Girls' basketball team makes Taranaki history
19 Jul 2018
When Shay Haira started coaching girls' basketball at a Taranaki high school she told her team that before they finished their education they'd win a national title.
Now the Taranaki Girls' Under 17 Basketball team has made history under Haira's guidance - they're the first Taranaki basketball team to win a national competition.
And player Caitlin O'Connell, 15, is the first local basketballer to be named Most Valuable Player (MVP) of the Aon Under 17 Girls' National Basketball Championship.
"I told them before I stop coaching you lot, we're going to win nationals," Haira said. "I told them 'I promise'."
Haira has coached most of the girls in the team for years, and despite expecting to win a secondaries school competition before a regional representative championship, she felt positive about the championship.
"Taranaki have never even been in a final, ever," Haira said. "We're the underdogs."
The semi-final against Waikato and final against Harbour were the two worst games the team had played all year, Haira said.
"We've only lost one game this year," she said. "And it was [against] Australia."
But that didn't matter once they had the trophy in their hands.
It hasn't all been easy. Haira has trained herself over the years how to coach girls - what works and what doesn't.
"You can't scream at girls because if they cry they're not going to play," Haira said. "And with girls, one of two teams can turn up.
"You could have the team of girls you're used to or a team of teenage girls."
In saying this, Haira said the team was talented, which is why they won.
"It makes for an easy job," Haira said. "They're history makers, these babes."
As for the tournament's MVP O'Connell, she knew her team had it in the bag.
"If you believe you can win, you can win."
O'Connell, who has represented New Zealand in basketball, attends New Plymouth's Sacred Heart Girls' College and this was where she first played under Haira.
She had no clue she was going to win MVP.
"It was really unexpected," O'Connell said. "I thought a lot of girls in our team could have got it."
Stuff - Jane Matthews