IN the first game for both the Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets, it did not take long for the Jets to open the scoring. After getting into the groove and momentum of the game both sides found it easy to score, unleashing an enthralling battle to watch with neither side willing to take a backwards step. The game went down to the wire as number one pick Jordan Ngatai landed the match-winning three-pointer in the dying seconds of the game to give the Nuggets the first win of the season (104-100).
MANAWATU JETS 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
OTAGO NUGGETS 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)
The Jets got off to a screamer, peppering away at the scoreboard and most importantly converting opening up a 6-0 lead. Tanae Samuels was the first to inflict pain on the scoreboard while the highly touted Tom Vodanovich got involved in the scoring moments later sinking a shot from outside the arc. Big man Ngatai inserted himself in the play for the Nuggets but was unable to hit the scoreboard the first couple of tries instead leaving it to Joshua Aitcheson who landed the first blow for his side with a well played layup.
However that was quickly overshadowed with Vodanovich displaying his long-range shooting and hitting back to back threes proving he was a force to be reckoned with. The Jets were not afraid to play the ball around and shoot from down town as Jayden Bezzant proved a key playmaker. The point guard left many in awe with his good handles and ability to dish off dimes in limited space. Bezzant and Vodanovich were combining for just about everything with the two lighting up the court while the Nuggets struggled to hit the scoreboard.
But the tables started to slightly turn as Otago well and truly worked their way back into the quarter thanks to Jarrod Kenny and his strong drive down court. Down 16-4 at one stage the Nuggets reduced the margin to 16-12 at the four minute mark before really putting their foot down and overpowering the Jets in the dying stages of the quarter to claim a one point lead.
Holding the slimmest of leads at the break the Nuggets had every intention of maintaining that lead with Kenny driving the ball down the court. With the ball bobbling up and down the court it was the Nuggets who settled first claiming a couple of crucial shots before the Jets kicked it up a gear. Inspired by Hyrum Harris and his defensive pressure the Jets were able to generate some attacking forays that saw Samuels convert and take back the lead.
With a wealth of pressure on both teams the lead chopped and changed throughout the term coming to somewhat of a stalemate midway through the team with neither side able to add to their tally such was the inaccuracy and pressure. Ngatai jumped into the thick of things for the Nuggets knocking down a crucial three to push his sides lead out to five points.
Despite things seemingly being on their terms, the Jets stood up to the challenge as Bezzant got busy both on the scoreboard and in terms of playmaking while Vodanovich and Nicholas Fee also got involved, with the latter draining a three retaking the lead with less than three minutes on the clock. Heading into half-time with a six point lead Vodanovich had all but showcased his sheer dominance thanks to 17 points while Bezzant had 14 points. For the Nuggets, Ngatai led the way with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.
Otago went on a scoring spree in the third quarter knocking back 27 points to 16 in what was an inspired effort. Controlling majority of the play the Jets were quick to add to the scoreboard in the third, with Vodanovich and Harris working well in offence. But the tables slowly started to turn as Jordan Hunt upped the ante for the Nuggets and Kenny got busy hitting the scoreboard.
Input from the likes of Kane Keil and Akiva McBirney-Griffin saw the Nuggets generate even more attacking power and slowly cut the deficit. As the quarter wore on Otago overtook their opponents to take a five point lead credit to their grit and determination to keep the Jets at bay and apply their own offensive masterclass,
The last quarter delivered plenty of intensity with scores drawing level once again showcasing just how tight the game was. Kenny continued to star doing both the offensive and defensive things well for the Jets. the pace of the game did not let up with both teams streaming down the court and applying a wealth of offensive pressure.
Samuels was a prominent threat for the Jets in the last quarter but it was the efforts of Kenny that stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the court. The 35-year-old was simply in everything, seeming to have the ball on a string and was aggressive on the offensive end tying things up with two minutes left on the clock.
Missing the first free-throw, Darcy Knox did not make the same mistake twice, sinking the second with 44 seconds left on the clock. The ball streamed down the court with Bezzant missing the layup and the ball ending up in the hands of Ngatai who despite having a quiet second half, stood up to the pressure delivering the all important three-pointer.
It is no surprise that Vodanovich secured a double-double with 28 points and a whopping 14 rebounds, Bezzant top-scored with 30 points and five rebounds while Samuels knocked back 20 points. Harris, while he did not have a huge impact on the scoreboard, managed to reel in 11 rebounds credit to his defensive positioning. For the victors, Kenny wowed with his 28 points and six assists while Ngatai slotted a double-double with his 19 points and 10 rebounds.