Viva Las Ve­gas!

Kapi-Mana News - - SPORT - By AN­DREA O’NEIL

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.

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