Tag: aaron bailey-nowell

2021 NZNBL Round 11 preview: Ladder defining clashes take centre stage

IT is going to be another action packed round in the New Zealand National Basketball League with a couple of sides getting to ply their trade out on court twice this round as the ladder continues to shape up heading towards the back end of the season. The Saints will be keen to retain top spot while the Mountainairs have two chances to notch up a win.

Nelson Giants vs. Franklin Bulls
Thursday, July 8 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The contest between the Giants and Bulls is set to be an enthralling one as both sides have had a chequered run in their past few encounters. The Giants are coming in off a loss while the Airs will be riding a wave of success clinching a narrow win last round. Nelson Giants will be hoping to rekindle their form and steal the win to take the ledger to two wins apiece.

Hunter Hale has been one of the most consistent players to-date for the Giants, averaging 26.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 defensive rebounds each time he steps out on court. Teammate Donte Ingram is also one to watch in this clash given he averages 18.8 points making him a handy target. Ingram is also more than capable of dishing off dimes averaging 2.3 assists a game while he also leads the way with 5.6 defensive rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Samuel Dempster is a real eye catcher thanks to his 5.4 defensive rebounds and team-high average of 2.1 offensive rebounds. The Bulls will need the likes of Joshua Selby and Denhym Brooke to fire on all cylinders and create some real scoreboard presence if they are to defeat the Giants. Selby averages 24.4 points per game while Brooke boasts an average of 11.3 points along with four rebounds.

Southland Sharks vs. Otago Nuggets
Friday, July 9 @7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The Sharks and Nuggets will engage in their second clash of the year with the latter hoping to reverse the fortunes of their previous meeting. Both sides are coming in with similar form guides having won three of their past five games, the only difference being the Nuggets enter the clash fresh off a win.

The combination of Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins will be one to watch given the two are the most prolific shooters for the Nuggets. Moss averages 22.2 points per game while Timmins is not far off the pace with 20 points of his own. Timmins is also crafty with ball in hand registering 4.6 assists a game and a whopping 10.7 rebounds highlighting his overall dominance. Gerasimos McKay is another player for the Nuggets that is able to change the course of a game with his ability to contest for the rebound averaging 4.7 a game while he is also able to create attacking forays credit to his 2.5 assists. For the Sharks there is no denying that Dominique Kelman-Poto is the main man to watch. Kelman-Poto tops the table for points with an average of 16.5 per game but will need the likes of Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham to ply their trade to impose a commanding score. Inger averages just over 14 points per game while Cunningham can influence both on the scoreboard and off the boards with 6.4 rebounds.

Hawkes Bay Hawks vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The first Saturday game of the round will see Hawkes Bay Hawks host Taranaki Mountainairs who have had less than a desirable season. The Hawkes will be hoping continue their winnings ways and really assert themselves on the lowly Mountainairs. Taranaki sit firmly at the bottom of the ladder while the Hawks are all the way up the ladder in second and will be eager to notch up a win to create some much needed ladder separation.

Unfortunately for the Airs it is a one man show with Marcel Jones proving to be that man. Jones can light up the court with his drive to the rim and is a force to be reckoned with credit to his average of 23.2 points, 3.8 assists and 8.9 rebounds falling just short of a double-double. If the Airs are any chance of causing a major upset they will need Tai Wynyard to be at his damaging best and apply the pressure on the scoreboard. Throw in the likes of Haize Walker and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who is renowned for his presence off the boards and the Airs have a strong core. But the Hawks are not short on star power with Devondrick Walker able to dominate as shown with his average of 19.1 points while Ethan Rusbatch can chime in with his average of 15.2 points. If those two are kept quiet then look to Jordan Hunt to step up to the plate while Hyrum Harris is also an option both on the scoreboard and with ball in hand credit to his 4.1 assists a game.

Manawatu Jets vs. Wellington Saints
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

It could be a blowout game if the top of the table Wellington Saints are able to bring their A-game against the lowly Manawatu Jets. The Jets only have four wins to their name while up the other end of the table the Saints have 12 to their name. The last time these two sides met it was Wellington that got the chocolates by 23 points and will be hoping to repeat those efforts in this outing to solidify their standings.

The Saints are brimming with talent as Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Tohi Smith-Milner are real livewires. Prewster leads the way with 21.1 points to accompany his 4.9 assists while Roach Jr is another dominant scorer credit to his 16.2 points and 4.1 assists a game. When looking at the Jets it is Daishon Knight that tops the table with is 23.3 points and will have to expect plenty of attention from the Saints to shut down his scoring ability. DeAndre Daniels is another exciting option for the Jets averaging 16.9 points per game along with 6.1 defensive rebounds. Shane Temara will need to up the ante for the Jets if they are to cause a boil-over while Jayden Bezzant has also proven to be a livewire at times.

