Tag: 2020 sal’s nbl showdown

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.

NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.

All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.

Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.

High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.

Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.

Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.

Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.

Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.

With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.

Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.

A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.

Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Nuggets reverse Huskies first quarter fortune, cruise to 109-83 victory

OTAGO Nuggets gave Auckland Huskies a taste of their own medicine with a huge first term to set up an impressive 109-83 victory to maintain top spot on the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown ladder. After a mammoth 45-point opening term in their last game, the Huskies were considered a danger early, so the Nuggets went to work from the first tip-off and came away with the win.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 23 | 21 | 18 | 21 (83)
OTAGO NUGGETS 34 | 25 | 31 | 19 (109)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A few loose possessions started the match before a Reuben Fitzgerald three opened the scoring account, with Jarrod Kenny driving down low to lay it in making it a basket each.

The Huskies’ first quarter on Sunday set up their win with a prolifically efficient shooting performance. Because of this, the Nuggets knew they had to fire early, and they did, scoring seven three-pointers from ten attempts through the first 10 minutes of action. Auckland seemed to lack that flow offensively that they had in abundance on Sunday.

Kane Keil was at his best early on knocking down two of those seven shots from deep with Jordan Hunt, Josh Aitcheson and Kenny stepping in with triples of their own. The lead was suddenly at double digits, a lead the Nuggets held until the first break, but was also a lead that threatened to explode with Otago’s offensive efficiency and Auckland’s offensive deficiency (36 per cent shooting). Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa’s 12 first quarter points and Aaron Bailey-Nowell’s hustle on both ends kept the deficit at bay, while preventing its extension.

Most teams would be content with the 23-point first quarter the Huskies had; however, Otago’s hot hand ensured a 34-point first quarter as they enjoyed an 11-point lead at the first break.

Some easy fixes for the Huskies on the offensive end seemed to be tweaked at the break as they come out on an 8-0 run to start thanks to five Tohi Smith-Milner points and a Jaylen Gerrand three. Having a chance to tie the game, an Isaac Miller-Jose offensive foul stopped the momentum, and Aitcheson free throws stopped the scoring run. Aitcheson would get to the line again and hit some corner threes as he was on his way to 18 first half points.

Despite Smith-Milner’s best efforts, a Matthew Bardsley layup gave Otago a double-digit lead again, another one they wouldn’t squander, but this time for the rest of the game.

Defying the Huskies low shooting percentage was Fitzgerald whose four makes from as many attempts helped him to 11 points, thriving in Taine Murray’s absence. Jordan Ngatai’s first points came with a minute and a half left in the second quarter as Aitcheson fittingly ended the half’s scoring. The Nuggets led 44-59 at the main break with many thanks to their 61 per cent shooting from beyond the arc and 17 assists from 21 makes on the floor.

Otago boasted many scorers but for the Huskies, it was Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Smith-Milner leading the way with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Leon Henry was down on his usual efforts with just two points until half time.

The second half begun the same way the first half ended with Aitcheson laying it in, setting the tone for another dominant Otago quarter with Kenny and Keil scoring from three-point territory early in the third. Not to be outdone, Mauriohooho Le’Afa replied after being held scoreless in the second quarter. More players stepped up for the Nuggets despite him to stretch the lead to 30 which they managed to hold on to for much of the game. The point of difference was Hunt whose three-pointer ended the third quarter in which he scored 14 points.

Auckland’s physicality picked up with their bench unit towards the end of the quarter which provided a positive to coach Kevin Braswell, but physicality is far less valuable than points on the board. They trailed 62-90 heading into the last break with the game all but over.

Both teams put their key players away after a couple of minutes of fourth quarter action, giving an opportunity for some bench players to stake their claim in the rotation as we approach the business end of the competition.

It was almost an end-to-end scrimmage as the Huskies won the quarter 21-19. Marvin Williams-Dunn took the opportunity to gain some confidence offensively as the Nuggets boasted 10 individual scorers on the night.

The final score was 109-83, an emphatic win to keep Otago at the top of the ladder with Manawatu.

