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Sixth national crown for Mount Albert Grammar School

Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) has climbed their way back to the top of New Zealand’s secondary school dais adding to their rich history in school Netball.

MAGS led from start to finish in a tough Pita Pit NZ Secondary Schools Netball Championship grand final to beat Westlake Girls’ High School 32-23 at the Southern Trust Events Centre in Timaru.

Co-coach Sarah Hann said she was delighted with the final result after what had been a tough week-long tournament.

MAGS comfortably reached the championship top eight but the route to the title decider proved a harder pathway.

Hann said the close games over the last two days had been a good build-up to the grand final against Westlake Girls’.

“We dropped a game against New Plymouth (Girls’ High School) and that was when the girls realised that they could bounce back,” she said. “I think that made them work harder, unite together and realise they could do it – we just took the bumpy road to the final.”

The score-line in Friday’s final was convincing in the end but MAGS was made to work hard for their sixth national crown – their first in two years – against a determined Westlake side.

Hann said they had discussed the importance of maintaining their composure against a Westlake side that had impressed all week.

“We had to stay calm,” she said. “We knew what we had to do on court and knew that we had to do a job out there.”

Westlake did enough to contest in the opening spell, led by defenders Rachael Webster and Courtney Katterns who picked up plenty of ball, but struggled to convert at the other end of the court over the long reach of MAGS defenders Ruby Young and Halaevalu Toutaiolepo.

They trailed 3-7 at the first break and looked like slipping off the pace early in the second quarter before mounting a comeback as shooters Angeline Godinet and Kylie McGahan found their radars.

The gap was cut to three goals at the main break but MAGS started to flex its muscle in the second half with Toutaiolepo proving a menace on defence and Crystal Maro dictating play on attack.

Toutaiolepo disrupted Westlake’s flow up front and her drive through court on attack ensured a quick transition for MAGS.

Maro not only showed accuracy with ball in hand, netting 23 of her team’s goals, but maintained a high work-rate in and around the circle.

Her strong combination with junior Tall Ferns basketballer and goal shooter Sharne Pupuke-Robati and their ability to work the ball in closer to the post for an easier shot at goal, gave MAGS an advantage as they continued to build on their buffer, leading 24-17 at the three quarter mark.

The tussle between MAGS centre Addi Albert-Jones and her counterpart Sara McCarthy was another highlight as Westlake pushed their opponent hard to the final whistles.

Meanwhile, extra time was needed to determine third place with Saint Kentigern College eventually overcoming Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 36-33.

Saint Kentigern trailed 20-11 at the main break but a reshuffle on defence and through the mid-court sparked a revival as they won the third spell 12-5.

They claimed the fourth quarter and looked to have snatched a thrilling victory in regulation time before Epsom shooter Anna Millar landed a goal on the buzzer to send the play-off into extra time.

But from there it was all Saint Kentigern as they netted three goals and kept Epsom scoreless in the first period of play.

Captain Tayla Earle said her team’s “want” in the second half of the game got them through.

“I think it was just that want to do well,” she said. “We wanted to get that third for our parents and everyone here supporting us. We just wanted it so badly.”

Results:

Final: Mount Albert Grammar School 32 (Sharne Pupuke-Robati 9/11, Crystal Maro 23/26) beat Westlake Girls’ High School 23 (Angeline Godinet 12/19, Kylie McGahan 11/19). Quarter scores: 7-3, 15-12, 24-17, 32-23.

Third/Fourth: Saint Kentigern College 36 (Renee Flay 25/30, Jasleen Singh 11/13) beat Epsom Girls’ Grammar School 33 (Anna Millar 26/34, Bianca Nagaiya 7/8). Quarter scores: 6-9, 11-20, 23-25, 32-32. ET: 35-32, 36-33.