Canterbury Rams vs. Nelson Giants
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A win here for either side will be monumental as the mid-table logjam continues to develop. The Rams will be hoping to capitalise on the Giants fatigue given they would have played only days earlier but Nelson need the victory to keep their finals hopes alive. The Giants pulled off the win the last time they played and will be keen to do it once again to generate some much needed momentum.

It will come down to the workload of Deshon Taylor and whether or not he can inspire the Rams to really get going. Taylor averages 22.1 points per game along with 4.9 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds showcasing just how influential he is for the side. Another key cog for the Rams is Edward Singler who has proven to be handy on the scoreboard credit to his 18.5 points. It does not stop there for Singler as he also boasts 4.6 assists and 6.2 defensive rebounds. Keep an eye out for Samuel Smith to bob up every now and then for the Rams.

Auckland Huskies vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Sunday, July 11 @5:00pm
Eventafinda Stadium

The Mountainairs will be fronting up for their second game in as many days while the Huskies will be keen to take advantage of their fresh legs. Currently sitting in fourth spot on the ladder a win here could propel Auckland up the ladder and most importantly widen the gap between them and fifth place. Meanwhile for the Mountainairs, it will be a matter of pride as they look for their third win of the season.

Looking at the Huskies and they have a number of big contributors with Chris Johnson paving the way. He is the most prolific scorer for the Huskies averaging 20.1 points a game along with 2.9 assists and an impressive 8.4 rebounds. Meanwhile teammates Dontae Nance and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa are also right up there averaging 11.6 and 11.4 points respectively. Nance has also proven to be a handy contributor with ball in hand averaging 2.9 assists while Zach Riley has showcased his strength off the boards with 3.7 defensive rebounds. Throw in the services of American import Justin Bibbs and the Huskies have the makings for a big win if all of their structures fall into place. For the Mountainairs there is no denying that it is Jones that is the biggest threat. He is an imposing force across all aspects of the court and will need to have a mammoth performance if the last placed side are a chance to claim victory.

Wellington Saints vs. Otago Nuggets
Monday, July 12 @7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

The final game of the round plays host to the top of the table Wellington Saints and fifth placed Nuggets. Both sides will be entering their second game for the round meaning the level of bench-depth from sides is sure to be the game changer. The two teams have played their fair share of games this season meeting five times already with Wellington walking away with the chocolates each and every time meaning it will be a matter of pride and redemption for the Nuggets this time around.

The Nuggets have the upper hand when it comes to defensive rebounds and assists and will be eager to get that style of play up and running early to catch the Saints on the back foot. But Wellington are much cleaner with ball in hand only averaging 13.85 turnovers a game in comparison to the Nuggets’ 14.93 which means they are able to capitalise when it counts. When it comes to top performers it is hard to go past the likes of Timmins and Moss for the Nuggets while Prewster, Roach and Taane Samuel are livewires for the Saints.

Photo credit: Joe Allison/Getty images via NZNBL

Hawks hold off Giants in thriller as Sharks, Airs bounce back

IT was a triple treat for New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) fans last night with three games in action across the competition. In the biggest thriller of the night, the Nelson Giants had to claw their way back from a 17-point half-time deficit, only for the Hawke’s Bay Hawks to hold on by two points. Meanwhile Southland Sharks snapped a three-game losing streak to hand Auckland Huskies their second straight loss of the season, and Taranaki Mountainairs got on the board in season 2021 with a big upset win over the in-form reigning premiers, Otago Nuggets.

In the electric game at Pettigrew Green Arena, Hawke’s Bay Hawks race out to a 27-10 lead at quarter time, a 17-point advantage they maintained at the half. Nelson Giants mounted a challenge in the second half to pour on 28-20 and put the deficit back to single digits, then raced home but could not get closer than two points in a match where the Giants never held the lead. Aside from the Giants being more clinical with their shots (13 of 32 triples and 48 per cent overall field goal efficiency), the Hawks dominated all the other states, particularly the points in the paint (50-32) and second chance points (20-11).

Hyrum Harris was clinical with his shooting, knocking down nine of 13 from the field to finish with 23 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals in a double-double effort. Jonathan Janssen (23 points, eight rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (nine points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals) also came close to a double-double, as did Derone Raukawa (13 points, eight assists, five rebounds and four assists.

