Team savours title


Young coach Hamish Robertson hailed the fighting spirit of his boys after a memorable week in Palmerston North.
St Kevin’s College won a second New Zealand secondary schools A title after a thrilling 71-68 win over Manukura in a final that went to overtime.
“It was a hell of a run,” Robertson said.
“We had a great team, and everyone contributed on the court.”
The road to glory was far from smooth for St Kevin’s, which lost to fierce South Island rival Catholic Cathedral College on the opening day and had to fight hard to even reach the final.
“We got tested early on, and lost that second pool game after being up by about 16. That was a bit of a wake-up call,” Robertson said.
“I was really proud of the lads for never giving up. They just weathered the storm and fought back.”
It was a particularly special week for Robertson (20), who was a key member of the St Kevin’s team – and tournament most valuable player – that won the title in 2013.
Another St Kevin’s pupil, Matt Brien, took MVP honours this year.
Brien, the sweet-shooting swingman who made the tournament team at the New Zealand under-19 championships earlier this year, starred in the final with 24 points (including 5-of-12 from beyond the arc) and nine rebounds.
“Matt has really worked hard this year, and he’s getting the recognition he deserves,” Robertson said.
“He’s come a long way as a leader, too.”
Chinese import Youheng Peng finished with 20 points and 14 rebounds, and livewire point guard Alex Gonzales contributed 14 points and four assists.
“Those guys carried the scoring load, but everyone put their hand up on defence,” Robertson said.
“The bench support was great and everyone played their role perfectly.”
Both Brien and Peng made the tournament team.
St Kevin’s led Manukura 15-10 after the first quarter and 29-22 at halftime, but Manukura charged into a 43-42 lead after three quarters.
Peng tied the game up at 58-58 from the line, and both sides missed chances in the final minutes.
Brien took over in the final stages of overtime, draining a clutch corner jumper and calmly slotting two free throws.
The St Kevin’s girls had a tough week but finished with a gutsy effort in a 58-49 loss to Ellesmere.
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