Moving south the second preview of the AA Secondary Schools Premierships looks at the Zone 2 tournament to be played in Tauranga (September 5-8). The top five teams in each gender will qualify for the Schick National Championships in October.
Zone 2 Boys
Four pools of six will contest the Boy’s section and at first glance it would appear Pool D featuring top contenders Melville High, Hamilton Boys and Rotorua Boys is the strongest section. A seeding system that pitches arguably the two top teams in Hamilton in the same pool is perhaps somewhat flawed.
The young Rotorua team coached by Doug Courtney could well be the team to miss out with a couple of Hamilton powerhouse opponents standing in their way.
Hamilton Boys have legitimate height this year with Thomas Power and Max Stephens anchoring their frontcourt. Unbeaten Melville, led by Nikau Joyce, will also be favoured to progress.
In Pool A second seeded St Peter’s, Cambridge led by Issa Kunda should progress. Brendan Douglas and his John Paul College team mates will travel up from Rotorua optimistic that they can claim a top two spot in the pool ahead of Hillcrest High although St Paul’s Collegiate may also have a say in the outcome.
Tauranga Boys High and Mt Maunganui, the two best teams in the Bay of Plenty, will go head to head in Pool B. Standing in the way of a one-two for ‘The Bay’ are St John’s College. Mt Maunganui will be planning their campaign around NZ U17 representative Shalom Broughton while Josiah Albert and Jeremy McIntosh will carry much of the scoring load for Tauranga.
Te Awamutu College owes their top seeding in Pool C to the Tom Higgins affect in 2016. The NZ U18 international has moved north making Te A’s qualification problematic. Expect Fraser High to progress to the quarter-finals from this group but they may struggle to clinch a top five spot for Nationals.
Pool A – Hillcrest, St Peter’s, John Paul, Bethlehem, St Paul’s, Katikati
Pool B – St John’s, Tauranga, Western Heights, Mt Maunganui, Tauhara, Fairfield
Pool C – Te Awamutu, Fraser, Hauraki Plains, Trident, Whakatane, Papamoa
Pool D – Melville, Hamilton Boys, Rotorua, Cambridge, Otumoetai, Opotiki
In summary – 24 teams – 8 progress to the quarter-finals – 4 winners of quarters move on to Nationals plus the winner of 5-8 classification games.
Zone 2 Girls
The seeding for the Girls competition sees St Peter’s, Cambridge, Hamilton Girls, Melville High and Rotorua Girls heading their respective sections – it’s hard to argue with this.
St Peter’s, the defending National champions will have the talented duo of Charlisse Leger-Walker and Ella Bradley to call on. Tyler Wilkinson is now head coach at Melville and has Kaylee Smiler and the Ellis sisters Hayley and Jazmyn to lead their effort. Basketball New Zealand Hall of Famer Carlolyn Grey is in charge of the Hamilton Girls programme and will be expecting major contributions from Riva Walker-Pitman and Koha Lewis.
The vastly experienced Sue Pene will once again take charge of Rotorua and she will be anticipating Te Ao Leach and Pareunuora Pene to provide leadership for her team.
These teams occupy the top four spots in the Waikato Schools Premier Grade and it would be hard to argue against them grabbing four of the five spots available for Nationals.
Plenty of interest will surround the scrap for the fifth spot – the main contenders appear to be Tauranga College, Fraser High and Western Heights.
In summary – 13 teams – 8 progress to the quarter-finals – the 4 winners of the quarters move on to Nationals plus the winner of 5-8 classification games.