For the Giants, Hunter Hale lit up the scoreboard again with 24 points – three of nine from long-range – five rebounds, five assists and two steals. Donte Ingram (16 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Thomas Ingram (16 points, three steals) also scored plenty of points, whilst Bronson Beri (11 points, four assists and three rebounds) was impressive coming off the bench in 27 minutes of action.

After three consecutive losses, Southland Sharks got back on the winners list with a 15-point triumph over Auckland Huskies. The Sharks dominated the first term 31-20 to take an early lead, and then were never headed from there, building on that lead in the second half to win the third term 25-21 and fourth quarter 27-25 for an overall 102-87 victory. The Sharks shot at an elite 60 per cent from the field including 15 of 29 from long-range compared to the Huskies’ 43 per cent and six of 25. The winners also dominated the assist count (27-12) in a key to the win, leading from start to finish in the match.

Dom Kelman-Poto notched up a double-double in the victory, pouring on 21 points and 14 rebounds – 13 defensive – as well as six assists. Alonzo Burton managed the 20 points, of which 18 came from long-range in a six of eight shooting display. He also picked up five assists, the same amount as Courtney Belger who helped himself to 12 points and six rebounds in the process. In a shared effort across the board Brayden Inger (13 points, five rebounds and three assists), Josh Cunningham (10 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Sione Helu (13 points, three assists and two rebounds) also all picked up double-figure points.

In the other drought-breaking win, Taranaki Mountainairs got on the board with a 29-point victory over Otago Nuggets. Previously winless heading into the clash, the Airs came to play in the first quarter with a 29-13 term. Whilst the Nuggets hung around in the second to cut the deficit back to 13 points at half-time, the Airs finished the second half the stronger outfit, dropping 43 points to 27 to run out comfortable 91-62 winners. Aside from the rebounds that went in the favour of the Nuggets (41-39), the Airs had their measure across the board, particularly dominating the assist count (29-11), steals (11-5), points in the paint (50-36) and points from turnovers (33-11) in an all-round superb performance.

Marcel Jones was again the man to stand up for the Airs, continuing his season with a double-double of 25 points – including four of nine from three-point range – 10 rebounds and five assists on the evening. Tai Wynyard scored 18 points and five rebounds in 21 minutes, while Haize Walker (10 points, seven assists, five rebounds and two steals), Aaron Bailey-Nowell (nine points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (eight points, eight assists, three rebounds and two steals) also added contributions in the win.

Otago’s Akiva McBirney-Griffin (23 points, five rebounds) was the leading scorer, with Isaiah Moss (12 points, two rebounds) also hitting double-figure points, In 20 minutes off the bench, Robert Coman had seven points and 11 rebounds, while Gerasimos McKay stood tall with six points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals in the loss.

Round 4 of the NZNBL sees the Nelson Giants first host the Canterbury Rams before travelling to face the Otago Nuggets, whilst the Taranaki Mountainairs host Hawke’s Bay Hawks, with the Hawks also having to travel to Auckland to meet the Huskies. Meanwhile Southland Sharks have an extended break until next Sunday where they host Nelson Giants at ILT Stadium.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Selby and Waterman lead Bulls to win in Bailey-Nowell’s 300th

FRANKLIN Bulls have triumphed over Taranaki Mountainairs for the Bulls’ second win of the season thanks to a dominant second half at TSB Stadium last night. Celebrating veteran, Aaron Bailey-Nowell‘s 300th game, the Bulls managed to stand up when it counted thanks to huge efforts from Josh Selby and Zane Waterman cancelling out yet another double-double from Airs’ Marcel Jones. With a 56-39 second half, the Bulls got up by 16 points, 101-85.

The Bulls started off the night with an early lead, taking a one-point advantage into quarter time following a 24-23 opening term. The Airs, in front of a home crowd, were not going to lie down though, grabbing the momentum and the lead by as much as nine points. Having had narrow leads in the opening term, the nine-point advantage midway through the second quarter looked to have the home team on top. A late charge from the Bulls though cut it down to just the one point by the main break.

Taranaki started off strongly in the third to quickly hold momentum in the opening few minutes and lead by as much as four points, but once they surrendered the lead at the 7:19 minute mark of the third term, they never got it back. For the last seven minutes the Bulls piled on 19-10 to lead by nine points at the final break. Once the Bulls started to pile on the scoreboard pressure, there was no stopping them and they hit the double-digit lead early in the final term, never looking back, wining the last quarter 26-19 for a comfortable 101-85 victory.

