We begin a four-part preview of the AA Secondary Schools Premierships that take place next week by taking a look at the Zone 1 hopefuls. The tournament will be played at North Shore Events Centre over four days beginning Wednesday September 6th.
The largest zone of the four (based on population) the northern zone is allocated seven qualifying spots at the Schick National Championships in October.
Zone 1 Boys
The initial goal for all teams is to finish first or second in their pool. From there a top seven spot and a place at Nationals beckons.
Rangitoto College, the back to back National Champions, are certain to progress from Pool A. The reigning champs are almost back to full strength and demonstrated in the Premier grade win last week that they have quality players in all arrears from point guard Harry Clarke to five men Zac Te Puni and Caleb Langridge.
St Peter’s, Avondale and Birkenhead appear to be fighting for the other quarter- final spot from this group. The Finlay Morris led St Peter’s will be buoyed by their recent Senior A title success but will be wary of the threat posed by Avondale and Birkenhead. Avondale guard Jaga Mete was a standout in the recent Senior A final and will be a menace to all opposition defences.
Auckland Grammar will have too much power for the other teams in Pool B with Tom Higgins, Anzac Rissetto and Samson Aruwa likely to dominate the frontcourt.
It is tricky to pick the second team that will progress to the last eight from this section. The experienced Max Shorter and Kyle Robb are hopeful of taking St Kent’s deep into the tournament. Northcote, led by Sam Hadley, will be keen to cause an upset as will Takapuna. Northland representatives Whangarei Boys High are the dark horses in this group and it will be interesting to see if they can upset some of their rivals from the big smoke.
Pool C appears to be a three horse race amongst the trio of Premier teams – Rosmini, Mt Albert and Macleans College.
Mt Albert, fired by Mandela Baledrokadroka have run into good form of late and may have too much firepower for Macleans who will rely a great deal on Alex Arthur and Blake van Uden.
Both teams will also be looking to upset Rosmini who will start section C as favourites. Rosmini may have lost the Premier final to Rangitoto last week but possess plenty of quality with the likes of U17 internationals Mitchell Dance and Marvin Williams-Dunn in their backcourt.
Westlake Boys look to have a clear path in Pool D – James Moors and Reuben Fitzgerald likely to rack up plenty of points in the early games.
Kelston Boys, the other Premier team in the group, may come under pressure from Massey and Pakuranga College. Matangi Prescott and Kale Lawson will need to be in top form to ensure Kelston do not miss out on a quarter-final spot.
In summary – 23 teams – 8 progress to the quarter-finals – 7 of the 8 move on to Nationals. Who will be left standing next Saturday?
Pool A – Rangitoto, St Peter’s, Avondale, Birkenhead, Kristin
Pool B – Auckland, Whangarei, Takapuna, Northcote, St Kentigern, Long Bay
Pool C – Rosmini, Mt Albert, Macleans, Mt Roskill, Manurewa, Onehunga
Pool D – Westlake, Kelston, Massey, Pakuranga, Orewa, Pukekohe
Zone 1 Girls
The two best teams in Auckland this year, Auckland Grammar and Mt Albert Grammar are the top seeds in their respective pools and will progress. The two teams produced a compelling Auckland Premier final recently and it will be a shock if they are not opposing one another in the Qualifying Final next Saturday. MAGS will be hoping to make it fourth time lucky against their main rivals after Jada Manase and Jodeci Joseph took them to the brink of victory in that Premier final. On the other hand Mele Latu and skipper Karma Skilton-Roberts are keen to protect Auckland’s 15-1 record this season.
Pool A looks particularly tough with two good quality teams to miss out.
Massey paced by Shauna Povey will have too much quality for most other contenders and should come second in the group.
Rangitoto, with Bella Elgar to the fore should progress and Orewa, the fourth Premier team in the pool, will be hopeful Hannah Wentworth is in good scoring touch.
That leaves Birkenhead and St Mary’s Ponsonby and you ignore these two teams at your peril. Birkenhead have age group international Rashan Smith pivotal to their chances while St Mary’s with a posse of potential scorers, including Tyla Tevaga and the Kailahi-Fulu sisters Jazzmyne and Zaaliyah, will test every team. It’s the proverbial ‘Pool of Death’ and too tough to predict.
In Pool B Westlake, led by captain Keeley Tini, should finish second to AGGS.
St Kentigern College, with point guard Summer-Jean Motufoua at the helm look a strong proposition after successfully claiming the Senior A trophy last week. The third Premier team in the group Carmel College will be looking to claim the fourth spot – their chances will be enhanced if Tayla Dalton continues her rich scoring streak.
The top two teams in each pool will be guaranteed Schick Nationals berths as they will head straight into semi-final Premiership action. The 5-8 classification games will be a nervy affair, as one team will fall by the wayside.
Pool A – Mt Albert, Rangitoto, Massey, Orewa, Birkenhead, St Mary’s Ponsonby
Pool B – Auckland, Westlake, Epsom, St Kentigern, Carmel, Mt Roskill
In summary – 12 teams – Top 2 teams in each pool progress to the semi-finals and automatic qualification for Nationals – 3rd and 4th in each pool play classification games, 3 of the 4 teams move on to Nationals.