Waitaki Boys’ High School and St Kevin’s College are heading to the business end of their Otago secondary schools basketball seasons.
After six rounds of the senior boys premier competition, the Waitaki Boys’ senior A team is second on the table, behind King’s High School, and the St Kevin’s top V is fifth. However, some of the other Otago secondary school teams have catch-up games to play, before the eight-team competition is split into top and bottom four.
After winning the competition for the past two years in a row, Waitaki Boys’ had the goal of making the final again this year, but for now, securing a top four spot was the focus, coach Ian Cathcart said.
Waitaki Boys’ has lost some key players from last year’s competition-winning squad, including Danyon Ashcroft, who has been named in the Otago Nuggets this year. But the team was adjusting to a new roster of players, and was ‘‘moving in the right direction’’, Cathcart said.
He was impressed with some of the young talent coming through the school, and by the way senior players were stepping up as leaders.
‘‘We’re just having to adjust the style that we play — defensively and offensively,’’ he said.
‘‘Just getting the guys to continue to play the right way and be there for each other.’’
Waitaki Boys’, like every other team in the competition, had struggled with illness and availability due to Covid-19, and Cathcart expected them to keep improving each week.
‘‘It has been tough for us. I went a couple of weeks there where I only had four, five, six guys at training — so it has been hard to get everyone on the same page.’’
Waitaki Boys’ bounced back from a 90-59 loss to John McGlashan College on June 3, to beat hometown rival St Kevin’s 100-78 in front of a big crowd at the Waitaki Community Recreation Centre last week.
Cathcart said St Kevin’s ‘‘fronted up’’ and played ‘‘extremely well’’, putting Waitaki Boys’ under pressure. He heaped praise on coach Jacob Fowler, who is in his first year coaching.
‘‘It was a really good game, good atmosphere as well,’’ he said.
Fowler was pleased with his side’s effort against a ‘‘bigger’’ Waitaki Boys’ side.
‘‘The boys definitely gave it their all, that’s for sure — just lost the rebounding battle, in my opinion,’’ he said.
Fowler is in his first year out of school and is now coaching the team he played in for several years, as well as the junior A team. He is being assisted by former St Kevin’s College pupil Matt Brien, while he is home from playing for the University of Nebraska Kearney in division two of the United States National Collegiate Athletic Association championships.
Like Waitaki Boys’, St Kevin’s had lost a few players from last season, but Fowler said the younger players had really risen to the challenge.
‘‘The boys have stepped up, especially those younger ones who have come off just playing juniors and now they’re playing against some bigger boys in the seniors — they’re definitely holding their own this year, which has been good,’’ he said.
‘‘They’re going all right — a couple of ups and downs, some good games, bad games — but all in all we’ve done pretty good for a small school.’’
The top four of the Otago secondary schools competition was probably out of reach for St Kevin’s, after losing four out of six games so far this season, but Fowler was aiming to win the bottom four.
Tonight, in Dunedin, St Kevin’s takes on Otago Boys’ Blue, and Waitaki Boys’ faces the unbeaten King’s Lions.
After four rounds of the Otago secondary schools basketball senior girls A grade, Waitaki teams are leading the way — the St Kevin’s top V women are unbeaten and the Waitaki Girls’ A team is second on the table, having dropped only one game.