The Bulls shot at a higher efficiency, with 58 to 50 per cent from two-point range, and nailing 15 three-pointers compared to the Airs’ 11. The Bulls also got to the free-throw line more often with 10 of 16 compared to a 100 per cent success rate from just four chances for the home team. Across the board the Bulls had the ascendancy with more rebounds (43-39), assists (17-15) and steals (11-5), but it was the personal fouls count that really stood out, as the Airs committed 20-6, and also had three more turnovers (15-12), with the Bulls punishing them from turnovers with 21 points to 15. The Airs were better in the paint though, picking up 44 points to 36, and had 11 second chance points to seven.

Selby won Player of the Match honours with 34 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round performance, dropping a massive seven of 10 from three-point range for an overall efficiency of 65 per cent. Waterman was not far behind with a huge double-double of 27 points (57 per cent efficiency) and 16 rebounds – seven offensive – to go with four assists. Joseph Nunag was the other key scorer for the Bulls with 14 points and three assists, while Nicholas Fee put together a valued performance of eight points, six assists, five rebounds and two steals.

Jones was far and away the best for the Airs, picking up another double-double of 33 points (54 per cent efficiency and six of 11 from long-range), 10 rebounds and two assists. Tai Wynyard had 18 points, three rebounds and two steals, Haize Walker finished with 11 points, six rebounds and five assists, while Bailey-Nowell had the two points, eight rebounds, three assists and a steal in his milestone game.

Franklin Bulls have a short turnaround with a game against the Nelson Giants tomorrow, whilst the Airs have an extended break until Sunday, May 16 when they lock horns with Otago Nuggets.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 2 preview: Top two sides do battle in Friday night blockbuster

THE top two sides will lock horns in a massive Friday night blockbuster clash in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), with a number of undefeated matches, as well as winless head-to-heads set to shake up the ladder at the conclusion of Round 2.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Thursday, May 6 @ 7:30pm
TSB Stadium

In their first home game of the season, Taranaki Mountainairs will be hoping to break their back-to-back losses from Round 1 against the 1-1 Franklin Bulls. After dropping their opening game, the Bulls bounced back to win their second encounter, and sit in sixth with an almost identical points for and points against column, and will be keen to win for Aaron Bailey-Nowell‘s 300th NZNBL game. Marcel Jones has started off as one would expect for the Airs, averaging 17.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, teaming up well with shooter Francis Mulvihill (10.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals). The pair are the only players to average double-figure points after two matches, with Franklin Bulls by comparison having five. Josh Selby has proven to be one of the most prolific shooters in the competition, dropping 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals, whilst in his only match in Round 1, Zan Waterman managed 25 points and 14 rebounds. Joseph Nunag (17.0 points, 2.5 assists) and Denhym Brooks (12 points, four rebounds) are the other key scorers for the Bulls, and they will be favourites to win this clash.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

A top of the table clash between two undefeated sides is set to light up TSB Bank Arena on Friday night, with the Wellington Saints and Southland Sharks making the perfect starts to their 2021 campaigns after missing the 2020 season. The Saints are the most successful team in the competition’s history, and they have started off on fire, with a points differential of 43. The Sharks are the next best side with a lower scoring output, but also conceding less to be plus-21 from their Round 1 clashes. Dion Prewster has been the top player in the NZNBL to start the season, earning two Player of the Match awards for his 31 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals per game. Kerwin Roach (18.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) have also started the season in strong form. For the Sharks, they have a trio of dominant players off the boards who can also shoot, with Josh Cunningham (14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds), Dom Kelman-Poto (11.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds) likely to stretch the Saints close to the basket.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A battle between two winless sides is the opposite Friday night clash, as the seventh placed Jets take on the last placed Rams. The Jets have come close and are only minus 10 for the points differential thus far, whilst the Rams have started off the season like they did last season – before charging up in finals – with a minus-35 points differential and sitting on the bottom. Quintin Bailey (16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists) has shared the top points-scorer nod with import Deshon Taylor (16.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals). The other two players to have impacted the scoreboard across both games are Ben Constable (11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) and EJ Singler (11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists). The Jets have had some prominent scorers, but not a lot from their depth, as Daishon Knight (26.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 rebounds) has been impressive, shooting at 69.7 per cent from the field. Jayden Bezzant has been a deadeye himself with 22.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with a 66.7 per cent clip, while Shane Temara (17.0 points, 12.0 points) and DeAndre Daniels (13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds) are averaging double-doubles. The Jets have the top-end talent to be favourites in this encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Coming back for their second game of the weekend, the Franklin Bulls could build some momentum in Round 2 if they can string back-to-back victories against winless sides. The Bulls’ second match comes on Saturday night at home up against Nelson Giants, with the Giants relying a lot on import Donte Ingram in game one. The Giants suffered a 19-point loss last week, and Ingram was the only scorer in double-digits with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sam Dempster (seven points, nine rebounds) helped off the boards, while Hunter Hale (eight points, six rebounds and three assists) did a bit of everything. It will be a tough ask for the Giants, but it was only one game, so they will be looking for a better effort here.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