The Nuggets shot 54 per cent from the floor including 57 per cent from deep with Hunt (31 points, five rebounds, six three-pointers) playing a big part in both percentages. Aitcheson (22 points, six rebounds) slowed down after half time while Kenny was named MVP with his 20 points, four rebounds and seven assists. The microwave Keil missed his first shot in the last quarter as he made his way to 16 points, while Ngatai was kept quiet while playing a role with two points, six assists, four steals and five turnovers.

The Huskies missed Murray’s offensive output tonight as the reliable Mauriohooho Le’Afa led the way with 17 points and four assists. Fitzgerald did his best to fill Murray’s shoes with 13 points on five for five shooting while Smith-Milner put up 13 points and five rebounds in just under 20 minutes of play. Bailey-Nowell (12 points, two steals) has proved a valuable addition to this Huskies line-up as Henry (four points, six rebounds) just couldn’t get it going.

Auckland will look to move on with a much better performance Wednesday night against the last-placed Canterbury Rams while Otago get ready for a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash with the Manawatu Jets on Thursday night.

Huskies’ 45-point first quarter squashes Giants with huge win

AUCKLAND Huskies produced the most efficient first quarter of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown season, sinking 17 consecutive baskets without a miss on their way to 45 points in their 96-67 victory over Nelson Giants. Despite missing Taine Murray whose season ended with a broken hand in their last outing, the Huskies’ first quarter was the difference in building a staggering 32-point quarter time lead that was never really challenged.

NELSON GIANTS 12 | 19 | 23 | 13 (67)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 45 | 17 | 23 | 11 (96)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies showed no signs of missing Murray’s valuable offence in the first quarter as they exploded for an offensive barrage of 45 points. Even more staggering was their efficiency as their first missed shot came with 1:20 left on their eighteenth shot.

If the start of the game was a sign of things to come, it never looked good for the Giants as big man Josh Leger was caught sleeping on defence, before Leon Henry lobbed it in to Tohi Smith-Milner for the finish inside to open the game’s scoring.

Reuben Fitzgerald started in the place of Murray and grabbed the opportunity with both hands hitting a corner three, on his way to 12 first quarter points.

It was clear early that Henry was looking to attack the smaller Nelson outfit in the paint which opted to start without Mike Karena or the returned Mika Vukona. Once Karena was substituted in, Smith-Milner was able to stretch him to defend the perimeter, leaving Henry unleashed with the size advantage inside.

Every starter got involved for the Huskies with a deep three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa following a Marvin Williams-Dunn triple. Nate Wilson missed the first shot of the game for Auckland, but the Huskies were even able to grab the offensive board, rubbing salt into the wound for Nelson.

A Dane Brooks air ball accurately represented the quarter for the Giants as Wilson made up for his blemish with a big transition dunk. The first quarter ended 12-45 as the Huskies shot an incredible 90 per cent, including 89 per cent from deep.

There was no real offensive determination out of the gates for Nelson as they struggled to 22 per cent shooting, recording one assist compared to Auckland’s nine. Henry led all scorers with 13.

If the Giants were any chance of making it a respectable margin, they had to respond immediately. Besides a Karena technical foul, two Brooks blocks and a Tysxun Aiolupotea three gave them that start they needed. A Jaylen Gerrand three and a Wilson and-one quickly put a stop to that as the Huskies would not let any inroads be made into their huge lead. They passed 50 points with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to continue to trade baskets with Nelson having made a very comfortable lead for themselves.

Karena’s shot was not falling as it usually does while Isaac Miller-Jose was trying to match his frustrated physicality for much of the game as the match threatened to heat up at times in the second quarter.

A Zeb Lovell and-one brought the lead below 30 until Mauriohooho Le’Afa dropped a deep two, and Murray replacement and New Zealand basketball veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell scored his first competition points.

Smith-Milner barrelled his way to the hoop to close out a dominant first half for the Huskies which saw them lead 31-62, still shooting 56 per cent from beyond the arc. Though their burning hot hand couldn’t maintain their ridiculous first quarter shooting, they still attacked the paint, scoring 18 more points inside than Nelson.

Henry and Fitzgerald did not add to their quarter time tally as Lovell and Aiolupotea led the scoring for the Giants with seven points each.

