It took a while but Meaghan Wilby got there.
She marked her fifth and final year with the Wellington Girls' College basketball team with victory in the premier one final last week.
Wilby and fellow Junior Tall Fern Camace Salmon scored 20 points apiece as Wellington Girls' took the Sharp Cup by beating St Oran's 69-41.
It was the first premiership for Wellington Girls' since 2000.
"It was really exciting and definitely one of the sweeter victories," said Wilby, who made the senior team as a year 9.
"It was well worth the wait. The basketball culture in the school has really developed since I've been here and it was nice to finish like that."
Wellington Girls' were a dominant force in basketball in the 1990s, winning the Sharp Cup five times in six years, but found the past decade harder.
The senior team was relegated to division one for half a season during Wilby's stint with the team but reached the Sharp Cup final last year, when they were beaten by an outstanding Hutt Valley High School side.
However, Wellington Girls' lost just one player from the 2011 squad and have been the benchmark team this year.
They had a couple of losses early in the season, when injury took a toll, but were unbeaten in the championship round, scoring 402 points with only 251 against.
"We thought we would go well this year, with pretty much the same team as last year," Wilby said.
She and Salmon are among the five players leaving this year but two year 10 players were among the starting five in the final and Wilby expects the team to be a force again in 2013.
"The juniors just lost the final [to Aotea] last week and the team will still be strong next year."
Wilby has also had to work around ankle problems this winter and has withdrawn from the Junior Tall Ferns squad for the Oceania championships.
"I've had problems with my feet for a couple of years. They constantly get hammered and don't get much rest.
"I've got problems with both ankles, including a stress fracture but it's not bad enough that I have to stop immediately.
"But I had to pull out of the Junior Tall Ferns, which was a bit of a bummer.
"The camps and high intensity training [with the Tall Ferns] put so much stress on the ankles.
"But I will definitely play out the school basketball season. I was never going to give up the school basketball."
Wilby was also able to play for the Hutt Valley Flyers in the national women's basketball league. "They are such a good team to play for and I really enjoyed it."
Wellington Girls', who made the national finals for the first time last year, are likely to qualify for the nationals again this week, through the regional tournament in Palmerston North.
In a nice touch, Wellington Girls' coach Mark Ngan Kee put the five year 13 players in the squad - Wilby, Salmon, Sarah Ngan Kee, Kate Southorn and Grace Uluiburotu - on the court in the closing stages of the Wellington final.
"I was proud of the girls and I think they really deserved the title," Mark Ngan Kee said. "We have been trying to build depth over the last two years and I think our defence proved that we have done that."
Wellington Girls' had four year 10 players in their squad and will take a fifth to the regional tournament. The youngsters include Tegan Graham and Caitlin Grice, who were in the starting five for the final.
"They are both awesome players and Tegan has that x-factor," Ngan Kee said.
Junior Tall Black Tom Vodanovich scored 29 points when St Pat's Town beat defending champions Hutt Valley 72-65 in the premier one boys' final.
It was the fourth Pohlen Cup win for Town in seven years, the first coming in 2006.
Town led by 20 points at halftime but Hutt Valley came back strongly to ensure a tight final quarter.
"The boys played well but they might have celebrated a bit too early at halftime," Town coach George Le'afa said. "Hutt Valley picked it up in the third quarter and it was pretty much a ball game in the last quarter. We only edged away in the last 30 seconds."
Vodanovich had been a dominant player, on both offence and defence, and Paul Won and year 11 Izayah Mauriohooho-Le'afa also had big games, with the latter sinking a vital three-pointer late in the game. Town will lose half of their squad next year, including Vodanovich, but Won, Mauriohooho-Le'afa, Kwain Kiriau and Jamal Mikaio will form the nucleus of a strong team.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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