Valley take gold in netball final

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Merial Ancare Valley Gold were crowned Premier Division champions at the North Otago Netball Centre on Saturday with a 49-42 victory over Waitaki Girls’ Lightning Strike.

It was the first time Valley had played in the final since 1999 after booking a final spot with a 31-29 victory over an unrelenting Athletic last Saturday, while Lightning Strike downed fellow Waitaki Girls’ team Wildfire 40-25 in the opposite fixture.

Waitaki came into the final after narrowly losing out 41-37 at the South Island Secondary Schools Senior B final in Invercargill on Thursday, but produced a confident and well-rounded performance.

Waitaki coach Georgie Salter said Valley’s tactical nous and Petra Aspros’ crucial interception in the fourth quarter played a key role in her side’s loss.

“Valley out-manoeuvred us tactically. Tactically they were very clever,” she said.

“We haven’t beaten Valley all year, because they’ve got people like Petra Aspros, who’s a coach to the girls. We couldn’t lock her down. She was too good for us, too smart.

“Defensively, they had two lovely jumpers. That made it difficult for us but the difference was the mid-court.

“I think their mid-court was better than ours. Petra’s interception came at a crucial time and she fed the shooters well.”

Valley player-coach Abbey McKenzie praised the schoolgirls’ efforts following the action-packed final.

“They had it, we thought, then we got an intercept at a really crucial time that sparked us,” she said.

“We got 10 of the last 13 goals. I think it was older heads and a bit more experience that got us through.

“They should be extremely proud of how they played. They took it to us. We didn’t expect it to be that tight. We knew it wouldn’t be easy but they played really well.”

Waitaki Wildfire toppled Athies 50-17 in the third place playoff fixture, while Excelsior secured fifth place with a 37-25 win over SKC Snr A, and Valley Silver downed SKC Snr B 39-20 in the clash of the bottom two.

See more photos of the final on page 17

By JAMES FORD

PHOTO: JAMES FORD – Petra Aspros played a key role in Valley’s final victory.