Both Rangitoto College and Saint Kentigern College were short of key personnel but still produced an exciting and absorbing Auckland Secondary Schools Boys Premier League Grand Final at Eventfinda Stadium on Thursday night.
The contest was eventually won 78-75 by Rangitoto but the result was in the balance until the last possession of the game.
The game ebbed and flowed throughout with neither side able to wrestle complete control and that is how it continued in the closing minutes.
With the scores locked at 54 points apiece at the three-quarter mark it was St Kent’s who made the first run after the break as Levick Kerr scored inside and “Mr 110%” Elliot Watson knocked down a three.
Ethan Mandeno (24 points) and Zack Riley (20 points) replied for Rangitoto before another St Kent’s triple, this time from skipper Martin Gan, gave St Kent’s a single point lead with five minutes to play.
Riley and Mandeno were carrying the Rangitoto offence eventually scoring all of their team’s 24 final quarter points between them.
When Mandeno’s floater found nothing but net and his triple produced the same result on the next Rangi possession, with 1:03 to play, their 77-71 lead looked match winning.
However Gan made free-throws and Kazlo Evans (16 points) scored again with 22 seconds to play to make it a one possession game (77-75).
Rangitoto just needed to keep possession but committed a 5 seconds in-bounds violation to hand the ball back to the regular season champs.
St Kent’s had three attempts to score on the play but couldn’t make any. The game wasn’t quite finished as Mandeno knocked down a free throw with 2.5 seconds to play but his intentional miss on the second also missed the ring handing St Kent’s one final possession.
That came to nothing but the game was quite something.
Earlier Liam Judd scored 10 first half points for Rangitoto but a second quarter three-point blitz from St Kent’s gave the Saints a 42-39 advantage. Evans, Gan and Kaea Rangiehaeta amassed five treys between them in the second frame.
The third quarter of the game was the lowest scoring spell of the contest – an Oba Paea triple and back to back baskets from Judd helped Rangi level the scores at the break.
The final quarter could have gone either way but Riley and Mandeno ensured the Premier trophy stayed on the North Shore, but it was mighty close.
Rangitoto 78– E Mandeno 25, Z Riley 20, L Judd 14, T Wynyard 8, P Leupolu 5/11r
St Kentigern – 75K Evans 16, L Kerr 15, M Gan 15, E Watson 14, J Child 8, K Rangiehaeta 8