When the Covid-19 restrictions forced Auckland Secondary Schools Premier Basketball to be shut down Rangitoto College (5-0) were unbeaten at the top of the table with St Kentigern College (4-1) in pursuit.
Fittingly the two teams contested the Auckland Invitational Final at Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday evening – the 2019 Auckland Premier Champions against the 2019 National Secondary Schools Champions.
And it was Rangitoto that gained the win, 81-74, to claim the unofficial 2020 Auckland Championship.
The two teams split 34 points in the opening term before St Kentigern embarked on a 13-2 run to begin the second quarter as Levick Kerr gained some ascendancy inside, Dontae Russo-Nance and George Turner found their range from the perimeter and Kazlo Evans made a couple of slashing drives to basket.
The riposte from Rangitoto was immediate. Zeke Priest (the Lowdown’s MVP of the Tournament) scored with some powerful drives, Zach Riley knocked down a couple of jump shots and with Daniel Powell chipping in with points the St Kent’s lead was trimmed to just two points at half-time (35-33)
Fortunes ebbed and flowed in the third but when Kerr sat down after picking up a fourth foul Rangitoto seized the opportunity – skipper Ethan Skelton’s 12 points in the period giving his team a 58-52 lead with ten minutes to play.
A pair of Russo-Nance baskets narrowed the deficit to two points at the start of the final quarter but that was as close as it got as Lucas Payne, Skelton, Riley and Priest (27 points) took the game away from St Kent’s.
Four days of entertaining basketball was certainly a positive way to finish a fragmented season especially for the numerous Year 13 players in the five participating teams.
Rangitoto 81 – Priest 27, Riley 18, Skelton 17, Payne 14
St Kentigern 74 – Russo-Nance 24, Evans 20, Kerr 10, Turner 10
Josh Kooiman and Sean Murphy ended their high school basketball careers in style in the 3rd/4th play-off game, won 102-85 by Westlake.
Westlake guard Kooiman knocked down eight threes on his way to 39 points whilst Rosmini wing Murphy was one shy of that mark with 38 points.
Rosmini 85 – S Murphy 38, Kane Murphy 13, Pita Maxwell-Topia 11, Tom Beattie 8
Westlake 102 –Kooiman 39, Reuben Natusch 13, Christian Martin 13, Antonio Leutich 9
Westlake 97 – Martin 22, Kooiman 16, Thompson 12, Natusch 9
Rangitoto 110 – Riley 22, Payne 21, Priest 19, Skelton 17, J Fotu 12
St Kentigern 84 – Kerr 26, Evans 19, Nance 15, Gan 11
Rosmini 75 – S Murphy 19, Beattie 18, Maxwell-Topia 12, Dalton 9