Nuggets second half forces emergency landing, down Jets by 36

AN impressive shooting performance from all over the court, particularly in the second half by the Otago Nuggets, has led to a convincing rout over the Manawatu Jets last night in Saturday’s opener of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. This also included an imposing night from behind the arc from Kane Keil, as he drilled six triples to aid his side, trouncing their opponents 130-94.

OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
MANAWATU JETS 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)


After their disappointing defeat at the hands of the Auckland Huskies four days ago, the Nuggets had their eyes set on an important bounce-back win against a Jets outfit hot off their landslide victory over the Nelson Giants.

Nelson Kirksey made his presence known early with a pull-up three to help get game flowing from long-range. But Otago continued to attack the rim and push the ball early in the infant stages of the game, exploding out of the gates to lead 12-5 three minutes into the first period, forcing three early turnovers from the Jets as a result.

Manawatu’s big-man in Taane Samuel refused to let Otago run away with the contest early, showing off his fancy footwork on numerous occasions, helping the Jets fight their way back mid-way through the first ten minutes of play.

Following a late injection of adrenaline off a Haize Walker three in the corner, Samuel’s third personal foul would put his side over the bonus, which therefore allowed the Nuggets to slip away with a 28-26 quarter time lead, thanks to Jordan Hunt’s two made free-throws with a few seconds remaining and Keil’s eight first quarter points.

Both sides began the second converting consistently on their attempts, but similarly to the opening minutes of the first quarter, the Nuggets came out firing. A spot-up triple from Keil, capped off a 12-5 start to the period.

Focusing on Thomas Vodanovich, he made his shots count in the first half. Going 4/7 from the field, the New Zealand Breaker shot true on three three-point attempts halfway through the second quarter (50 per cent from behind the arc).

As the contest approached half-time, it seemed as though the Nuggets would edge out a subtle three-point lead at the midway point of the contest, but Walker’s floater down the middle of the lane essentially reset the scores at 0-0, as the Jets headed to the main break trailing 56-57.

While Hunt and Vodanovich led their teams in scoring with 14 and 15 points respectively, it was the overall play from the likes of Jordan Ngatai (12 points and four rebounds) and Jayden Bezzant (13 points, five rebounds and two assists) that predominantly helped facilitate the see-sawing affair in the first two quarters, which was evident in the 17 lead changes up to this point.

With Hunt adding to his point totals to kick off the third period, a couple threes from the Nuggets signalled a change in offensive strategy to try and separate themselves from Manawatu.

This initially worked well for Otago, pushing out to an 11-point lead halfway into the third interval and the Jets could not slow down the onslaught of fast-break points Brent Matahere’s side were producing. The Nuggets’ 56 per cent shooting would also become a factor in how they compiled 38 third quarter points to extend their advantage by 16 at the final break.

Needing solutions quickly with 10 minutes to go, Ashton McQueen put the Jets on the right path early with a three, but as Ngatai and Keil started to heat up it started to push Otago beyond the reach of Manawatu, extending their lead over 30 and then subsequently 36 to take home the dominant performance with a 73-point second half.

While Manawatu’s Bezzant and Vodanovich shared the larger part of their side’s points with 18 points each, the scoring game was all Otago’s. Final numbers for the Nuggets included finishing the clash with a 57 per cent efficiency (47-82 from the field), including 42 per cent from three-point range knocking down 14 triples, as well as remaining calm at the free-throw line, finding 22 points at the line off of 31 attempts. A plus-six on the boards and a plus-10 in assists, rounded out a superior performance by the Nuggets, as they earned their fourth win of the campaign.

Individual performances by the South Island-side came in bunches as all five starters reached double-digits. Keil cemented man-of-the-match honours with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, whereas Ngatai and Hunt’s 55 combined points provided a much-needed buffer for their side in the second half.

The Jets have little time to go back to the hangar for repairs, as they need to lift themselves off the ground to upset an in-form Huskies group tomorrow afternoon, looking for their third win in a row. Meanwhile, the Nuggets follow up tomorrow’s double-header as they hope to continue last night’s hot shooting, when they go chest-to-chest with the Nelson Giants.

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