Westlake Girls claimed the headline by defeating Whangārei Girls High 74-47 to take out the Zone 1 Nationals Qualification Tournament at Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday night but it was the history making runners-up that were the main storyline.
Despite playing the whole tournament with just seven players Whangārei Girls High gave all the Auckland teams plenty of trouble winning four from five pool games, a quarter-final against St Kent’s and a semi against Takapuna Grammar – most the wins by a convincing margin.
Their trip down State Highway 1 has seen them become first Northland Girls team to clip a ticket to Nationals since Kamo College in 2005. It will be the first visit to Nationals for Girls High since the mid 1990’s!
In the final Westlake, as usual, enjoyed scoring contributions across the board with Izzy Pugh (19 points), Amiya Fotu (17 points) and Rebecca Moors (16 points) leading the way. Kiama Tahere scored 12 points and Mahina Kukutai-Wairau 15 points for Whangārei but all seven players put in a mighty shift.
If Whangārei’s effort was the major highlight of the tournament then the success of Takapuna Grammar and Epsom Girls Grammar were interesting sub plots.
Takapuna’s opening round overtime victory against Baradene kick started their qualifying campaign perfectly. Qaizden Stephano was the hero with a buzzer beating three to tie the contest in regulation.
Takapuna went on to top Pool A despite Stephano’s interior prowess being lost – mid tournament she flew to India to link up with the Samoan U18 team at the Asia Cup.
The Senior A champions defeated Manurewa in the critical quarter-final tie 70-60 before fading in the semi and bronze medal games. Taka were well served throughout by Amy McKenzie, Zenthia Stowers and Bailey Flavell.
Epsom Girls Grammar saved their best performances of the season until it mattered. They defeated Baradene College in the quarters and although they lost to Westlake in the semi’s they bounced back to defeat Takapuna 76-49 in the 3rd-4th play-off.
Draun Forbes, Maia Fowler and Leah Patuwarua were outstanding throughout for EGGS.
Mt Albert Grammar endured a horror start to the tournament losing both opening day games. They then lost point guard Danae Tait to an ankle injury in the tie against Takapuna on day two but recovered to win that game to ignite their campaign.
They lost to Westlake in the quarters but in the all-important classification game that followed they defeated Baradene College to secure an October visit to Palmerston North.
NZ U17 rep Waimanu Clarken averaged an impressive 26 points a game for MAGS.
In contrast to MAGS, Saint Kentigern College made the perfect start winning both opening games but then lost their remaining three pool games and quarter-final against Whangārei.
They also needed to win their 6-8 classification game – in a nervy affair they beat Manurewa High School 59-52 and followed that with a 56-45 win against MAGS to secure 5th spot overall – Ashleigh Tuumaialu and Anamia Rangihaeta double digit scorers in both games.
Final placings of team headed to Nationals:
5 St Kentigern