St Kevin’s College First V’s fairytale journey ended in style on Thursday night by being crowned BBNZ “A” Secondary school men’s national champions, downing Dunstan 68-50 in Palmerston North.
After being called back in to the tournament to make up the numbers following a series of withdrawals and a disappointing South Island regional competition in Westport, SKC produced a sterling display to take the top prize.
Coach Brendon Polyblank believes injury woes prevented his team from automatic qualification.
“We had a string of bad injuries,” he said.
“Hammer (Hamish Robertson) injured his ankle, Nikko (Kim) split his heel open and Matty Brien sprained his Achilles so we just didn’t have enough fire power.”
The former Tall Black praised his players’ work ethic and belief.
“It’s something to be proud of,” he said.
“It was our best performance as a team. We were the better team.
“These guys have a great attitude. The key is, they’re all good mates off the floor and there’s a harmony in the team.
“They all bought into what the team is about and the culture. They all came to every practice and worked hard. I ran them hard and they worked their butts off.
“We were the fittest team and proably the quickest.”
Team captain Hamish Robertson picked up the tournament’s Most Valuable Player award and made the tournament team, along with Nikko Kym.
Robertson said it was a great improvement after being downed by Dunstan by 21 points in the pool stage and emphasised the importance of his coach’s influence.
“It was great. It showed we had improved,” he said.
“We practised hard and came back strong. He (Brendon Polyblank) had a massive influence. He’s raised everyone’s basketball IQ. He’s helped massively.
“It was great. Everyone was stoked and really happy. It was a great team effort.”