Hawks swoop against Saints as Nuggets’ Giant first half secures win over Nelson

HAWKES Bay Hawks swooped on the Wellington Saints early to post an impressive win in the 2019 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) finals rematch, whilst the Otago Nuggets spoiled the Nelson Giants’ 40th birthday celebrations in the other match. Both games saw the eventual winners storm to a big lead early, and shake up the ladder, as the top four teams now sit a game clear of the rest of the competition.

In the top three clash, Hawkes Hay Hawks leapfrogged the Wellington Saints to hand their opponents only their second loss for the season. Moving into second spot on the ladder, the Hawks did so by taking control from the opening tip-off and leading 23-12 at the first break. The Saints predictably clawed their way back into the contest, winning the second term by six points and the third by three, but the home team steadied when it counted to win the last stanza by four, and the match by six, 88-82.

Hawkes Bay shot at a more accurate 49 per cent from the field, compared to the Saints’ 41 per cent. They won the rebounds (39-37), points in the paint (38-34) and second chance points (15-8) on the night. The Saints had their fair share of the ball, with one more assists (18-17) and steals (6-5), as well as more blocks (6-1) and less turnovers (10-13), leading to an even share of the points from turnovers (11-11), but the Saints produced more points off the bench (17-9).

It was an even team performance from the Hawks, with Devondrick Walker (20 points, four rebounds) marginally winning the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award from the match, shooting four of seven from long-range. Hyrum Harris (18 points, seven rebounds and four assists) was not far behind, whilst Rhys Vague (15 points, three rebounds and two assists), Derone Raukawa (14 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Ethan Rusbatch (12 points, five rebounds and three assists).

For the Saints, Tohi Smith-Milner top-scored with 19 points, seven rebounds and five assists, whilst the long-range shooting deadeye of Taane Samuel managed four of five from beyond the arc to finish with 14 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Kerwin Roach Jr (18 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Dion Prewster (14 points, five assists, four rebounds and two steals) also impressed from the starting team, while Leon Henry contributed all the team’s bench points with 17 – five of nine from three-point range – as well as seven rebounds and four blocks in the loss.

The Otago Nuggets silenced the crowd early on a night where the Nelson Giants were celebrating 40 years in the competition, piling on 31 points to 19 in the opening term, then 23-18 in the second quarter to lead by 17 points at the main break. The home team sprung to life in the second half, winning it 47-40, but it was a case of too little, too late, with the visitors getting up by 10 points, 94-84.

Otago shot the lights out with 56 per cent of their attempts from the field going in, compared to the Giants’ 34 per cent. What made it all the more impressive was that the Nuggets had 25 less shots, but nailed four more than their opponents, including the same amount of triples (11) despite 19 less attempts (21-40). They also won the rebounds (43-41), assists (23-15) and blocks (5-0), and had more points in the paint (40-28). The Giants committed less turnovers (10-20) and therefore had more points from turnovers (22-12), as well as more second chance points (16-13) and steals (10-4).

Isaiah Moss won MVP with 24 points – five of nine from long-range – eight rebounds, two assists and two steals to lead the way, whilst Gerasimos McKay picked up 21 points, nine rebounds and two assists on the night. Sam Timmins continued his hot streak with a double-double of 15 points and 12 rebounds – 11 defensive – as well as five assists, two steals and two blocks, while Richie Rodger had the 11 points, seven assists and two rebounds.

For the Giants, Hunter Hale had 21 points, five assists, five steals and two rebounds, just ahead of Sam Dempster (19 points, seven rebounds and two assists) Thomas Ingham (11 points, four rebounds) also hit double-figure points from the starting line-up, whilst Nic Trathen contributed his usual long-range shooting from the bench with three of five going in from long-range on his way to 13 points and three rebounds.

Wellington Saints front up tonight up against the Taranaki Mountainairs, whilst the Hawkes Bay Hawks take on Manawatu Jets tomorrow, whilst the Otago Nuggets also play then against Franklin Bulls. The Nelson Giants have an extended break until lJune 25 when they lock horns with the Saints.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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