10 takes from the Schick Championships Secondary Schools Nationals

The 2019 Schick Championships Secondary Schools Nationals concluded on Saturday. Below are some reflections on another hugely successful tournament.

1. St Peter’s School, Cambridge are fast becoming a girls’ basketball dynasty.

Not since the heyday of Church College has one school dominated girls’ basketball as St Peter’s have in the last five years. After finishing third in 2014, St Peter’s have won four of the last five championships and they finished runners-up to St Mary’s College, Wellington in 2017.

A record of 46-2 in the last six years illustrates that dominance.

St Peter’s co-captains Ella Bradley and Charlisse Leger-Walker have appeared in the Schick Championship Grand Final in all of their five years at high school and for good measure, Charlisse now has four tournament MVP titles to adorn her trophy cabinet – an astonishing record that will probably never be repeated.

2. No school has won three ‘AA’ Boys titles on the bounce since Church College won five in a row between 1984-1988. Before that, Mairehau High School notched the triple in the early 70s but it is a tremendously difficult feat to accomplish.

Rangitoto College, Westlake Boys High School (twice), St Patrick’s College Kilbirnie, Palmerston North Boys High School and Church College (twice) have all gone back-to-back but failed to win the elusive third. Rosmini College, aiming for three in a row, found it a bridge too far this year, so it will be a while longer before a school lifts the Doug Harford Memorial Trophy on three consecutive occasions.

3. St Kentigern College won their first-ever ‘AA’ Boys Championship. They become the 23rd school to win the title since the tournament began in 1968 when Tokoroa High School were top dogs.

Kavanagh College was deserved ‘A’ Girls Champions seeing off the challenge of Te Aroha College. Gerard Mullin’s team return to Dunedin with the championship banner, which will sit alongside the one won by Kavanagh Boys in 2014.

The ‘A’ Boys title went to Opunake High School under the guidance of coach Jeneane Taamaru. Opunake girls’ teams have tasted championship success on three occasions, but this year was the first time the Opunake boys lifted the trophy. 

4. American College coaches regularly attend Schick Championships and invariably they are complimentary about the quality of play and the abilities of the elite players.

“I’m here to recruit on the women’s side of things but I couldn’t help watch some of the men’s games and I have already called my guys back at BYU and told them you should be down here. 

“I’ve seen a number of players who are division 1 level, I’ve been impressed,” BYU Women’s Assistant Coach Lee Cummard said.

University of Portland Men’s Assistant Coach Ben Johnson, on his fourth visit to New Zealand, expressed a similar sentiment.

“There is some really good talent here. I’ve been really impressed with the level of skill and their ability to play an unselfish team concept of basketball. 

“It’s a style that fits into our philosophy at Portland so I’m really excited with what I have seen here.

“I’ve been telling people for the last four years to look out for New Zealand, their basketball is really on the upswing,” Johnson added.

Only time will tell how many of the Schick Championships’ class of 2019 receive college offers but the omens are good.

5. As St Kentigern Assistant Coach Kazlo Evans told ‘Ray Cameron Live’, “This is where the best talent is, this is where the best coaches are.”

There was no doubt that there was plenty of quality coaches patrolling the sidelines.

From the wily veterans like Jeneane Taamaru (Opunake High School), Joe Frost (Manukura), Gavin Briggs (Otago Girls’ High School) and Tyler Wilkinson (Hamilton Girls’ High School) to the young up and comers like Aaron Young (Saint Kentigern College), Matt Lacey (Rosmini College), Morgan Maskell (Napier Girls’ High School), Randall Bishop (Mana College) and Tane Bennett (Te Wharekura o Mauao). 

How about the number of ex Tall Blacks and Tall Ferns passing on their vast accumulated knowledge to the next wave of potential international players?

Leanne Walker (St Peter’s), Jody Cameron (St Mary’s College, Ponsonby) are former Olympians while Shea Crotty (Rangi Ruru Girls’ High School) and Alyssa Hirawani (Melville High School) are more recent Tall Ferns.

The number of former Tall Blacks occupying the pine numbered double-digits including Lindsay Tait (Auckland Grammar School), Daryl Cartwright (Mt Albert Grammar School), Troy McLean (Scots College), Chris Tupu (Rongotai College), Brendon Polyblank (St Patrick’s College, Kilbirnie), Brad Riley (Rangitoto College), Andrew Parke (Baradene College) and Nick Horvath (Manukura).

6. Fifty-two referees controlled the 278 games played at the 2019 Schick Championships – a shout out to all of them for a job well done. Special mention to the young referees on the rise who controlled prime contests at the sharp end of the tournament; Toni-Lee Smith-Hunwick, Brad Clive, Hamish Dale (all Canterbury), Reagan Ashley (South Canterbury), Tamatea Bennett (Tauranga), Brendan Douglas (Rotorua) and Aimee-Jo Clark (Capital).

7. Live TV coverage of the Schick Championships finals for the first time ever. Basketball is on the rise and media outlets are beginning to take notice, especially SKY TV, who to their credit are showing more and more basketball on their sports channels.

SKY TV carried live coverage of both the Boys’ and Girls’ ‘A’ and ‘AA’ finals with respected analyst Casey Frank adding his distinctive style on an entertaining final day.

8. Twenty-four games were live streamed with Justin Nelson and Andrew Horrocks (Harbour) the commentary team calling most of the games. Not an easy task following on from Zico ‘The Encyclopedia of New Zealand Basketball’ Coronel, but the guys were terrific.

As Horrocks, attending his first Schick Championships, said, “I can see why everyone says this is the best tournament on the basketball calendar.”

9. The passion that high school basketball provides is there for all to see, with the 71 teams in attendance all representing their school, alumni and whānau with pride.

The post-game haka performed by Ngā Taiātea Wharekura following their game against Te Aroha College epitomised the emotions, rivalry and respect that radiates throughout the six days of the Schick Championships.

10. The positive impact of the volunteers recruited by Basketball Manawatu and Sport Manawatu cannot be overstated.

Hosting the Schick Championships in Palmerston North provides a unique opportunity to build the basketball sector and event capability within the local community. An ideal training platform for volunteers and students to gain practical and event experience.

Over 150 people gave up their time to contribute to the tournament, where they undertake various roles including accreditation, front of house, scorebench, statistics, floor control, security, event organisation and administration.

The largest task is providing score bench officials for all 278 games – that is over 1,000 hours of volunteer time fulfilling that commitment alone.

Well done to all the volunteers and everyone involved for making the 2019 Schick Championships Secondary Schools Nationals the special event it was.

· 278 games

· 71 teams (36 boys and 35 girls teams)

· Just under 1000 players and team management

· Over 52 referees and trainers

· Over 150 volunteers and staff

· Nine basketball courts

· 24 live stream games

· Six days of basketball

Roll on October 2020!