Having clashed with the Rams on Friday night, the Jets then face reigning premiers Otago Nuggets on Saturday night. The 2020 NZNBL Grand Final rematch will see the sides come in with no more than two wins between them, though the Nuggets looked impressive in their second game out. As mentioned above, the Jets have some serious top-end talent, but the Nuggets can match them in that department. They have only has three players score more than three points per game in the opening two matches, as Isaiah Moss (10 points, three rebounds), Sam Timmins (nine points, 4.5 rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (seven points, 2.5 rebounds) the main focal points. They will need to share the load against a high-scoring Jets outfit.

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

It will be Southland Shark’s turn to do the double-up in what is a tough weekend for them against two other undefeated sides. With the premiership favourites Wellington Saints the Friday night clash, the Sharks then turn their attention to the fourth placed Hawke’s Bay Hawks on Saturday night. The Hawks have only played the one game, but their start power certainly fired, with Devondrick Walker having a night out with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Hyrum Harris marked his return to the Hawks in style with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (10 points, six rebounds) were also prolific off the boards, and the Hawks will really worry the Sharks in this Round 2 contest.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. NELSON GIANTS
Sunday, May 9 @ 5:00pm
Eventfinda Stadium

The last undefeated side in Auckland Huskies host the final game of the NZNBL Round 2 up against the Nelson Giants who will be coming off a clash against Franklin Bulls the night before. The standalone Sunday evening game will be favoured for the Huskies who have ticked off both challenges in Round 1, and will be looking to take down the Giants in this one. Jeremy Kendle has been running hot in the league, putting up 31 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds per game as one of the most dominant shooters thus far. Teenage star Dontae Nance made a statement in Round 1 with 22 points and four rebounds, while Brooke Ruscoe (15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Nick Barrow (11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists) also impressive in the opening round of action.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 1b preview: Airs, Rams and Jets enter competition

AFTER three standalone matches on individual nights last weekend, Round 1 continues this weekend with the three winners from those matches coming up against the three sides yet to play – Taranaki Mountainairs, Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets – in a massive weekend of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Thursday, April 29 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

Taranaki Mountainairs enter the 2021 NZNBL season with a Thursday night encounter against the Southland sharks. The Sharks passed the first test against Nelson Giants last week with a dominant 43-28 second half to scoot away with a 19-point victory. They will be tested here though, with a more experienced Airs outfit featuring Marcel Jones and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who showed just how much damage they could do last year, and will be keen to back it up this season. Francis Mulvihill was a rising talent and Tai Wynyard is always a player to keep an eye on, so the Sharks will need to be wary of what the opposition could do, particularly Jones who is prone to double-doubles. What was impressive about the Sharks was the evenness of scoring, with six players scoring double-figure points. Led by Josh Cunningham (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Dom Kelman-Poto (11 points, seven rebounds), the side proved too good for the Giants thanks to their accurate shooting, including 52, 38 and 93 per cent from the two-point, three-point and free throw ranges. The one area that might be a concern is the rebounding with the duo picking up 18 of the team’s 39 rebounds, though the Sharks did use the ball well, with Brayden Inger picking up four assists.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

In the second of three straight matches between sides in their first matchup for the season and teams contesting their second games, Wellington Saints host the fresh Canterbury Rams. The Saints were able to take care of business in a comprehensive win over Otago Nuggets on opening night, posting a 95-73 victory on the back of a dominant first three quarters. Dion Prewster was phenomenal in the performance of the opening weekend, racking up 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a huge effort, whilst Kevin Roach Jr had the 19 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists. Otherwise the Saints had plenty of contributors with four players picking up five or more rebounds in an even performance, and the likes of Taane Samuel and Tohi Smith-Milner almost getting to double-figure points with nine apiece. The Rams will go in with their reliable set up, led by Perth Wildcats development player Taylor Britt who lit up the NZNBL last season. The likes of Alex Talma, Sam Smith and Jack Exeter will be ones to watch, though Jack Salt is the big man set to make his long-awaited return to the competition.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

