23 years in making

Chicken dinner . . . It has been 23 years since St Mary’s A netball team, pictured with coach Justine Goatley, left, won the entire MLT Premier section one grade, and this year they pulled it off with a 35-24 win over Ex High on Saturday. PHOTO: EVELYN THORN

It has been 23 years — but St Mary’s have finally done it.

Netball Eastern Southland held its season finals at the weekend.

Teams of all grades fought for the top of the table throughout the day.

The long-awaited premier grade section one pitted St Mary’s A against Ex High, who had held the top spot for 16 consecutive years.

Crowds filled the grandstand and the sideline to watch the two teams battle it out.

Up and in . . . St Mary’s A goal keep Hannah Rowland gives her all to stop Ex High goal shoot Paige Blom from getting it in the net.

St Mary’s played to their advantages.

Their shooting was on point throughout the entire game, but Ex High continued to make them work for it every quarter.

Ex High were feisty on the defence as they worked hard to catch up with their opposition.

At halftime the score was close at 17-14 to St Mary’s.

The score could have gone either way at the start of the third quarter.

Rapid fire play during the last two quarters had both teams hungry for the win, but St Mary’s stuck to their guns and finished first with a fulltime score of 35-24.

The last time St Mary’s won the premier section one grade was in 2000.

Reach for the stars . . . Ex High and St Mary’s A players reach for the ball during their finals match on Saturday.

St Mary’s A coach Justine Goatley said she was ‘‘extremely proud’’ of the team’s win.

‘‘We walked in pretty confident, as we’d beat Ex High twice in the season already.

‘‘The girls knew they had to be at the top of their game, and they were.’’

‘‘We’ve got an awesome team culture that helped us win today.

‘‘I’m so proud of them.’’

Ex High coach Colleen Bond congratulated the team on their win.

‘‘It’s been a reasonable season for us, as we’ve had stalwarts leave and new developing players introduced into the team.

‘‘It was not an easy game. Credit where it’s due, St Mary’s shooting was perfect and they definitely deserved the win, so congratulations to them.’’

The end of the finals wraps up the netball season for another year.

On defence . . . Ex High centre Jess Ingham guards St Mary’s wing attack Tia Tuhakaraina during their finals match.