Manukura School are one step away from claiming a maiden title at the National Secondary Schools Basketball tournament in Palmerston North.
In their first year at the competition, they take on defending champions Opunake High School in tonight's final.
The stage is set for the biggest game of their lives.
“We're kind of excited and nervous at the same time because it's our first time entered into this tournament. It's a big deal making the final,” says team member Harata Coleman (Ngāti Porou).
Coach Tiatoa Temata-Frost says, “We're so proud. It's a massive achievement for this team.”
Opunake High School is what stands between them, and a maiden title at the National Secondary Schools tournament.
“We must be aware of them because they are the champions from last year. They are skilled, so we need to work hard,” says Coleman.
Their opponents are favourites to win after going undefeated so far in this tournament. However, Manukura have their own secret weapons.
“Tallen August because she feeds us the ball. Rochelle Fareen because she is tall and dominates her opponents,” says Coleman.
Last night, Manukura managed to hold on in their semifinal encounter with Te Aroha, advancing through with a 54 - 59 win. Their hard work paying dividends.
Coleman says, “We work hard every day.”
“The dream is that they strengthen their skills so that they can reach new heights,” says Temata-Frost.
Win or lose, the fact that a school like Manukura has made it through to the final is an achievement for Māoridom.