Guided by the hand of Ray Cameron, the Portland Blazers found their way to victory in the 2012-13 Super-Six Basketball Championship final with a 76-59 win over Full Blooded Whangaruru.
The two teams have been the form sides of the competition and after winning a game apiece in their two clashes to date a tight final was expected at Kensington Stadium.
With all his experience, Cameron seemed to be only player not affected by nerves early on and made the plays to kick-start Portland's scoring after an early stall.
Whangaruru responded to their scoring block by bringing on veteran Carmen Hetaraka - who played alongside his son Tolu and grandsons Manasseh and Rangi in the line-up - which finally managed to get Whangaruru settled into the contest.
Portland led 24-11 after the first quarter and 40-23 at half-time as their defence under the boards saw Whangaruru's attack struggling to make headway.
Every time Whangaruru started to cut into the Blazers' lead, Cameron or one of his teammates would step up and pull off another great play to once again turn the momentum their way. Both teams felt the pressure in the third quarter, with both sides resorting to some niggle as the pressure grew.
Whangaruru stayed in touch right until the end and Portland skipper Harlyn Clunie said they never were able to relax.
"Any game against Whangaruru is a tough one and even in the final quarter they were coming at us guns blazing so it was a relief to get across the line," he said. Cameron's contribution was invaluable and inspirational. "It was a team effort but Ray helped keep us young ones composed, especially when we were losing it a bit in the third quarter and now we can look ahead to next year and try and go back-to-back as champions - that's what we're after," Clunie said.
Hetaraka was gracious in defeat but said doing the double wouldn't be easy for Portland.
"They're quite a mature team even though they've got a lot of young guys but Whangaruru has also got a lot of young players and we're a family unit so we'll come back stronger next year ... our girls won the girls competition and we made the final, so we've had a very good year."
Hetaraka said Cameron had proved a great addition to basketball in the north after returning to Portland this season. "It's so good to see him back up here in the north, he's such a good role model for all the young guys playing out here today," he said.
Cameron was named in the tournament team after the final, and the tournament's Most Valuable Player. The team is: Raymond Cameron, Keeghan Sadler, Imrahn Henare, Harlyn Clunie, Kane Rudolph, Atama O'Donnell, Arahi O'Donnell, Niasi Malua, Ethan Penney, Herb Smith.