Tag: anamata haku

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #6 – Auckland’s historic start against Nelson

THROUGHOUT the month and a half of basketball that we witnessed in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), there were an abundance of impressive quarters. However, there is one that stands out unmistakably.

Auckland’s opening quarter against the Nelson Giants sits at the pinnacle of the season’s most productive and efficient periods, and as a result waltzes into number six on Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full Match Report of the Huskies’ clash against the Giants– Click HERE

In their previous matchup, the Huskies held off a persistent Taranaki Mountainairs side and looked to carry momentum over into their next contest. Additionally, Auckland was also on the cusp of securing their third win in a row, which when coupled with a late charge to finish high in the postseason rankings, Kevin Braswell’s side had plenty of motivators before the opening tip-off on July 19.

As Joshua Leger won the tip, it marked the only time that the Giants would be ahead for the entirety of the game, as Dane Brooks turned the ball over, and Leon Henry threw the alley-oop to Tohi Smith-Milner for the first bucket of the game. Smith-Milner’s finish signified the start of arguably one of the best starts in NZNBL history.

Reuben Fitzgerald’s three kept the ball rolling as it were, while Smith-Milner and Henry continued to pile it on down low in the post. It was not until the fourth minute of the first quarter that a fourth player got on the scoreboard for Auckland, as Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa converted on a fast-break layup for the Huskies’ seventh made field goal in as many attempts.

Fitzgerald kept his foot on the pedal, whereas Smith-Milner started to find his range, knocking down his first triple of the game thus extending his side’s lead to 12. Leading comfortably 21-9 before the midway point of the term, it was a temptation for the Huskies to start and rest on their laurels. But Auckland did the exact opposite, as the four-man combo of Henry, Fitzgerald, Le’afa and Smith-Milner would account for their team’s opening 34 points while successfully shooting 14 straight shots to begin the game.

A fifth scorer would eventually get their name on the scorecard, with Marvin Williams-Dunn knocking down the Huskies’ 15th straight. Whereas Le’afa and Fitzgerald capped off a flurry of six threes concluding an 18-3 run, leading the Giants 43-12. Fitzgerald’s second shot from deep marked Auckland’s seventeenth straight field goal to start the game.

Finally, with 80 seconds left, Nate Wilson’s three-point attempt would not find its target, ending the season’s most impressive shooting display, and one of the best starts to a single game in the League’s history. Nevertheless, the miss did not seem to sway the 19-year-old, as just 30 seconds later he dunked the ball with two hands to end proceedings in the first.

A lone miss by Anamata Haku brought the Huskies’ shooting average down to 90 per cent (18/20), but no one was too bothered, as Auckland went into the first intermission leading 45-12, essentially winning the game before the start of the second term had even begun.

In a slow paced remaining three quarters, Auckland would walk away with the 96-67 win as a result of the opening period and string together a nice three-game winning streak in the late portion of the season.

Despite their field goal percentage dropping down to 52 per cent by the final buzzer, the Huskies would shoot a productive 46 per cent from deep, nailing 13 triples compared to Nelson’s six.

While the majority of their points came in the first quarter, the combo of Le’afa, Henry, Fitzgerald and Smith-Milner made up most of their team’s total over four periods of play. For Smith-Milner, he led the way with 20 points off of 80 per cent shooting, meanwhile Fitzgerald followed up with 14 of his own. Le’afa proved himself as the squad’s facilitator, producing 12 points alongside six assists and four rebounds, as Henry accumulated a game-high seven rebounds next to 13 points.

Even though there were some mistakes in the second, third and fourth quarters during their clash against the Giants, the Huskies could not be faulted for a single thing in the first. Opening up the second term with a 33-point lead, Auckland never looked back and after witnessing such a dominant stretch of basketball, how could you not see this moment appear in Draft Central’s Top 10.

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.

Huskies claim first scalp of the season with impressive win

YET to register a win this season, the Auckland Huskies pulled out their bag of tricks, getting the job done against the Taranaki Mountainairs in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. With the lead getting out to as much as 20 points plus throughout the game the Huskies walked away with a 16 point victory (109-93). The Huskies were on song from the opening quarter finding their shooting stroke and making the Airs pay with their accuracy from both inside and outside the arc.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 16 | 20 | 29 (93)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 32 | 34 | 21 | 22 (109)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies struck first with Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa taking no time at all to assert himself on the game, draining a three after what was a disappointing outing the game before. Mauriohoohoo Le’afa proved to not only be a real playmaker in the opening quarter but so too scoring prospect with his ability to shoot from range or dish off to teammates. For the Airs, Derone Raukawa was solid, opening the account for his side with an important shot but his efforts were quickly quashed with Mauriohoohoo Le’afa and Taine Murray draining back-to-back threes to open up a seven point lead with just over seven and a half minutes left in the term.

