Saints and Sharks grab wins to extend stranglehold on top two spots

WELLINGTON Saints and Southland Sharks have grabbed wins in an action-packed night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action, to extend their lead at the top of the table. The Sharks are running hot with a five-game winning streak, whilst the Saints bounced back from their first loss the night before – to the Sharks – and moved to a 7-1 record in the 2021 season. It was at the expense of the Canterbury Rams, as the Saints won by 25 points, while the Sharks held off a determined Otago Nuggets to win by seven.

In the Saints’ big win, they took control early to pile on 17 points to nine against the Rams and really control the game defensively. The home team hit back by winning the second term and cutting the deficit to just six points at the main break. As Wellington has so often done this season, the Saints found a way, piling on 51 points to 32 to run away with the contest, and the victory, 89-64.

Kerwin Roach Jr had 23 points, five rebounds and three assists, teaming up well with Dion Prewster who notched up 22 points, six rebounds, three steals and two assists in the win. Also contributing strongly was Taane Samuel (16 points, seven rebounds and four assists), while Tohi Smith-Milner (nine points, eight assists, five rebounds and two steals) and Romaro Gill (five points, four rebounds and five blocks) were impressive defensively.

For the Rams, they shared the load on the scoring front but it would not be enough. Quintin Bailey put up 19 points, nine rebounds and two assists to lead all-comers. Meanwhile Deshon Taylor (12 points, six assists, four steals and two rebounds), EJ Singler (12 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Alex Talma (11 points, six rebounds and two assists) all reached double-figure points. Ben Constable‘s shooting (one from nine) was off, but he still recorded the seven rebounds in the loss.

The game was much tighter between the Sharks and Nuggets, with the home team starting off strongly to lead by two points at the first break. It was the middle two quarters that broke the match open for the Sharks, as the visitors piled on 49 points to 28 in that time to blow open the game to lead by 19 points with a quarter to play. Otago stormed home thanks to a dominant 31-19 final term, but it was a case of too little, too late and the Sharks won, 85-78.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 24 points and six rebounds, teaming up well with Brayden Inger who starred with 22 points – four out of 10 from long-range – five rebounds and four steals. Toby Gillooly had 17 points and four rebounds in a superb effort off the bench, while Josh Cunningham did not have his usual accuracy (six points off two from 13 from the field) but managed 13 rebounds, five assists and two blocks. Courtney Belger (seven points, three assists and three steals) also stepped up.

Isaiah Moss racked up a match-high 25 points for the Nuggets, draining four of 11 from long-range, and also have seven rebounds for his troubles. Sam Timmins had a huge double-double of 13 points and 16 rebounds – seven offensive – as well as three assists and two steals. Richie Rodger (13 points) and Gerasimos McKay (11 points, four rebounds) also impressed, while Pafe Momoisea had eight points and three assists in 15 minutes off the bench.

All four teams have a break until next week, with the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets doing battle on Thursday night, before Southland Sharks host Manawatu Jets on Friday, while Wellington Saints wait until Sunday to host the Jets.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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