Lacey Lowdown has been covering basketball in New Zealand and abroad for 8 years with a specific focus on high school and collegiate players and programmes.
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The country may have moved into the Covid orange setting at midnight Wednesday but three hours earlier it was green-for-go as Sacred Heart College defeated St Peter’s College 91-78 to earn promotion to the Auckland Secondary School’s Premier League.
Played at a frenetic pace, in front of a vibrant crowd, Sacred Heart were out the starting gate the quickest piling on 34 first quarter points to lead by 14 after ten minutes.
Andrei Manio scored St Peter’s first dozen points but Matt Fautuaalii and Josh Stewart combined for twenty to the delight of the away support.
The second period was equally furious but far more even – Sacred Heart 58-42 ahead at half-time.
A triple from Stewart and a transition score from Dalton Dennis stretched the visitors lead to beyond twenty and a runaway victory was on the cards. But a momentum shift changed all that.
The cellophane went over the Sacred Heart bucket while at the other end skipper Scott Erey, Toby Cox and Manio consistently found a route to basket.
St Peter’s finished the period with a 14-3 run to trail 69-60 – the home fans in full voice during the three-quarter time break.
Preston Tuaputa opened the final quarter scoring but a triple from Milan Tolich and another bucket from Dorian Sula kept St Peter’s in touch – 75-67 down with six minutes to play.
Owain Leigh knocked down another three for St Peter’s but Tuaputa, Stewart and Adam Davies steadied the ship for Sacred Heart.
Players were exiting the game left right and centre in the dying minutes, with bouts of cramp or through fouling out, as the physical effort from both sets of players took its toll.
Stewart, the leading scorer in the game with 33 points, ensured Sacred Heart managed the clock in the dying seconds to close out a deserved victory and with it promotion to the upper echelons of Auckland Schools basketball.
St Peter’s 78 – Manio 22, Errey 17, Sula 8, Cox 7, Leigh 7, Bailey Smith 7
Sacred Heart 91 – Stewart 33, Fautuaalii 17, Davies 14, Tuaputa 12, Dennis 9
In the other promotion/relegation battle Liston College edged Mt Roskill Grammar 77-76 to retain their place in the Premier League.
The Auckland Secondary Schools Girl’s Premier League play-off ties were decided on Friday night. In winner takes-all contests Carmel College retained their Premier status with a comfortable 63-44 win against One Tree Hill College while St Kentigern College won promotion from Senior A with a stirring 61-59 victory at Massey High School.
At Carmel there was just a point between the two teams after ten minutes (12-11 in favour of Carmel) but the nerves of the home supporters were eased a little in the second period as Carmel moved out to a 33-20 advantage at the interval.
Three-point plays from Zaraha Tibbotts and Leighton Esera opened up a double digit lead for Carmel while OTH had Angelica Vahai to thank for keeping them in the contest – the skipper had 10 points at the break.
Suriah Muipu scored the first two buckets of the second half but Carmel responded through Lily Farman and Jemma Cammell. Vahai followed an athletic block with a coast-to-coast basket before Cammell and Imogen O’Rourke stretched the Carmel advantage to twenty points (52-32) at the three-quarter mark.
Talei Bogidua was a powerful presence under the boards and her battling effort typified the OTH spirit but it was Carmel that prevailed – a coveted spot in the Premier League retained.
One Tree Hill 44 – Angelica Vahai 17, Talei Bogidua 10, Syriah Muipu 9
Out west, fans from both sides treated to a thriller as St Kentigern prevailed by a single point. The game couldn’t have been any tighter – Massey led by a point at quarter time, it was all square after the second and third periods before St Kent’s edged the final stanza by a single score.
Sharmaine Tapling for St Kent’s and Tahlya Waikiki for Massey shared the honours in the opening half as both posted 12 points for their respective teams with the score tied at 31 apiece.
It was nip and tuck again in the third. Kortni Waikiki had half a dozen points in the period for the hosts, Ashleigh Tuumaialu the same number for the Saints.
Allyah Leusogi-Ape, named earlier in the week, to the New Zealand U18 Selection Camp had the final say of the period – 48 all with ten minutes to play.
A three from Zhoey Tilby-Woods helped the Massey cause as did a couple of scores from Tahlya Waikiki. Inside the last two minutes, with Massey ahead 59-57, Sophie Jones scored a go-ahead three for the Saints.
Manania Rogers then made an important free-throw as St Kent’s managed the clock through the closing seconds to claim the win and promotion.
“It was a tough game but it was defence that won it. Holding Allyah (Leusogi-Ape) was critical,” said St Kent’s coach Darci Finnigan.