St Kent’s the champs as Nationals Qualifiers sorted

St Kentigern College, still the reigning champions from 2019 remember, will carry the number one seeding at the 2022 Secondary Schools National Championships in October after downing Westlake 96-71 in the Final of the Zone I Qualifying Tournament at Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday night.

While Dontae Russo-Nance orchestrated proceedings it was Merrick Rillstone’s night to hit the right chords as the rangy forward dropped a staggering 49 points in what turned out to be a one-sided affair. The U15 National Championship MVP had his shooting game in fine tune as his team plundered 51 second half points.

Westlake will be content with a second placed finish, having had to undergo a change of coaching staff prior to the start the tournament, but it promised more when they led 29-19 as Rocco Chang (17 points), Daniel Ottenhoff (16 points) and Hamza Zahran (29 points) began impressively.

The Swans were just three adrift at half-time (45-42) before a major momentum shift in the third became seismic in the fourth as Rillstone, Russo-Nance (26 points) and Hunter Te Ratna (15 points) produced a scoring medley to delight the St Kent’s followers.

Rangitoto College garnered a couple of useful scalps during the tournament and should have made it a third when they led Auckland Grammar 69-60 deep into the fourth quarter and by five points inside the final seconds of the 3rd/4th play-off game.

Some indecision in their ranks allowed Josh Howes to make a game levelling three, then Cody Brown (28 points) to make the go-ahead basket with time almost expired – Rangi, unable to come up with an answer on the final possession, were pipped 71-69.

A dozen points each from forwards Jacob Fotu and Tautoko Wynyard, plus 18 from livewire guard Michael Ropotini seemed to have done the trick until Brown pulled the proverbial rabbit out of the hat.

Rosmini College, one the back of a career best performance from young forward Julius Halaifonua (38 points), came from behind to pip Mt Albert Grammar in the 5th/6th place contest.

15 points apiece from Will Leger and Denvor Elia, plus 17 from Dante Matakatea gave MAGS the edge for long spells but Halaifonua and Tom Beattie (26 points) carried Rosmini to victory with a fourth quarter push.

Sacred Heart College claimed the coveted seventh spot at Nationals after defeating St Peter’s College 74-63 in the critical 7th/8th play-off game.

The contest was still in the balance at three-quarter time with St Peter’s only 4 points behind (54-50). 

However it was Josh Tengblad (13 points) and Adam Davies (21 points) that proved the difference makers in the fourth as Sacred Heart stamped their ticket for Palmerston North with a 20-13 closing run.

Milan Tolich (17 points), Scott Errey (15 points) and Dorian Sula (14 points) kept the Senior A champions in the hunt but they looked leg weary in the fourth and slipped to a disappointing defeat.

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