As the National Secondary Schools Basketball tournament in Palmerston North draws to a close, there have been many highs and lows experienced by teams.
To note, the Māori schools have impressed organisers, fellow players and the rest of the basketball community at Central Energy Trust Arena.
Schools like Manukura, Te Kura o Mauao, Te Kura Kōkiri and Ngā Taiatea have stepped up at this tournament.
Sports expert Te Arahi Maipi says, “They've been really taking it to the bigger teams, to the bigger schools in New Zealand.”
It wasn't all joy and celebration as competition favourites like Palmerston North Boys High School were eliminated early in the quarterfinals by Rangitoto College.
“You really feel for the teams who get their hearts broken and those national title hopes crumble right in front of them. It can be a cruel sport,” says basketball commentator Zico Coronel.
As well as the Māori schools, there were also Māori players representing the bigger colleges like Mount Albert Grammar School in Auckland, Hamilton Boys High School, and Wellingtons St Marys, who will meet St Peters Cambridge in the final.
Auckland Girls Grammar School student Karma Skilton says, “This is the first year we've had every member of our team come down. So, for me, it's fantastic to see everyone.”
“The heart is pumped at the moment, our goal was to build on our foundation in this tournament,” says Ngā Taiātea student Mikaere Koroheke.
The biggest star of the tournament has been this Te Whānau-a-Apanui descendant who many believe is destined for big things in America.
Says Coronel, “The highlight has been the amazing play Charlisse Leger-Walker and how she's carrying a young St Peters team.”
“Many people believed she's headed for the WNBA,” says Maipi.
Following on from the tournament, the next phase for the top players is to be selected for the New Zealand under-17 squad.