It might not have been deliberately orchestrated, but the Auckland Huskies are the third straight winner from the opening weekend to face a side coming into the league for the first match this weekend. The Huskies won a thriller over Franklin Bulls, coming from behind to storm to victory in the last term and get up, 99-96. The win came off the back of 32 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals from Jeremy Kendle, as Nicholas Barrow and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa almost picked up double-doubles thanks to 17 points piece and nine and eight rebounds respectively. Even Dontae Nance had 31 minutes off the bench for 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, in an even spread across the four players. The Jets have a bit of unknown about them, with some young players coming through, though Jayden Bezzant stood out in 2020 and will be one to watch this season, while DeAndre Daniels and Daishon Knight are others on the list. Add in the two Temara‘s in Shane and Troy, and the three-point shooting machine of Nikau McCullough, and the Jets have some nice pieces for the 2021 season.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

The Airs enter their second match on Saturday night up against the Otago Nuggets who will be keen to bounce back from the 22-point loss to the Wellington Saints. From the Nuggets’ perspective, there was still plenty to like, with a trio of players really standing out in this game. Sam Timmins led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst both Isaiah Moss (20 points, six rebounds) and Josh Aicheson (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) put in the work. Every player on the team scored at least one point as the Nuggets showed great depth, but it would not be enough to roll the Saints. The Airs will be keen to try and quell them in this contest.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

The Manawatu Jets will double-up over the weekend to travel to Franklin where the Jets will face a Bulls side ready for revenge. Franklin came agonisingly close to victory in the first match, going down to the Huskies with a fadeout last term to lose by three points, 96-99. Josh Selby stood out with 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Denhym Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds) also stood tall as starts. Off the bench, Joseph Nunag hit up 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes on court to provide some valuable time in rotation.

Other double-ups for the round:

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Sunday, May 2 @ 3:00pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

Picture credit: NZNBL

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Webley leads third term Ram-raid to tame Huskies

AN inspired third term by the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown last placed side, Canterbury Rams has continued the unthinkable dream with a come-from-behind 98-84 triumph over Auckland Huskies last night. Led by Thomas Webley who set the tone in the third term after his side had a slow start, the big man turned it on with unbelievable athleticism to drag his team back from the brink and over the line despite a remarkable 39-point effort from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 16 | 20 | 22 (84)
CANTERBURY RAMS 23 | 13 | 39 | 23 (98)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The first term belonged to the two talented Tall Blacks guards with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Reuben Te Rangi going head-to-head on the respective scoring fronts. The Auckland Huskies guard set up Tohi Smith-Milner with the opening basket of the game with a pass through traffic, and soon the size of Aaron Bailey-Nowell on offence added a couple more. Te Rangi would sink the first three-pointer of the game after being left wide open courtesy of a screen, but Bailey-Nowell immediately responded with a couple more points. Huskies had a number of chances but were missing them early, though that began to change when Mauriohooho-Le’Afa got cooking.

Te Rangi was still causing all sorts of issues for the Rams defence, piling on seven points, all of the Rams score in the first half of the term to get his side within four, and then assisted Quintin Bailey for a two-point deficit. But as would be the case, all the Rams scoring would come as a struggle, whilst the Huskies began draining treys like there was no tomorrow – which technically was correct for the losing side. Whilst Mauriohooho-Le’Afa was getting going, it was Leon Henry with a couple of triples and then a massive three first-quarter blocks that was intimidating the young Rams defence. At quarter time, the Huskies led by three after Taylor Britt’s first basket of the game with 40 seconds left got his side back into it.

Webley was having a promising game, and started well with three points and four rebounds, something he would build on in the second term. Despite the lead, Huskies coach Kevin Braswell was not happy with the defence on Te Rangi imploring his guards to double-team the Tall Black. They managed that better in the second term as he would not add to his seven first quarter scores, also gaining a bit of a breather as Sam Smith came on and piled on the baskets to be the most influential Ram with Webley in the second term.

But it was truly the Mauriohooho-Le’Afa show in the second quarter as he drained triple after triple to race to 20 half-time points courtesy of a 13-point second term. Between his offence and Henry’s defence, the inexperienced Rams were struggling to score. At one point, the Huskies guard was outscoring the Rams as Canterbury was two from 10 from three-point range, whilst the Huskies were draining a third of their chances.

The match was summed up by a fourth Henry block with four and a half in the term, followed by a Mauriohooho-Le’Afa trey putting the Huskies out to 12-point lead. With just 29 points to the midpoint of the term, the usually calm Mick Downer told his chargers that it was “the most selfish individual display I’ve seen from us this whole campaign and this is why we have 29 points.” The Rams managed to respond from that to cut back to six points as Smith drained a couple of layups. With 46 seconds remaining, Henry bowled over Ben Carlile-Smith and won the free throws, showing confidence with a stare down over his opponent on the ground. The half-time buzzer sounded with the Huskies up by six, 42-36.