Coming out of the locker room much later than their opposition, you had to wonder what Nelson were looking to achieve in the second half. Whatever it was, Smith-Milner was not having any of it as he scored 11 points in the first three and a half minutes which included two three-pointers and an and-one.

Theo Johnson and Brooks both put up athletic finishes inside as Mauriohooho Le’Afa did what he does, knocking down a beautiful step back mid-range jumper.

Williams-Dunn and Aiolupotea went head to head down the stretch until Karena imposed himself on the game with a spin out of the post for the reverse baseline dunk, only to follow it up with another one-hand dunk not long after.

With four seconds left, Fitzgerald burst out of the half court inbound for the layup, but another Miller-Jose offensive foul prevented it from counting. Though they showed better signs, the Giants were unable to take a big enough chunk out of the margin as they trailed 54-85 heading into the last break.

The Huskies did not play Mauriohooho Le’Afa, Smith-Milner or Henry in the final quarter giving some bench players good minutes.

Unfortunately, the game ended with little excitement as Nelson won the quarter scoring just 13 points to Auckland’s 11. Karena showed some fight out of the post but it was too little too late with them losing 96-67, a loss they will be keen to move on from as soon as possible having not been in the game after the first quarter deficit they gave up.

With 11 out of their 12 players scoring, Smith-Milner led the way with 20 points with Fitzgerald the next best with 14. Mauriohooho Le’Afa (12 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Henry (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) enjoyed well-rounded performances as the Huskies fired on all cylinders offensively for much of the night. Their final week of NZNBL action will start when they face the Otago Nuggets on Tuesday and if they can mirror their first quarter in any way, it will go a long way toward them winning.

A disappointing night saw Nelson shoot just 38 per cent with Karena (15 points, eight rebounds) and Aiolupotea (13 points) the only players to reach double figures. The loss sees them sit at sixth place as they will want to start fresh against the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs on Wednesday.

Final quarter thriller leaves Airs two games clear at top of the table

HIGH-octane offence combatted stringent defence, as Taranaki Mountainairs came out on top of the Otago Nuggets, 106-105 in one of the games of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. For much of the game, both teams took care of the ball, but it was Taranaki that took home the win despite a fierce second half comeback from the Nuggets.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 32 | 29 | 22 | 23 (106)
OTAGO NUGGETS 21 | 28 | 27 | 29 (105)

[… FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The opening night of week four action rounded out with what was promised to be the game of the season so far between the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs and the third-placed Otago Nuggets. It is fair to say that fans were made good on that promise, and then some.

The promise of plenty of offence was certainly delivered with 53 points being scored in the first quarter. The Nuggets won possession off the tip which resulted in a missed dunk opportunity for Jordan Hunt, one of many shots missed at the rim for Otago. Marcel Jones opened the scoring for the game with a silky post-hook, as the reply came straightaway from Josh Aitcheson with the corner three.

Jones would continue to show why he is one of the best players in the league as he was stealing defensively, facilitating the offence with multiple assists, and banking in threes, it all seemed to be going his way early. His activity was contagious for his team as Taranaki was doing it on both ends.

With the starters beginning to have a break, it was the unlikely performances of bench players Denhym Brooke of the Airs and Matthew Bardsley of the Nuggets who would turn super subs for the quarter. Brooke would go five for five from the floor and end the quarter with 12 points, while Bardsley would drop eight, keeping the Nuggets in the game.

A Francis Mulvihill splash would intervene his efforts as the lead extended to double digits for the Airs. Jordan Ngatai’s only three points for the half would close out the quarter to end 32-21. An evenly poised contest with offence the clear difference. Taranaki was shooting 60 per cent and had twice as many assists than Otago for the quarter as its static offence needed to get moving as the game progressed.

A Jarrod Kenny splash started the second quarter and set the tone for he and the Nuggets as they outworked the Airs early. Kenny looked to score aggressively inside and out and another triple from him prompted a reply from MVP race leader Derone Raukawa, who earned three points the old fashioned way.

To typify a slow scoring night, a Ngatai air ball preceded a big Brooke put back and-one from the weak side, while the offensive explosion began to settle as both teams started to sort themselves out defensively.

