In our third AA Secondary Schools Premierships preview we take a look at the Zone 3 contenders.
The tournament will be played in Palmerston North (September 6-9). The top six teams in each gender will qualify for the Schick National Championships in October.
Zone 3 Boys
Palmerston North Boys the runners-up in the outstanding 2016 National Final will almost certainly take top spot in Pool A – Junior Tall Black centre Callum McRae will lead their championship pursuit.
NZ U18 representative guard Joe Ahie will lead Onslow’s quest for second spot in the group and they should prove too strong for Upper Hutt College who are in something of a rebuilding phase and will take to the court with a fairly young side. The same can be said of St John’s College Hastings that is seeded third in this section.
Pool B looks a very open section with all five teams fancying their chances of a top two spot and a spot in the quarter-finals.
NZ U18 rep Oscar Robertson will head the New Plymouth Boys High effort. NPBH carry the top seed mantle but will take nothing for granted.
St Patrick’s Silverstream will call on brothers Eddie and Piripi Korent for some scoring punch likewise Hutt International will look to the scoring prowess of guard Kyle Owen. Tawa College were top four performers in Wellington Division 1 basketball this season alongside Hutt and will be hoping to cause an upset or two during the week.
Aotea College have played top eight basketball in Wellington this season but have struggled to put wins on the board and that trend may continue in Palmerston North. In contrast Tawa College have enjoyed a winning season, albeit in the Bill Eldred Cup (Division 1) but that taste of success could well stand them, and Hutt International, in good stead over the coming days.
In Pool C St Patrick’s College will be hoping their two point loss to Wellington College in the Wellington Schools Premier final is just a minor blip – certainly Donnie Joyce and Matt Brian will be looking to rectify matters on their behalf.
Rongotai team with Jaylin Trego-To’o in the backcourt look highly capable of a top two finish although Napier Boys High, fresh off a victory in the Hawkes Bay final will be thinking the same thing – Tyrese Davies was in sensational form in that one.
Rongotai have acquired Fijian guard Junior Waqabaca to bolster their already handy backcourt.
NZ Under 18 point guard Matt O’Connell will carry the load for Francis Douglas Memorial College.
In Pool D, the only pool with six teams, Hastings Boys will be smarting from their defeat against Napier – NZ 3×3 international Isaiah Jones will be leading their effort.
Wellington College will be buoyed by their Wellington Schools Championship success last week – Billy Tompkinson, Lelei Tautau and Sione Helu will be looking to maintain that momentum as they strive for top spot in the pool.
Scots College are seeded second in the group but with a very young group 2017 may not be their year although coach Troy McLean will have his troops, led by senior Harry Wall, ready for a tilt at a qualifying spot.
In summary – 21 teams – 8 progress to the quarter-finals – 4 winners of quarters move on to Nationals plus the top 2 teams from the 5-8 classification games.
Pool A – Palmerston North Boys, Onslow, St John’s Hastings, Upper Hutt, Hawera
Pool B – New Plymouth Boys, St Pat’s Silverstream, Tawa, Hutt International, Aotea
Pool C – St Pat’s Kilbirnie, Hutt Valley, Napier, Rongotai, Francis Douglas
Pool D – Hastings Boys, Scots, Fielding, Wellington, St Bernard’s, Freyberg
Zone 3 Girls
Wiser minds than mine pick Sacred Heart New Plymouth, St Mary’s College, Wellington and Hutt Valley as the top three finishers in the Girls competition.
It would be a brave man to bet against St Mary’s, with the NZ representative guard duo of Sariah Penese and Grace Hunter to call on, not topping Pool B
Sacred Heart will be paced by Caitlin O’Connell and will need to see off ‘The Bay’ threat from Napier and Hastings to progress directly to the semi-finals and an automatic Nationals berth.
New Zealand U18 swingman Leah Mafua will be at the heart of Hutt Valley’s quest to head Pool A. Chasing second spot will be New Plymouth, Palmerston North and Wellington College.
In summary – 10 teams – Top 2 teams in each pool progress to the semi-finals and automatic qualification for Nationals. The 3rd and 4th in each pool play classification games, the top 2 of the 4 teams move on to Nationals.
Pool A – New Plymouth, Hutt Valley, Wellington College, Palmerston North, Feilding
Pool B – St Mary’s Wellington, Napier, Hastings, Sacred Heart New Plymouth, Havelock North