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The big stage . . . Members of the St Kevin's College basketball team, runners-up at the National Secondary Schools Boys A tournament, are (back, from left) Hamish Sutherland, Duran Cooper, Henry Kay, Jack Andrew, Corbyn Hocken, Paea Fifita, (front) Traye McKenzie, Jack Souness, Aaron Maxwell, Ben Dyson, Jacob Fowler and Mark Xie. PHOTO: SUPPLIED

St Kevin’s College could not have come much closer to winning the National Secondary Schools Boys A Tournament in Palmerston North last week.

The school lost 58-56 to Opunake High School in the final last Thursday.

St Kevin’s coach Mitch McRae said he was proud of the achievements of his team.

“We gave ourselves a chance and just came up short,” he said.

“Basketball is a funny game. At the end of the day someone has to be on the losing side, and unfortunately it happened to be us.”

Earlier in the week, St Kevin’s topped its pool, winning games against Hillmorton High School 91-60, Te Aroha College 87-80, Hornby High school 104-71, eventual winner Opunake High School 61-52 and Kavanagh College 83-52.

It then dispatched Mana College 86-75 to make the final and a rematch with Opunake.

St Kevin’s was in front for most of the final, and had a 49-43 lead going in to the final quarter.

But the shots just would not drop for St Kevin’s during the final 20 minutes, as the Oamaru team was outscored by Opunake 15-9.

“A wee bit of pressure at the end, and they forced us to turn the ball over,” McRae said.

“Big games like that, you can’t afford to turn the ball over because that bites you in the bum.

“The number one team from the South Island and number one team from the North Island made the final, so you couldn’t ask for two better teams to be competing for it.

“The boys have achieved a lot this year and obviously it gives you a bit of an urge to look forward to the next season already.”

St Kevin’s players Jack Andrew and Paea Fifita were selected for the tournament team, after averaging 24.9 and 14.9 points per game respectively.

“It’s always nice to see a couple of boys recognised, it shows the amount of work and effort,” McRae said.

“They probably wouldn’t make that tournament team without their teammates as well.

“They’ve played some phenomenal basketball all week.”

St Kevin’s College and Waitaki Boys’ High School results this season were evidence basketball in North Otago was strong, he said.

“We have got some phenomenal talent, so it’s a positive sign for the bigger picture.

“Obviously there is a good rivalry between the two schools, but basketball is the big winner.”