Though the Nuggets made in-roads to the early deficit they gave up, another Mulvihill splash pushed the lead out to 12. Backup forwards in Brooke and Zachary Easthope supported Jones and Tai Wynyard, however, it would be Mitchell Dance that would take over, scoring six down the stretch.

Despite new inclusion Aaron Roydhouse knocking down his first shot in the competition from downtown, the Airs would maintain their first quarter lead heading into half-time up 61-49. Though they only shot 10 per cent less from the field, some inconsistent defence from the Nuggets allowed 29 bench points and 38 points in the paint for Airs. Brooke (15 points) and Jones (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) were important for the Airs while Hunt (11 points) led the way for the Nuggets.

Kane Keil opened the second half with a big triple in a quarter that would see him score eight. Hunt’s physicality inside would lead to a couple of baskets as the lead was suddenly back down to five. Much like the start of the second quarter, a renewed energy surge struck the Nuggets, but they were still unable to string that big run together that would see them within a possession of the Airs.

Ngatai forced his way back into the game late in the quarter with a smooth spinning layup and a three-point play, however, Raukawa going coast to coast and a Shane Temara dunk kept the scores at 83-76 heading into the last break. You still could not help but feel the momentum was with the Nuggets as it seemed the Airs starters were starting to fatigue.

The final 10 minutes were some of the most exciting basketball the competition has seen so far. Some big blows either way held the margin until the Nuggets stars in Ngatai and Kenny took control, while Bardsley was so vital down the stretch with his athleticism and hustle all over the court.

Kenny found his way to the line multiple times, but it was free-throws from Hunt that tied the game at 98-apiece with just over two minutes left to play. It was the first time the scores were level since the score line read 0-0.

A go-ahead basket from Kenny was answered with the double-double machine Jones hitting a jumper to tie, as he went back to back with a pretty floater to give the Airs the lead with one minute to play. As he had done all game, Keil came up clutch with a much-needed triple before some Kenneth Tuffin free throws changed the lead again.

With thirty seconds left, who else was going to step up? That’s right, the super subs of the first half decided to end the flurry they began with Bardsley laying it in, and Brooke doing the same to make the game 106-105.

The Nuggets had no timeouts left and went to their star player Ngatai who had some scoring left in him. His baseline teardrop narrowly missed as time ran out on the loose ball, handing the Airs the narrow but well-deserved victory in a thriller.

Jones (26 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals) and Raukawa (22 points, seven assists, 9/9 free-throws) put up another good performance as Brooke (17 points, seven rebounds) played big minutes off the bench. Temara’s (14 points, 12 rebounds) effort flew under the radar as Taranaki sit two games clear on top of the ladder. They face Auckland on Thursday and will be looking to continue their high-scoring winning ways.

Hunt (24 points, eight rebounds) and Kenny (20 points, eight assists) starred for the Nuggets as well-rounded games from Keil (20 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bardsley (18 points, eight rebounds) almost pushed them over the line. Ngatai (11 points, 28 per cent shooting) was quieter than usual and will no doubt come out firing in their match against the Rams on Thursday.

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.

Jones and the Airs emphatically end Bulls’ winning streak

TARANKI Mountainairs have leapt to the top of the 2020 Sal’s NBL (National Basketball League) ladder after winning their fourth match, and halting Franklin Bulls’ four-game winning streak in the provess. The Airs welcomed the return of big man Tai Wynyard who was going to have his hands full with in-form Sam Timmins, as Taranaki ran out 102-88 winners to move into first place on the ladder.

FRANKLIN BULLS 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Taranaki started tall on the court as Wynyard immediately posed a problem for Timmins and the Bulls, making the first three shots inside for the Airs to start the game. Having beaten smaller opponents in previous games, Timmins had to find other ways to impact the game.

Young gun and red-hot Isaac Davidson put the Airs on notice early with a clean triple to display his confidence, but it would be his only score for the first half. After a quiet outing last game, Kenneth Tuffin opened his scoring account with a layup off the glass, with big contributor in Franklin’s winning streak Dom Kelman-Poto doing the same soon after. From there, it was all Taranaki.

