Murray’s 35 points not enough to ground Jets, Manawatu wins 105-100

MANAWATU Jets have held off a fast-finishing and determined Auckland Huskies outfit to win by five points in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) competition last night. The Huskies were looking to make it three wins in a row and even their season record. The Jets were coming off a rough performance against Otago where they suffered a 36-point defeat. Manawatu was always going to be fired up, and with their form coming into the night you knew the Huskies were ready as an entertaining matchup saw the Jets win 105-100, recording their fifth win for the season.

MANAWATU JETS 27 | 27 | 25 | 26 (105)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 17 | 28 | 29 (100)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The anticipated Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Jayden Bezzant matchup was not to be as Ashton McQueen took Mauriohooho Le’Afa defensively, but that would not stop him from getting involved for the first time against Manawatu having missed their week one matchup. A Mauriohooho Le’Afa board and fast break led to a Taine Murray reverse layup which would begin an 18-point first half for him. Taane Samuel opened the Jets’ scoring account with a three which ignited a three-point bonanza for the first half for both teams. Tohi Smith-Milner entered the box score soon after, backing down Samuel for a left-hand hook finish inside which he would use to great effect as the game wore on.

An up and down start to the game saw both teams missing good shots early as it was clear that fans were going to be treated to an offensive barrage. Despite his career night, the rim would block a Murray dunk attempt and from there, the three-point party began. Murray, Kalib Mullins, Mauriohooho Le’Afa, and Samuel all knocked down triples in what was a high-scoring first quarter of action. Manawatu took a 27-26 lead heading into the first break as 24 three-point attempts were put up from both sides. The Huskies scored the only five points in the paint out of the 53 scored in total.

Tom Vodanovich opened the second quarter with a nice cut over the defence for a contested finish at the rim, before the Huskies provided some showtime basketball. Fresh off eight steals in their last outing, Mauriohooho Le’Afa ripped the ball from the Jets, passed to Jaylen Gerrand, who lobbed it up to Isaac Miller-Jose for the big slam.

A Samuel throwdown would then spark an eight to nothing run for Manawatu before Nelson Kirksey invited himself to the three-point party, knocking down three triples to give them a 13-point lead heading into half time.

The quarter would end the way it started with a Vodanovich layup as no points were scored in the last two minutes of the half.

Manawatu’s 55 per cent from deep gave them a 54-43 lead at half-time, with Auckland only shooting 29 per cent from beyond the arc.

Though they found success attacking the paint having scored 10 more points inside than the Jets, the Huskies were still intent on competing with their opposition from deep. Not making their shots, their eight second chance points were keeping them in the game thanks to some Miller-Jose hustle.

A poor third quarter in their last outing all but ended the hopes of a win for Manawatu, one they could not afford again despite enjoying a handy lead.

After 37 total three-point attempts for the first half, it was only natural the second half was going to start the same way with Vodanovich knocking it down from deep. Bezzant finished a left-hand layup high off the glass as Leon Henry immediately threw an outlet inbound pass leading to an open layup for Marvin Williams-Dunn, bringing the lead back single digits.

Neither team would give an inch throughout the third quarter until two Tia Temata-Frost free-throws would regain a 10-point lead for the Jets. A sequence of a Mauriohooho Le’Afa blow-by layup, a Samuel travel, and a Miller-Jose layup would bring the lead back down to six. Henry then had two opportunities at the rim, but such was his night, they did not go. Smith-Milner finally brought the lead back down to four at the charity strike.

Two Vodanovich triples down the stretch would ensure Manawatu held their lead as he found his way to 15 points. The Jets went into the last break leading 79-71. Auckland tried to get into the lane more as their points in the paint differential now stood at 20, however, the sharp shooting of the Jets from the three-point line maintained the margin.

Another Smith-Milner post hook would start the quarter before he landed awkwardly and injured his ankle. He would take no further part in the game but returned to the bench later with ice on the ankle.

A Miller-Jose swat leading to a Murray three brought the lead back down to three points, the closest it had been since the first quarter. Henry would score his first points from the floor before back-to-back threes from Manawatu stretched the lead back out to nine with seven and a half minutes left to play.

Separate technical fouls for Samuel and Anamata Haku disrupted the flow for either team as the Huskies could not find a way to at least tie the game. Henry fouled out of the game with Samuel converting an and-one not long after which just about iced the game.

An entertaining affair saw Manawatu win 105-100, despite Murray exploding for a massive 35 points. Mauriohooho Le’Afa also had a great game with 25 points, four rebounds and eight assists as Smith-Milner also impressed with 16 points and six rebounds. Henry will be looking to bounce back after shooting 2-18 from the field when the Huskies take on Franklin on Tuesday night.

The Jets shot 51 per cent from deep for the night and boasted strong performances from their starters with Vodanovich (26 points, eight rebounds) and Samuel (26 points, five rebounds, four assists) leading the way. Kirksey (17 points, 10 rebounds, five assists) and Bezzant (14 points, four assists) both enjoyed big games, with the hopefully nearby return of Hyrum Harris providing Manawatu with a dangerous starting five moving into the second half of the season.

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