(Back row) Assistant Coach Tāne Bennett, Cecilia Te Kani (Manager), Te Rina Coffin, Hemoata Hill, Te Hiria Bennett, Makayla Dash, Ngatai Bennett, Amelia Palmer, Rachael Kuka, Head Coach Teimana Bennett (front row) Laura Kuka, Te Marama Hika-Munroe, Carissa Te Wharau.
Te Maru o Mauao Wāhine took out the National Championship to secure their place in history. Led by Makayla (Maka) Dash, the team had a bruising encounter with Ngāti Koata and scored the winning basket in overtime.

Maka was determined to have a top game for the title and seek selection for the NZ Māori Women’s team “I’m still buzzing what a feeling”. At the start of the tournament Maka had indicated that “this tourney is all for my family. Well whānau, we are bringing a gold medal home for you, blessed for an awesome tournament and a great team. Thanks’ Ngāti Koata for a great game, overtime and everything” said Maka.

Head Coach Teimana Bennett was over the moon by the team’s efforts. It hadn’t been the best build up with many players flying home from overseas just before the tournament, and several injuries during tough games. Teimana was joined by his son Tāne Bennett (assistant coach), his mum Cecilia Te Kani (manager) and had two daughters playing Te Hiria and Ngātai Bennett. It was a real whānau effort. The Kuka whānau was represented too, with sisters Rachael and Laura Kuka and their niece Te Rina Coffin.

Club secretary Shirley-Marie Whata-Coffin was feeling overwhelmed with pride. “Some of our teams won, some didn’t. It wasn’t about the big W, it was about being together, putting our best foot forward and representing Tauranga Moana. Each wahine player displayed the commitment, passion and mana of great leaders on and off the court. As a result of this, they won the hearts and respect of many. Our star player for the tournament was Maka. She went with a mindset so strong and with

the support of her coaches and team. They were unstoppable. They fought hard, played hard and displayed the level of basketball that all of our tamariki want to aspire to, and to top it off, they’re great people.”

Antoine Coffin, Chairman of the club said he hadn’t seen games like this since the 1980s. “These were two teams with strong uncompromising defense slugging it out in the paint. It comes down too little moments of magic, a 3-pointer, a stolen ball, a perfect defensive stance, a rebound. I’m so proud of the way the wāhine played on court and conducted themselves off court. Ngāti Koata are a quality team and never gave up. They managed to draw at fulltime forcing the golden point overtime and had two possessions before Te Maru o Mauao got the ball from a charge and moved the ball down court for a layup, which missed but was rebounded by Maka and she made no mistake getting it in the hoop.”