Mr. Double-Double Marcel Jones would knock down three triples in the first quarter as the lead stretched out to 16. A Kelman-Poto layup would bring the margin back to 14 as the Airs took a 17-31 lead at the first break.

Taranaki were doing it on both ends of the court with seven individual scorers shooting an incredible 81 per cent from the floor, as they forced the Bulls into low quality shots on their way to 33 per cent shooting. Static offence and defence for the Bulls contrasted the Airs’ swift ball movement, as they recorded 10 assists to the Bulls’ 3 in the first term alone.

As the Bulls were looking to move on and get into their stride, Jones hit his fourth three of the game to start the second, on his way to a big night. With Wynyard continuing to lock down Timmins, the Bulls were outclassed in every capacity to give up a 13 points to nothing run, which included a silky dime from Jones for a Shane Temara no-dribble reverse layup.

The Bulls’ first points of the quarter would come four minutes in from Nicholas Barrow, as Jones dribbled it off his foot and out of bounds soon after. This sparked a mini run from the Bulls, until a Dirk Nowitzki-like one leg fadeaway from Mitchell Dance kicked off a huge finish to the half for the Airs. Derone Raukawa and Francis Mulvihill got involved as the lead blew out to a game-high 30, an offensive clinic from the Airs. A Jackson Stubbins triple would end the half, as the Airs would go into the main break leading 29-56.

Quality of shots were still an issue for Franklin as they shot 32 per cent for the half, compared to Taranaki’s 71 per cent, which included 58 per cent from deep. The Airs also recorded 14 more points in the paint, 16 more bench points and nine more assists, as Davidson was held to just three points for the half.

It seemed the Bulls would only be playing for pride in the second half, however, a scrappy loose ball recovery from Timmins would ignite a 23-10 run, bringing the lead back to 14. With a quarter and change to play and plenty of hard work done, the lead no longer seemed insurmountable.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the third quarter was a tale of two halves: their half, and Taranaki’s half. A technical foul called on coach Liam Simmons would bring the Airs back into the game with a four-point play on the back of a Raukawa free-throw and Jones three-ball.

Undoing all their hard work, the Bulls still trailed 60-80 heading into the last break as the potent one-two punch of Jones (25 points, eight rebounds) and Raukawa (15 points, nine assists) were on fire for Taranaki.

With Kelman-Poto (14 points, six rebounds) leading the charge for Franklin, and Davidson fresh from a big third quarter, a mammoth comeback was set for the Bulls. A strong start saw the lead cut back down to 14 with six and a half minutes left and as Kelman-Poto and the bulls started getting to the line, a comeback win wasn’t out of the question.

Coach Simmons went small with Kelman-Poto at the five position and instructed his team to take it on down the stretch. Unfortunately for Franklin, Taranaki would hold firm as they would trade baskets in what ended up being an anti-climatic finish to the game.

Despite being outscored 13 points in the second half, the Airs would win 102-88 on the back of their two stars Jones (29 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Raukawa (21 points, 10 assists). Tuffin (10 points, eight rebounds) enjoyed a better outing than his last as Temara (12 points, four rebounds) and Wynyard (10 points, four rebounds, three assists) rounded out a great team display. They will face the Nelson Giants on Thursday sitting in first place, hoping they can replicate this shooting performance.

Kelman-Poto (18 points, 10 rebounds) was Franklin’s best as Davidson’s second half saw him finish the game with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Timmins (12 points, three rebounds) and Stubbins (11 points, six assists) were serviceable as they will be looking for more performers in Wednesday’s matchup with the Canterbury Rams.

Jets fly high over Taranaki to round out week two action

The Manawatu Jets backended another week of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action as they took on the Taranaki Mountainairs. With both teams looking for back-to-back wins, an action-packed and offense stacked game would see the Jets taking the win 102-93.

No Hyrum Harris through a hip injury would again require a performance increase from some role players from the Jets as the third quarter would again prove pivotal in the result.

