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Finalists found at New Zealand Secondary School Champs

Howick College’s fairy-tale debut at the New Zealand Secondary School Champs continues after the Auckland school booked a place in the grand final.

They will meet the defending champion Saint Kentigern College in Friday’s title decider at the Energy Events Centre in Rotorua.

Both sides went through the second phase of pool play unbeaten to earn the right to play for the national schools’ crown.

And it could be the debutantes who take the upper hand into the final after beating Saint Kentigern in their first game of the tournament on day one, winning 30-27.

Howick beat St Hilda’s Collegiate School 40-21 earlier on Thursday and a strong opening quarter set it up for a 33-29 win over Epsom Girls’ Grammar School to confirm their place in the final two.

The defensive pressure through the mid-court – where centre Myia Hetaraka and wing defence Iva Livani picked up five intercepts between them – proved a strength to their game against Epsom Girls’ while goal keeper Nanise Waqaira was again strong at the back

They led 14-11 at half-time with shooters Leehava Saverio and Lasalle Lefale sharing the load in the circle.

Howick also showed its superiority with rebounding picking up four more than their opponents to give it the edge.

It was a tough road for Saint Kentigern en route to the final after falling early to Howick, setting them on a path for a re-match of last year’s grand final against Mount Albert Grammar School (MAGS) in pool play.

The match-up went some way in determining which side would finish top of their pool and Saint Kentigern led from the opening quarter for a narrow 34-32 win.

NZSS HUB: Draw and Results

They then had to hold their nerve in a tense battle with St Mary’s College of Wellington to book their place in the grand final, winning 29-26.

Saint Kentigern’s front line stood out with Beko Netball League player Ashleigh Garner shining at goal attack, netting 24 of her team’s goals.

New Zealand Secondary Schools mid-courter Tayla Earle controlled the game through the middle with her feeding into the shooting circle and also nabbing three intercepts and deflections.

Saint Kentigern put up 15 more goals than their opponents but struggled with their radar at times.

The play-off for third and fourth place will see Palmerston North’s Manukura take on Epsom Girls’ while Waikato Diocesan meets MAGS and St Hilda’s Collegiate will play St Mary’s for seventh and eighth place.

Meanwhile, St Paul’s Collegiate and Sacred Heart College of Lower Hutt topped their respective pools and will meet to determine ninth and 10th place.

Sacred Heart College edged into the top play-off position after beating Ashburton College 40-25 in a tightly contested pool while St Paul’s went through the round unbeaten.