It is unsure what went on at half-time, but whatever it was, it turned the Rams offence on. Whilst the Huskies defence was worried about Te Rangi and Britt, it was Webley who came to play, draining the first six points of the term and went on to finish the term with double-figure points as the big man was dropping floaters and slamming athletic dunks. He not only dragged his team back into it, but he lead the Rams to up to a lead themselves with a 16-4 run early in the term.

Mauriohooho-Le’Afa continued his form though with four points, but he was up against a team offence that had finally clicked. If it was not Webley, then it was Bailey or Toby Gillooly who were making the Huskies hurt. The biggest issue was the Huskies’ big men were getting into four trouble with Henry (three) and both Smith-Milner and Bailey-Nowell (four each) all close to being fouled out. Henry was still being aggressive on the offensive effort to try and help Mauriohooho Le’afa out, but everything the Rams touched turned to gold. Britt dropped a couple of treys off rare Henry fumbles out of bounds and the lead went out to 11 at one point.

Everything was going wrong for the Huskies as they were desperately trying to get some baskets, but a rushed pass from Smith-Milner was intercepted by Britt who went to the basket and was fouled to put the lead out to 13 by the final term. No one could quite understand what had occurred in the third quarter following a massive 39-20 term. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Te Rangi had not scored since the first term, and Britt only had 12 points – most of which came late in the term. For the Huskies, Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa and Henry combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds but needed more support.

The Huskies had 10 minutes to try and stay in the Sal’s NBL Finals Series, but it was not going to happen with a triple from Jack Exeter to push the lead out to 14 in the first 90 seconds. Henry responded with a last second trey before the shot clock expired. The Rams were still being aggressive on offence and throwing everything at the Rams in the last term. Henry was being incredible both inside and outside, and when Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa dropped another basket, his side was back within nine.

Six minutes in the Rams called a timeout with the 11-point lead and Downer implored his players to keep up the aggression on offence without going too far. The Huskies kept trying for long-range attempts, but the treys were now not dropping. Instead, Te Rangi was fouled shooting for a triple of his own and had three free throws, making two of them for a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining. The work by Canterbury’s defence to double-team Henry on the way to the hoop forced a miss, and Te Rangi almost ended the game with a triple but it rolled in and out.

With 3:47 remaining, Bailey-Nowell was fouled out for an offensive foul and a 11-point deficit. Henry continued his unbelievable work on defence and it led to a Huskies basket up the other end with Anamata Hatu scoring his first points coming on for Bailey-Nowell. Reuben Fitzgerald was using his speed to get to the basket but split both free throw opportunities in the final term with eight points the difference. When Smith-Milner was offensively fouled by Te Rangi with 2.31 on the clock, the Huskies had possession again and Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa was fouled on the way to the hoop and made no mistake with his free throws to go up to a massive 39 points and getting his team within six points.

Unfortunately for the Huskies that was as close as it got with Te Rangi draining an important basket, Britt doubling up with two nice jumpers and with just over a minute remaining the Rams held a 12-point lead. The Rams managed to wind down the clock and when Smith sank a trey with 30 seconds remaining, he iced the game to guarantee the Rams a most magnificent victory, 98-84.

Webley finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists, shooting at 69 per cent from the field, while Britt (16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists) ended up having a prominent night after a slow start. Te Rangi quietened down after his ripping first term but finished with 13 points, and still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists, while Gillooly picked up the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Smith (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were the other double-figure Rams. For the Huskies it was a two-man show with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa dominating everywhere with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry threw himself desperately at every ball to end with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks. Smith-Milner was the other Huskies player to pick up double-digit points with 16 but outside of the trio, the remainder of the team contributed just 11 points.

Whilst the Huskies exit the competition after some terrific basketball this season, the Rams advance to take on the top of the table Otago Nuggets tomorrow night, having to recover for the second straight night. While it is unheard of to think the last placed side could take out the title, the Rams so far have shown anything is possible.

Huskies slide into third ahead of finals, outlast Jets

IN an extremely tight-knit rendezvous of two of the top four teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown, the Auckland Huskies have held on just long enough to see off a tenacious Manawatu Jets side, to lock up third spot ahead of Finals Week.