MANAWATU JETS 22 | 27 | 39 | 14 (102)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 23 | 28 | 23 | 19 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A physical yet scrappy contest from the outset, the fast-paced nature of the game was displayed early. The first score come after four possessions from Nick Fee, followed soon after with a triple from Taane Samuel, continuing his great start to the season. A Shane Temara layup would open the scoring for the Airs as he would have increased minutes with the absence of Tai Wynyard through illness. Derone Raukawa entered the game soon after with a hop-step close-range shot drawing the foul and converting the and-one to tie.

The anticipated matchup of high-scoring guards Jayden Bezzant and Raukawa would steal the show as they traded three balls as Francis Mulvihill joined the party soon after. The Airs would go on a nine-point scoring tear to give them an early lead, until the Jets mounted a run of their own which included a vicious Tom Vodanovich slam, his first points in the game. Confusion lead to one second being left on the clock as Ashton McQueen banked in a three to make it a one-point game the Airs way heading into the first break. Mulvihill and Raukawa led the way with nine and eight points respectively, but the Airs could not close out what was an otherwise controlled quarter of basketball on their behalf.

The second quarter maintained the rampant pace of the first as both teams were shooting early in their possessions and transitioning with pace. Though both teams were shooting the ball better, neither team could force consecutive stops defensively. McQueen provided the performance the Jets needed in Harris’ absence as he found himself with eight points mid-way through the quarter.

Not to be outdone, a Mulvihill triple saw his points tally creep up to 14. With scorers all over the court, Vodanovich struggled to get his shot going from deep as he seemed to be struggling find other ways to score despite his athleticism and strength.

The two teams would trade baskets the whole quarter as the Airs’ lead never exceeded six. A high-arcing Bezzant mid-range jumper would end the half with Taranaki leading 49-51. Bezzant (12 points), Fee (10 points) and McQueen (10 points) were leading the way for the Jets as the two guards Mulvihill and Raukawa had 14 and 13 respectively for the Airs.

A see-sawing affair in the first half promised much of the same for the second half as it went back and forth again for most of the third quarter. Manawatu’s big men in Samuel and Vodanovich come alive in the third as they took the lead and then lost it for almost seven minutes of action.

With good offense and poor defence a theme all game, the Jets strung together one minute of solid defence and they managed a seven-point lead, seemingly from nowhere. The damage didn’t stop there for the Airs as three consecutive triples including two in a row from Kalib Mullins and the final from Bezzant saw the lead blow out to 16 in the matter of two minutes.

After some replies to and from again, the third quarter ended with the Jets up 14 points. A scintillating few minutes of basketball on both ends from Manawatu all but ended the game thanks to 19 assists. Some great ball movement after some rigid defence allowing them to get on top with ease.

Much like the previous game, the Airs needed to come out strong, and they did with Kenneth Tuffin scoring his second basket of the game and Temara lighting it up as well. All of a sudden, the lead was back to single digits and thanks to some Raukawa magic with the and-one taking his points tally up to 20, it was a five-point ball game. The teams must have missed the action from the start of the game as they would continue to trade buckets, however, a Vodanovich three would ice the game, leaving them nine-point victors.

With Mullins and his eight points, the Jets’ points from the bench reached just 12. When the starting five performed the way they did tonight, though, it doesn’t require much more. Bezzant (24 points, seven assists) and Samuel (24 points, 11 rebounds) were the best players for Manawatu while Vodanovich’s big second half took his stats to 17 points and 12 rebounds. Fee (15 points, six rebounds) and McQueen (10 points, seven rebounds) also stepped up as the inclusion of Harris would be a scary proposition for opposition teams if the Jets can fire on all cylinders the way they did tonight.

Scoring 93 points won’t lose you many games and after a poor third quarter, the Airs should take some confidence knowing there was plenty left for them to do and they didn’t get blown out in the end. Raukawa (25 points, eight assists) and Temara (21 points, nine rebounds) kept the Airs in the game while double-double machine Marcel Jones (16 points, 16 rebounds) and Mulvihill (14 points) were solid contributors. They face first-placed Franklin Bulls on Tuesday and will be looking to bounce back.

