I’ve focused on our offensive sets and it has really flowed from there.
“The young coaches had done a fine job with the Waitakere team but we felt they were predominantly a two player team. From the start we focused on the point guard (Tuaiti). She’s a very talented player but I thought Harriet Berry, Koha (Lewis) and Riva (Walker-Pitman) did a great job of annoying her.
“Our strength is our half court defence which is probably due to my involvement in the 3×3 programme where there is a heavy emphasis on shell D.
“And then of course we have Charlisse (Leger-Walker) who is very talented and a good leader of our group,” he added.
Leger-Walker was quick to point out that the win was a team effort.
“We had great support from throughout the whole team, everyone stepped up today. Our bench was really hyped and we feed off all the energy they generate.
“I think the girls came together really well today,” she added.
Perhaps that was a slight understatement!
The Boys Final also went the way of the defending champions.
Harry Clarke scored three early baskets for Harbour but scores from Tama Faamausili and Oscar Oswald kept Palmerston North on the heels of the hosts.
Peter Jenkins had the final say in the stanza – Harbour ahead 26-10 at quarter time.
A Faamausili And 1 play opened the scoring in the second and a Lachlan Scott triple helped build the Palmerston confidence.
Harbour were struggling to make a basket in the middle of the period until Mitchell Dance and Kruz Perrott-Hunt found a way to the hoop on consecutive plays.
Tournament MVP James Moors capped a fine first half with a neat jumper to help his team to a 43-28 interval advantage.
A Perrott-Hunt floater took the Harbour advantage into the twenties and it became 56-35 when Clarke scored in transition from a sweet Logan McIntosh pass.
Oswald and Clarke exchanged jump shots before a pair of Harbour steals presented McIntosh with consecutive transition buckets.
Kahurangi Devonshire landed from deep for Palmerston but Harbour had a hand on the trophy at three-quarter time with a 65-44 lead.
There was no way back for Palmerston as Harbour bossed the final quarter in the same fashion that they had dominated the tournament.
Final score; Harbour 94– Harry Clarke 21, James Moors 18, Mitchell Dance 16, Peter Jenkins 13 Palmerston North 63 – Oscar Oswald 18, Tama Faamausili 13, Lachlan Scott 9, Cooper Boyce-Towler 8
Harbour coach Morgan Maskell has known many of his players since they were 12 years old and was delighted with their success.
“We really wanted it. Two years ago we had nine of this group when we lost in the U15 Final to Palmerston North so to get this win is satisfying. To get the first title together with this group that is so tight, to get it with such a dominant team (an average 40+ winning margin) it is real special.”
Harbour captain Kruz Perrott-Hunt was almost lost for words, “It’s an amazing feeling just being together with my team, I’m just really happy.
“We have a 12 man bench and everyone contributes in different ways, it fees so good,” he said.
Most of these players now return to their High School programmes with a view to qualifying for the Secondary Schools National Championships in October.