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Gisborne Boys’ High ‘hit the big time’


First it was a dream, then a goal — and now a reality.

The Gisborne Boys’ High School Senior A team under Dwayne Tamatea have qualified for the Basketball New Zealand Schick AA National Championship Tournament. They’ve hit the big time.

The tournament, involving the country’s 24 best boys’ teams from four zones, will be held at Central Energy Trust Arena in Palmerston North from Monday, September 30 to Saturday, October 5. The Max Scott-led GBHS were the fourth-placed team of five to qualify from Zone 2, and so are in Pool A with St Kentigern College, Napier Boys’ High School, Middleton Grange School, Mount Albert Grammar School and Nayland College.

In 2018, St Kent’s were placed third, Napier eighth, MAGS 12th, Middleton Grange 20th in 2018; Nayland didn’t compete. Rosmini College of Auckland were the national champions.

Tamatea and his crew must now raise $10,000 to cover the entry fee, travel, accommodation, food and uniform costs for the four staff and 12 players over seven days, and they have just under three weeks to raise the sum.

The team beat Bethlehem College (104-64), Western Heights High School (100-45), Trident High School (101-71), Tauranga Boys’ College (104-100 in overtime) and St Peter’s School (75-72 — national qualifier) before losing 90-58 in the semi-final against Hamilton BHS and 87-61 to the home team, Rotorua BHS, in the playoff for third position in Zone 2.

Gisborne Boys’ High earned praise from opponents and legends alike. Of legends, former Tall Black captain Byron Vaetoe is on the list: “I’d never seen Gisborne before the Zone 2 tournament — and they came to play. Tama (Dwayne Tamatea) said I’m going to let my guards be them, push the ball, I’ve got guards who can shoot the ball. Tyrese Tuwairua-Brown is incredible — as good any shooter in the country. All players contributed. Gisborne’s style of play is what the New Zealand age-group teams want to get to. Tama was on point in everything he did and these boys believe in themselves because of his trust in them.”

Of opponents, Tauranga head coach Veni Iuli said: “The Gisborne boys have come a long way — everything they’ve got in front in front of them is well deserved. To qualify for the nationals was no easy feat. They do the little things on defence, the one-percenters, that other teams don’t: they’ve done the hard yards and are focused on the details. They’ve got chemistry, they’re giant-killers — we’re all proud of them.”

Mark Elers, whose Rotorua team beat GBHS for third spot in Zone 2 (and made the tremendous gesture of calling a time-out for the Gisborne team in the playoff, GBHS having none left), is one of the most astute minds in basketball.

“I’m very happy for them. At the Super 8 tournament, I told Tama that they’ve got a shot to qualify,” Elers said.

“They’ve got forwards who rebound well, good guards. They’re a tight unit, they create for each other. Tyrese breaks teams down and the others feed off him. Tama’s set them up to go to the nationals for the next couple of years — not just to make history, but create a legacy. This shouldn’t be a one-off; they’ll be seeded in the top 5 next year at the Zone 2 premierships.”

The last word goes to former Rising Sun and All Black Hosea Gear: “I think this has been a long time coming. It’s a credit to Tama, the work he’s done with the kids and the community; during my time we weren’t very strong in terms of ability compared with other schools but we always had great courage and fight in us no matter the score, and that’s what I was always proud of,” said the former GBHS captain.

“The boys should be confident, be competitive. They’ve earned the right to go and deserve to be there — a different mindset to being happy to qualify. I hope they express themselves and show everyone where we’re from, what we’re about. Courage Knows No Defeat — courage has always been our strength.

“Focus on the preparation and process; the result will take care of itself.”

CONTENDERS: Gisborne Boys’ High School have qualified for the national tournament. They are (from left): Tamati Horua, Henare Tofilau, Adam Nepe, Khian Westrupp, Daley Riri, Ofa Tauatevalu, Holden Wilson, Sam Veitch, Max Scott (captain), Tyrese Tuwairua-Brown and Dwayne Tamatea (head coach). Picture by Cory Scott