Nelson’s giant third quarter puts down Huskies

NELSON Giants’ big third term saw them accelerate away from Auckland Huskies and ensure they won back-to-back games thanks to an eight-point win last night. The Giants scored 28 points, but held their opponents to just 11, handing them a 23-point lead at the final break, enough to hold off a fast-finishing Auckland side that won the last term, 29-14. There were some big outs for either side with Mika Vukona still sidelined following appendix surgery and Leon Henry serving his one-game suspension he suffered in the Huskies’ solitary win against Taranaki. In the end, the Giants were a touch better for longer winning 91-83.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 20 | 23 | 11 | 29 (83)
NELSON GIANTS 20 | 29 | 28 | 14 (91)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Continuing his hot form since his return, Mike Karena won the tip for the Giants and found himself with the ball inside where Henry’s replacement starter Nathan Wilson met him at the cup with a big block, although Karena recovered it and scored the game’s first points with a baseline jumper. Building some momentum in his first start on the season, Wilson would make his away inside with a silky drive which drew the foul and his one for two makes at the line would be the first for Auckland.

Having shaken off his quarantine rust in his last game, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would open his scoring account with a pretty floater which would ignite the spark on his incredible first half of play. Not so prettily, however, Karena would find himself with two fouls early as big man Tohi Smith-Milner would draw the charge on the next play, with some Karena displeasure with the official drawing a technical foul next to his name. After just two minutes of play, Nelson’s star player would find a spot on the pine.

Back-to-back triples from Mauriohooho Le’afa and young gun Taine Murray saw the Huskies gain an early lead, as a smaller and more athletic starting five inevitably resulted in faster transitions from Auckland. The Giants would slowly start to claw their way back into the game through Josh Leger – who came in for Karena – and his seven-point opening term. He kept his spot in the team despite Thane O’Leary returning from injury, with the decision paying off for Mike Fitchett and his Giants.

A Mauriohooho Le’afa steal would lead to a huge baseline cut and slam for Wilson on the back of a no-look pass from Marvin Williams-Dunn, a beautiful highlight play in what was otherwise a quiet night for him. Trading buckets for the remainder of the term, Smith-Milner made a tough finish inside which finished the quarter with the scores tied at 20. Poor shooting from Nelson allowed the early deficit, but some rigid defence kept them in the game as they forced six turnovers from Auckland early.

Dane Brooks would start the second quarter athletically with a big block, a steal and a layup setting the tone for the Giants’ next two quarters. With small ball paying off early offensively for the Huskies, the Giants knew they had to take advantage of the absence of Henry on Auckland’s defensive end. Zeb Lovell targeted a leaner Wilson in the post on multiple occasions, a clear indication of the Giants desire to attack the paint going forward.

Nelson come hard out of the gates despite another athletic defensive play from Wilson. Their scoring continued to come from inside the paint as the Huskies were playing too tight defensively on the perimeter despite Nelson’s inefficiency from deep, with the Giants blowing past the defenders. The start saw them get out to an eight-point lead, with the return of Karena leading you to believe it would get worse for the Huskies. Mauriohooho Le’afa did not care for that as he would steal the show, scoring on the Huskies’ next four possessions which included three triples and a long two. The game began to heat up physically alongside the scorching hot Mauriohooho Le’afa who would end the first half with a whopping 26 points, courtesy of six threes.

The two teams would continue to trade baskets down the last stretch of the first half, although some Brooks hustle with the Giants small ball would end the half and the second quarter the way he started with a big swat, a steal from the inbound and an assist to a Josh Bloxham layup taking us into half time. Despite Mauriohooho Le’afa, the Giants would lead 49-43 with 20 points from the bench no doubt a contributing factor, as well as attacking inside as they got to the line and earned 22 points in the paint for the half.

A one-man show for the first half, the Huskies needed more contributions in the absence of Henry, but contributions from anyone was scarce for the third quarter. Karena would start the quarter having just played three and a half minutes in the first half and his impact was on display immediately with a steal and assist leading to a Bloxham three. A nine-point scoring run would take the lead out to 15 before a Murray triple would settle things down. The settling was only momentary, however, as their next score would not come for another three minutes.

