Gaining the second half ascendancy, Avondale College went on to clinch their first title in 21 years after pipping Saint Kentigern College 38-37 in the Grand Final of the Netball NZ Secondary Schools Champs in Auckland on Friday.
In a fitting finale, Saint Kentigern held the momentum during the first half exchanges before Avondale College bounced back with a powerful second half response, with both sides showcasing the very best of schoolgirl netball.
“I’m so proud, the girls have worked really hard over the last couple of years. A lot of our girls have worked with us from Year 9, and to see them win this title is amazing. I’m a very proud coach,” Avondale coach Rachel Rasmussen said.
“The last minute was a bit nerve-wracking but I just wanted the girls to finish off strong and finish off the work that they have done and they were deserving of it.
“It was an amazing game from both teams, it always is with Saint Kent’s but we’re just happy to be on the right side of the result.’’
With the possession stakes evening out in the second half, Avondale’s greater shooting accuracy proved the deciding factor. With goal shoot Priscilla Rasmussen the individual standout after converting 33 shots from 34 attempts, Avondale enjoyed a 93 percent accuracy rate compared to Saint Kentigern’s 80 percent.
Saint Kentigern’s got away to a flying start before Avondale reeled them in to leave the scores level at 11-all heading into the first break.
It was a similar scenario on the resumption with Saint Kentigern getting the early jump which they held to establish a five-goal buffer when leading 23-18 at halftime. Goal shoot Sophia Lafaiali’i found her range under the hoop to help put her side in the driver’s seat with 20 minutes to go.
Trailing by six soon after the resumption, Avondale sprung back into life to turn the tables in a momentum-swinging third quarter. Going off the boil, Saint Kentigern introduced fresh legs but the hot shooting of Rasmussen and their revived impetus pushed Avondale into a 30-29 lead at the last break, leaving the game wide open.
Avondale stretched further ahead in the opening minutes of the final quarter but Saint Kentigern clawed back admirably to trail by just one with 90 seconds to go, Avondale holding firm to cling on for a nail-biting win to claim their first NZ Secondary Schools title since 2002.
Earlier, St Mary’s College, Wellington, claimed third place when posting a 28-20 win over Dunedin’s Columba College.
Goals were hard to come by throughout the low-scoring spectacle where neither side was able to score double digits in any of the four quarters.
More possession and stronger shooting percentages helped St Mary’s retain a narrow edge through the first three quarters of the match before the side from Wellington delivered a dominant surge in the run home to clinch a hard-fought win.
Featuring prominently throughout the tournament, NZ U21 squad members, goal attack Phoenix Schwalger and goalkeeper Caitlin Lafaele played key roles in helping St Mary’s seal third spot.