Opunake High School look to defend national basketball title
It's a tough ask to take out a national title, let alone win one back to back. But Opunake High School's girls basketball team will look to do just that at the secondary schools national basketball tournament next week.
The side travel to Palmerston North this weekend for the 'A' tournament, which begins on Monday, holding the top seed of the North Island schools.
The 'A' tournament is for smaller schools, with larger schools competing in the 'AA' tournament.
However, things won't be easy for the side as they come up against tough competition in pool play. The coastal Taranaki school have been grouped together with South Island top seeds Buller High School, Te Aroha College, as well as Te Wharekura o Mauao and Aquinas College - both from Tauranga.
"I'm really looking forward to it," Opunake coach Angelo Hill said. "The aim is to win our pool so that we get the so-called easier run...It's just one game at a time. We just have to try stay healthy and use the bench as much as possible."
The Opunake side will likely benefit from guard duo Iritana Hohaia and Simone Cook, as well as forward Isabelle Cook, having played with the Taranaki Thunder in the national women's competition this year.
The Thunder finished in second place this year, and Hill said the intensity of that competition was beneficial to the girls.
"Everyone that plays reps, it helps them at nationals and school level and it makes them used to playing with each other."
The team head to nationals on the back of a one-point loss to Sacred Heart Girls College in the local schools' final, however Hill said he was happy with how the team handled themselves in that one and that they were as ready as they could be to defend their national title.
"The goal is to repeat. A lot of things can happen between when we get there on Sunday and finals day, but that's the goal.
"I always think if I can get them to the championship game then I've done my job.
"We can do this. This group of girls have been really good a for a long time and it'd be nice for the year 13s to go out with a win."
Stratford High School will also send teams to the 'A' tournament, with the boys squad holding to top seed of the North Island schools, while the girls are seeded second in the north, behind Opunake.
The tournament runs from October 2-5.
Taranaki will also be represented in the 'AA' tournament. New Plymouth Boys' High School go into the competition as the fifth seed from zone three, while New Plymouth Girls' High School and Sacred Heart go in as the fourth and fifth zone three girls' seeds respectively.
The 'AA' tournament runs from October 2-7, and is also held in Palmerston North.