The Giants played deny ball defence on Mauriohooho Le’afa early as the performance of the two teams went in opposite directions. Nelson’s active ball movement was quick and efficient as Auckland’s one-on-one offense was not paying dividends.

Leger’s five points and a corner three from Johnson down the stretch would give Nelson a near insurmountable 23-point lead heading into the last break, ending an abysmal 28-11 quarter the Huskies would rather forget.

Mauriohooho Le’afa missed his only two shots for the quarter as Williams-Dunn remained scoreless on the game. The Huskies were beginning to wonder where their next points would come from as Karena would re-enter the game – an even more worrying sign for them.

Needing to throw whatever they had left at the Giants if they wanted to have any chance of coming close, the Huskies got the start they were after with Nicholas Brophy getting to the line, and a Wilson steal following that and resulting in a Mauriohooho Le’afa three. Their newfound momentum was quickly halted with Brooks being fouled on a three-point attempt, as the Huskies struggled to string together consecutive stops.

Trading baskets for most of the final quarter, the Huskies found a final gear as they managed a 10-0 run within a minute, but it was too little too late. Despite the single digit loss, it was a convincing win for the Giants as they now find themselves third on the ladder at the conclusion of week two having won 83-91.

Leger (14 points) and Tom Ingham (14 points, two steals) were among the best for the Giants as Karena (10 points) was kept quiet due to foul trouble.

Mauriohooho Le’afa was fantastic with 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, while Wilson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Murray (16 points) were also serviceable. The return of Henry will be welcomed for their match against the Nuggets on Tuesday as they will look for more performers to scrape them off the bottom of the ladder.

NZNBL fans allowed in as season dubbed ‘Sal’s NBL Showdown’

IT is already a season that is unlike any other before a ball is tipped. For the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), the 2020 season will be known as the 2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown to mark an unusual set of events that has seen the global pandemic suspend and alter the competition. The NZNBL had found a way to keep the season alive in a new modified format, and now Sal’s NBL Showdown will also feature the most important element of any sporting event for professionals – fans.

NZNBL General Manager Justin Nelson told the NZNBL website that he was “thrilled” that fans of the seven teams would be allowed to attend the six-week competition.

“The fans come first, that’s how we market the Sal’s NBL and to have them allowed into the Trusts Arena in Auckland means so much to all of us, especially the teams and players,” he said. “I’m thrilled they will get to see 28 nights of great basketball featuring players from across the country.”

Whilst some might be tempted to see the season reverting back to a regular home and away format, Nelson said it would not be possible despite the lowering to Level 1 restrictions by the New Zealand Government this week. Instead, he said it would be more risky for clubs if they had to pay for all the additional costs that come with playing in multiple areas across the country over a longer season.

“We’ve just had ten weeks of lockdown,” Nelson said to the NZNBL website. “Now that fans are allowed back does not mean we can return to a full-blown home-and-away season. “That will happen, but not this year. “If we did, teams would fall over financially through the cost of travel and accommodation, increased wages and paying for stadiums. It’s a fact that revenue streams for teams have not recovered and it just isn’t possible yet.”

“This year the League has had to cover the bills to the tune of over a million dollars, with no added support, which has added significant pressure. “However, that’s the reality of how the pandemic has hit our business. We are thrilled with how the teams and League has adapted. “We are going to meet our sponsor and broadcast arrangements, and we are going to see some great players on the court and returning to work. “We are doing all we can to support our teams and players financially. The competing teams, their boards, the players and staff should be commended for getting in behind this and achieving what felt like an impossible task two months ago.

“What is being achieved in 2020 is setting the scene for next year too. We are building back up and because of the hard work and sacrifices of many, 2021’s season will return with strength and games will be played across the country.”

As for the dubbed name of ‘Sal’s NBL Showdown’, NZNBL Chair Iain Potter said it was very fitting given the circumstances of the season.

“Over the last couple of years the League has grown incredibly well,” he said. “We reached new records for viewers last year and ran a fully sustainable event. “This year has been a whirlwind to try and meet our broadcast, sponsors and player expectations, but 2020 has come together despite all the barriers. It’s going to be a great show, it’s only fitting we called this year’s competition the Sal’s NBL Showdown.”