The 93-82 win sets the Huskies up for a meeting with the winner of Tuesday’s elimination final between the Nelson Giants and the Canterbury Rams.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 25 | 19 | 24 | 25 (93)
MANAWATU JETS 24 | 21 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Leading up to last night’s encounter, the Huskies had some writing on the game. A win would see them take on the winner of the first elimination final between the two bottom teams in the league, whereas a loss would see them face the Franklin Bulls, a team they only beat by four points last time out. So, it was safe to assume that Kevin Braswell’s side was looking for a victory against the second-seeded Jets.

Both teams made their shots count in the infant stages of the match, with each side seeing more than 60 per cent of their shots drop early on in the first half of the opening period, perfectly encapsulated by a beautiful turnaround fadeaway from Nelson Kirksey five minutes in. With both teams deadlocked through nine minutes of basketball at 20 points apiece, a pull-up three by Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would give Auckland the one-point lead at quarter-time, 25-24, also thanks to the Huskies’ five second chance points and Leon Henry’s seven.

Continuing into the second term, neither side could effectively pull away from the other in the quarter. However, a couple of buckets from guards Haize Walker and Jayden Bezzant helped squeeze out a momentary lead just before half-time. Succeeding this, another three from Le’afa tied up the joust with 90 seconds yet to be played, tying the game at 43. A lovely running floater by a crafty Ashton McQueen, put the Jets up two with less than a minute to go in the half, shortly before a lone Isaac Miller-Jose free-throw cut the difference by one, rounding out a seesawing affair through 20 minutes.

In total, 11 lead changes took place in the first half, and it did not look like the pattern of scoring would not change anytime soon. With little to separate the two teams at the halfway point, it was the efforts of Le’afa and Hyrum Harris leading the way for their respective teams. Le’afa’s 15 points and three assists, shone through with a couple of triples, as Harris was putting in work early, stacking up the stat sheet with 11 points, seven rebounds and four steals.

Two quick buckets got the Huskies up and running, as they kicked off the second half with a 12-4 run and therefore putting themselves in the driver’s seat with 16 minutes to play. Each side struggled profusely to be accurate from three-point range and because of this, the contest would be a grind. Both sides had to fight for tooth and nail to get even a decent look at the rim, forcing scorers to earn their points more often than not in the key.

Eventually a breakthrough arrived and both offences started to flow, as Kirksey knocked down two consecutive threes, therefore returning command over the game back to Manawatu. Marvin Williams-Dunn answered back with one of his own to initiate a 7-0 run finishing off a strong response by a crafty Auckland side.

The Huskies grasped the slightest of leads with a quarter to go and only a strong, focused and diligent line-up would be needed to take the team to the finish line. Two layups in a row for Aaron Bailey-Nowell put the Huskies back on the right track, but for every attack Auckland made, Manawatu had a counterattack own – like Nicholas Fee’s three to answer back to Auckland’s.

But the exit of McQueen due to too many personal fouls and an early departure for Vodanovich, the Jets were without one of their best defenders and one of their best offensive threats, which made obtaining the win drastically more difficult. A beautiful assist to Fee and steal from Harris was a critical point in the contest with three and a half minutes left, taking a huge chunk out of their deficit.

Two further free throws from Harris tied the game, but Tohi Smith-Milner and Henry went for the jugular with two minutes remaining, fabricating an 8-0 run out of thin air and in the space of three possessions ending the game. Finding their form in the fourth and final quarter, the 93-82 result did not reflect the true character of the game for Auckland. The character could be described as an extremely close grinded out contest, with the Huskies only blowing the game out of the water in the last couple of minutes.

Nevertheless, the Huskies eighth win of the campaign equals the record of the Taranaki Mountain Airs, but due to percentage, Auckland now lifts itself into the third seed. Because of this, the team now looks forward to facing either the Rams or the Giants on Wednesday night.

For the Jets, they conclude their NZNBL regular season with an overall record of eight wins and six losses and look to earn a semi-final position with a win over the minor premier Otago Nuggets on Tuesday.

Auckland had five players in double-digit figures for scoring, headlined by Le’afa who continued his terrific run of form in the late portion of the season. The 23-year-old locked up 26 points and six assists, as well as four shots from deep (40 per cent efficiency). Smith-Milner (19 points and 10 rebounds) and Henry (13 points and 13 rebounds) both enjoyed the spoils of war with each Husky nabbing themselves a double-double, whereas Bailey-Nowell and Nathan Wilson produced 12 and 11 points respectively.

For the season’s runners-up Jets, Harris collected another unconventional stat-line, falling three assists and one steal short of a quadruple-double in another all-around effort. The Illawarra Hawk from last season tallied 16 points, 13 rebounds, seven assists and nine steals. Meanwhile Taane Samuel strung together a team-high 25 points through 33 minutes.

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.