Viva Las Vegas!
She might have gone into Las Vegas a long shot, but Porirua girl Sariah Penese hit the jackpot at an international basketball tournament this winter.
Penese, 13, was the youngest member of the New Zealand under-15 team, who spent a week in the United States in July for the Las Vegas Big Hoop 2012 tournament.
The Kiwis were undefeated against their American and Canadian counterparts, winning the final game in a nail-biter 65-63 match.
‘‘It was awesome,’’ the Brandon Intermediate pupil said. ‘‘I felt I played pretty well for my first time on a New Zealand team.’’
Penese’s team played every day of their week in the US. She was impressed by the calibre of North American teams.
‘‘I was amazed at their dribbling skills and how confident they were. It’s just practice, repetition, training, all the time,’’ she said.
Even the under-10 teams had impressive skills, like doing crossovers through their legs, Penese said. ‘‘I was like, wow.’’
The team spirit evident among American teams was another inspiration – the Kiwis began giving each other pep talks and cheers more after seeing American teams high-five each other constantly.
Aside from basketball, Las Vegas was an amazing place to visit, Penese said – it was hot, the lights at night were incredible, the food was great, and the team felt like celebrities every time they arrived at a new stadium. ‘‘We felt really special because in every stadium there were huge security guards, and we had to show them our passes,’’ she said.
Penese now hopes to qualify for the under- 15s or 17s for next year’s Las Vegas jaunt. Treated: Paremata-Plimmerton’s under- 9 rugby team, the Eels, knew they were in for a treat after winning all but one game this season. But they didn’t expect to be presented with their end- ofseason certificates by rugby legend Ma’a Nonu. The squad met Nonu during a tour of the New Zealand Rugby Union on August 29, team convenor Jenna Booth says.
The kids went bananas when the All Black arrived, she says. ‘‘The looks on their faces – they had no idea. It was really cool.’’
What happened in Vegas: Brandon Intermediate student Sariah Penese experienced the high life at an international basketball tournament in Las Vegas, where her New Zealand under-15 team emerged unbeaten.