St Mary’s College win basketball national title
St Mary’s College have added another national title to their ever-expanding trophy cabinet.
The school’s first XV captured the national top-four rugby title in September, while on Saturday their premier senior basketball team beat St Peter’s, Cambridge 68-62 in a thrilling national AA championship final in Palmerston North.
Team member Leni-Lia Moananu said after the game that it would help put basketball on the map at the school.
“St Mary’s has been known for netball, rugby and other sports, but we’re just so happy to have created a pathway for basketball at St Mary’s.”
Moananu’s effort in the final, coming off the bench to score 11 points and grab 10 rebounds, typified what St Mary’s were all about as they produced a complete team performance.
They had five players who scored at least nine points, with Renee Savai’inaea top-scoring with 18.
Contrast that with St Peter’s, who relied almost solely on Junior Tall Fern Charlisse Leger-Walker and her 48 points to stay competitive in the final.
St Mary’s led 33-30 at halftime and 51-48 at the end of the third quarter.
A strong start to the fourth quarter had them out to what looked like a winning lead of 64-55 with three minutes to play, but Leger-Walker reeled off seven-straight points to close the game to 64-62 with 1.30 to go.
But St Peter’s couldn’t muster another basket as St Mary’s closed out the game with free-throws to claim a deserved, hard-fought victory.
St Mary’s coach Nixon Penese great credit to the opposition for a great contest.
“St Peter’s are an amazing team, very well coached by Leanne Walker and with an incredible player in tournament MVP Charlisse [Leger-Walker].”
Penese said the only way to counter Leger-Walker’s individual brilliance was with a big team performance.
“I told my girls to beat the champions it would take a big effort from the whole team. We don’t have any superstars so they have learnt to trust each other.
“I’m very proud of all the girls, but particularly the Year 13 players Sariah [Penese] and Terrelle [Onesemo].
“We have had fantastic support from all of the parents – it took a big family to beat St Peter’s.”
Moananu was also brimming with pride after the game.
“It was massive. All of those morning and afternoon trainings and everything we have put into it, I’m just really happy that it has paid off.
“I’m really happy for the girls, for our parents and for our school.”
Savai’inaea, Penese and Grace Hunter all made the tournament team, while the other Wellington team at the tournament, Hutt Valley High School, finished eighth.
At the boys’ AA tournament, Rongotai College were the best of the Wellington schools when finishing eighth. Wellington College came 16th.
AT A GLANCE
St Mary’s College 68 (Renee Savai’inaea 18 points, Terelle Onesemo 13, Grace Hunter 11, Leni-Lia Moananu 11) St Peter’s School, Cambridge 62 (Charlisse Leger-Walker 48 points). HT: 33-30.