The Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Girls competition at North Shore Events Centre on Friday night was a match up between traditional foes Auckland Girls Grammar School and Mt Albert Grammar.
With Auckland having won both regular season tussles it was something of a surprise scoreline at quarter time with Mt Albert ahead 22-10.
A trey from Riana Rangi-Brown and half a dozen points from Jodeci Joseph did most the damage for MAGS.
The regular season champions responded via 7 straight points from Rionne Papa and a triple from Mele Latu.
Not to be outdone Moanekah Va’ai nailed a three for Mt Albert as they closed out a fine first half leading 39-26.
Auckland upped the defensive pressure in the third keeping Mt Albert to just 9 points in the period and charged back into contention. Latu, Papa and Laetitia Tuaiti found holes in the MAGS defence to close to within a point (48-47) at three-quarter time.
Early in the fourth stanza Zhanay Hettig scored inside and Auckland had the lead for the first time in the game 51-50.
When Elianna Tuaiti stretched the AGGS lead to six points (57-51) Mt Albert coach Julie Kelman-Poto needed a timeout.
A long three from Karma Skilton-Roberts with 3:30 to play looked to be the dagger to break the MAGS resistance but back they came as Manase scored in transition followed by a three from Tessa Talo-Tomokino to level the scores at 60 points apiece with 2:15 to play.
The large crowd was provided with an exciting finish as Talo-Tomokino scored again from beyond the arc to more than cancel out Latu’s put-back.
Joseph made a free throw for MAGS but Latu did the job again to tie the scores – 64 apiece with 1:15 to play.
Clutch free throws from Elianna Tuaiti with 51 seconds to play had the AGGS fans on their feet only for Moanekah Va’ai to drop a triple to put MAGS ahead 67-66 with two possessions left.
Skilton-Roberts kept her head when presented with an open look and although MAGS had another scoring opportunity they could not capitalize and slipped to an agonising 68-67 defeat.
Both teams now move on to the Nationals Qualifying Tournament with another meeting between these two fine teams a distinct possibility in the final of that event – it will be worth watching if it eventuates.
Auckland Girls 67 – Latu 20, Papa 19, Skilton-Roberts 9, E Tuaiti 6
Mt Albert 66 – Joseph 15, Manase 14, Talo-Tomokino 10, Va’ai 10, Rangi-Brown 10