AUCKLAND Huskies can head home knowing what a winning streak feels like, earning back-to-back wins for the first time this season thanks to terrific three-point shooting which proved to be the difference in toppling a struggling Canterbury Rams outfit, 88-81.
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
CANTERBURY RAMS 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)
The Huskies were flexing their shooting muscles all over the floor early on, after Taine Murray’s layup and Leon Henry’s three-pointer kick-started Auckland’s night. Taylor Britt took on the immediate task of getting the Rams up and going, as he put his name in the scorer’s list immediately.
Surprisingly though, it was Murray that carried the majority of the Huskies’ early scoring output, amassing eight of his side’s opening 11 points, while Britt collected seven of his side’s first ten.
Even though Auckland demonstrated a more physical brand of basketball throughout the first period, Canterbury held their own during the opening ten minutes, particularly on the part of their center in Thomas Webley, scoring seven consecutive points for his side.
A fast-paced offence by the Rams running the fast-break and filling their lanes, caught the Huskies off guard. This being evident by looking at their field-goal percentage at the end of the first quarter, as Canterbury constantly found their way to the rim in odd-man rushes. The Rams went 50 per cent from the field in the first quarter, putting them in good stead for the second, leading Auckland 24-18.
Following a 10-2 start by the Huskies, it quickly undid Canterbury’s hard work in the first quarter, as the Rams suddenly found themselves on the back-foot. Their answer to this, was to continue to hammer Auckland’s frontcourt, passing the ball inside and making their bigs work around the basket.
While the Rams kept looking into the key during the second half, the Huskies continued to test their range from deep, nailing four three-pointers in the second quarter with three coming by way of Izayah Mauriahooho-Le’Afa who finished his first half with 13 points and five steals. This all led to a dominant 30-12 quarter for the Huskies, giving them some much needed breathing room prior to the third period.
Accurate shooting was the key for Auckland, as they concluded two quarters with an efficiency of 44 per cent from the field, thus gifting them a substantial 12-point lead at the main break, 48-36. More importantly however was Canterbury’s turnovers, as they gave up an abhorrent 11 in the first half compared to just five by the Huskies.
Triples by Henry and Murray added onto their marvellous record from behind the arc, as their lead extended further and left the Rams scratching their heads defensively. But overall, the Huskies started to dominate both inside and outside, continuing to force turnovers and run the floor for easy layups.
After a silky three-pointer from Henry again in the corner with four minutes remaining in the third, it was apparent that the floodgates started to open as Auckland approached a 20-point advantage leading into the final break.
To sum up the opening three quarters of play in a single play, a three-pointer by Auckland guard, Reuben Fitzgerald, extended the Husky lead to 22 with five seconds left hoping to finish the contest off before the last ten minutes of play was to even begin.
Four straight points by Canterbury’s Samuel Smith surprised those in attendance, as it helped spark a 8-0 run, cutting their deficit to 14 points three minutes into the fourth quarter.
A pull-up three-ball by Mac Stodart kept the Rams faithful hopeful, and when Britt followed up with two of his own, instantly the Rams were down only six with three minutes still to play in the game. Canterbury now found themselves in the game for the first time since the dwindling moments of the first period.
Britt found his rhythm and the feet of the Huskies were two slow to react as a further layup and jumper by the lefty, now had his side behind by just three points with 150 seconds still to play.
After a deadeye Le’Afa assist to Leon Henry for the reverse layup, Auckland pushed back out to a five-point lead, which was answered with a fastbreak layup by Alexander Talma to bring the Rams to within three points.
Following Le’Afa and Henry’s free-throws with a few seconds remaining, it would bar any late game heroics to knock over the Rams 88-81, thus allowing the Huskies to earn back-to-back wins for the first time in the franchise’s inaugural season.
With it being mentioned numerous times already, it was the ability to nail the ball from deep that gave the Huskies the opportunity to walk off the floor with their heads high. Despite shooting an average 39 per cent from the three, Auckland was able to convert on nine different occasions compared to the Rams’ six. Additionally, the tremendous on-ball and off-ball defence from the Wolfpack caused havoc for the other side’s offence, forcing 18 turnovers off of 16 steals.
Britt’s game-high 21 points was as good as it gets in terms of individual performances for Canterbury, as he added six rebounds and four assists to an otherwise strong outing for the Perth Wildcat. Webley would settle for 15 points in 20 minutes of court time, meanwhile Talma maintained his strong rebounding numbers with 14 on the glass.
As for the Huskies, both Le’Afa and Murray accumulated team-high totals with 19 points and three triples each. Whereas Auckland’s captain, Henry, walked away with man-of-the-match honours credited to his 17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals.
Thanks to their three-win and four-loss record, the Huskies move off the bottom of the table by a half game leapfrogging the Rams, who have been struggling severely as of late and look to Saturday night to size up against a high-flying Airs side, while the Huskies can enjoy two days rest.