Given dispensation to play despite Covid-19 restrictions being in place, the opening round of the 2020 Auckland Schools Boy’s Premier League produced a feast of basketball.
A quirk in the fixture list saw the top four teams from the 2019 Premier competition all drawn at home.
St Kentigern College entertained last year’s Senior A champions St Peter’s College, Auckland Grammar hosted Mt Albert Grammar, Liston College travelled to Rangitoto College whilst Westlake Boys took the short trip down Taharoto Road to take on Rosmini College.
St Kentigern, the reigning Schick National Champions, were given a stern examination by St Peter’s with Oliver Arlove, Jack Donnelly, Mitch Lancaster and Dorian Sula all prominent for the visitors.
Manu Hoque’s promoted team showed they will be no pushover this season, their decision to double team Levic Kerr at every available opportunity paying dividends.
With Kerr’s effectiveness nullified it was left to the guard trio of Kazlo Evans, Alex McNaught and Dontae Nance to carry the scoring load. Nance, having moved from Rangitoto College over the summer, marked his Prems debut with a team high 21 points.
Arguably the most talented backcourt in the league eventually wore down the St Peter’s resistance but it took three-quarters of the contest to achieve. St Peter’s trailed by just 4 points with ten minutes to play before a 24-12 finish gave a relieved St Kent’s coach Aaron Young and his charges an 88-72 victory.
There was some sideline drama before the game. With Sky Sport having exclusive coverage of the game St Kent’s videographer Tony McNaught was denied access to the court, a decision that irked his many Facebook Live followers.
Better news for the St Kent’s faithful was that their No 1 fan Adrian Young was present for the season opener.
Former Tall Blacks teammates Lindsay Tait and Daryl Cartwright once again went head to head as old rivals MAGS and AGS faced off.
It was MAGS who were quickest out the blocks leading 21-13 at quarter-time and 40-30 at the half. Sataan Tawera led the way for MAGS and headed all scorers at the break with 16 points. Luka Vea (10 points) was the only AGS player in double figures at the interval
Tait, the ‘Best Dressed Coach of the Year’ in 2019, had some stern words for his players at half-time and it drew the response he desired.
Caleb Landon showed that his 2019 form was no flash in the pan. His relentless pounding of the offensive boards earned AGS numerous second chance opportunities that were gratefully converted by Connor Ngan and Stefan Bigio. The diminutive duo returned 18 points and 16 points respectively as AGS pulled away to record a 78-61 win.
Experienced guards Theo Grey and Dakota Stephens gave Tawera good support but they were unable to sustain the MAGS effort in the final period.
Rangitoto College got their Premier League title defence off to a perfect start with a convincing 101-75 win against Liston College.
It didn’t look like quite so good for the home team in the early stages as they made heavy weather of things in the first half.
Liston had won their Premier Play-off game against Long Bay College last week and carried the confidence gained in that victory into the game.
Without the injured Tautoko Wynyard to contend with Liston enjoyed a good opening half. Coach Kaea Samson would have been pleased with his teams showing in the opening 20 minutes entering the interval just a single point behind (44-43). Sefa Prasad and Desmond Helu led the way with 14 points and 13 points respectively.
Kenny Stone, in his 21st season as Rangitoto College coach, changed his starting lineup for the second half and Premier debutants Jacob Fotu (12 points) and Lucas Payne (11 points) made telling contributions.
However it was the much vaunted guard duo of Ethan Skelton and Zach Riley that led the way for Rangi as they moved through the gears to record a convincing win.
At the conclusion of the game Rachael Payne was presented with a gold tablet after completing the stats for her 500th Rangi game.
The only new coach in the Boy’s Prem League this season is Tony Webster. Back from ‘The Bay’ Webster senior has son Corey as his assistant – Corey recently returned from his Corona Virus tour of Italy and China.
Jett Thompson sporting his newly patented ‘JettBandana’ got his team off to a flyer. He and Josh Kooiman knocked down three triples apiece in the opening stanza as Westlake forged a 24-14 first quarter lead.
After some head scratching by the Rosmini coaching duo of Sonny Tuaputa and Matt Lacey at the quarter time break, the hosts made a better fist of things in the second reducing the Westlake advantage to 51-47 by half-time.
Cian Emery and Pita Maxwell-Topia fired up the Rosmini bench in the third, their aggressive defence creating turnovers that Taine Murray and Sean Murphy feasted on.
Webster’s constant pacing of the side-line inspired a Westlake come-back in the final quarter.
With three minutes to play the Rosmini lead was a narrow 77-74 and when Thompson nailed his fifth triple of the game the scores were tied with under two minutes to play.
The M’s – Murray and Murphy eventually made the game safe – Rosmini edging a thriller 82-75.
Channon Dunn, despite no longer having son Marvin playing on the team, was once again at his accurate best holding the foul marker paddles on the scorebench!
Subject to Covid-19 restrictions the second round of games will be played in the near future.