Despite the best efforts of the Airs, the Huskies refused to take their foot off the pedal pressing at every opportunity and most importantly converting. Marcel Jones slowly started to build into the game, finding his rhythm to basket and knocking back a crucial three to reduce the margin to 10 points. From there on the Airs seemed to wrestle some momentum back from their opponents stringing together some strong passages of play with Raukawa and Jones having a huge influence. With the margin hovering at the 10 point mark the Huskies tried to pull away pushing out it out to 11 points but the Airs did not lie down instead a Kenneth Tuffin inspired couple of minutes saw the lead diminish to five points, after sinking a huge three pointer and proving he was here to play. The intensity lifted from both sides, with neither willing to give an inch. 

Despite getting within one point in the opening minute of the quarter thanks to a handy long bomb from Jones, the Huskies snaffled that pressure, denying the Airs any opportunity to go to the rim only managing a mere 16 points for the term. Auckland simply had a hand in everything, spearheaded by Mauriohooho Le’afa who was causing headaches for the Airs across the boards. Australian NBL Melbourne Boomers player Tohi Smith-Milner showcased his skill getting involved in the action to put some points on the board and establish a more commanding lead for the Huskies.

Moments later Leon Henry lent his hand to the points scoring tally with a jump shot while Mauriohooho Le’afa continued his merry way, finding the basket with ease. For the Airs, Raukawa and Jones plied their trade, working tirelessly to win ball back and apply offensive pressure but simply could not do enough to worry the Huskies who seemed in control. Tuffin and Tai Wynyard also impressed in the early stages of the quarter but were quickly overrun with the Huskies exploiting their opponents’ every weakness. Murray was a constant for Auckland with Nathan Wilson also contributing. Within a blink of an eye the Huskies were out to a commanding lead notching up 66 points at half time and shooting at 71 per cent in what was a complete turnaround from their outing on Sunday. 

Holding a 22-point lead the Huskies did not look like giving up any time soon and despite both sides going toe-to-toe throughout the term did not lose their cool. Wynyard landed the first blow of the second half, converting a free throw while teammate Denhym Brooke chimed in moments later with another free throw to get back within 20 points. But it did not take long for Auckland to find their range with Smith-Milner imposing himself.

The ball bubbled about with both teams almost going goal for goal throughout the team. Despite having a wealth of the play in the mid part of the quarter the Airs simply could not convert, letting the Huskies off the hook multiple times. Efforts from Henry and Murray  did not go unnoticed for Auckland with the two getting their hands to plenty of ball but a flurry from the Mountainairs in the final five minutes of the quarter provided plenty of excitement with Taranaki dwindling the margin down to the lowest of the second half to 15.

Anamata Haku delivered the settler for the Huskies sparking his side back into attack while Wilson also got busy with less than two minutes left on the clock. Heading into the final change the Huskies held a 23-point buffer with Mauriohooho Le’afa wreaking havoc. 

With their first win in sight the Huskies put pedal to the medal but it was not without pressure as the Airs worked to reduce the margin. Strong performances from the likes of Tuffin and Jones the Mountainairs seemed to find their groove in offence able to hit the scoreboard while Mitchell Dance provided a much needed spark sinking them from inside the post with confidence.

After somewhat of a quiet game Francis Mulvihill also found his stroke delivering a crucial three-pointer to get his side back within 18 points. Following in Mulvihill’s footsteps, Raukawa knocked one back from down town with the deficit standing at 15 points with five minutes to go. With the Airs coming hard, Mauriohooho Le’afa stood up to push the margin back out before Shane Temara sunk back-to-back threes to give his side a fighting chance with the deficit standing at 10 points but it was little too late with the Huskies doing enough earlier in the game to secure their inaugural win. 

The scoring was shared for the Airs with Raukawa and Tuffin finishing with 19 points apiece while Raukawa dished off nine dimes for the game. Recording a double-double for his efforts Jones collected 13 rebounds to go with his 14 points with teammate Mulvihill the only other to reach double figures with 11. For the Huskies it is no surprise that Mauriohooho Le’afa took out the number top scorer with 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Next best was Henry who like Jones collected a double-double finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds but his performance was marred by an incident with Raukawa. Henry was charged with “unduly rough play” and offered a two game suspension for his actions. Three other players also hit double points with Smith-Milner registering 16 while Murray and Wilson sunk 15 apiece in a strong outing by the Huskies. 

Canterbury overcomes setbacks to Ram home win against Huskies

TWO of your first three draft selections ruled out for the season in the week leading up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition? No worries for Canterbury Rams who stepped up last night to post an eye-opening 32-point win over Auckland Huskies. The Rams had to rejig the look of their side in the wake of season-ending injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, but the most cohesive team – having played together more than any other side – looked in-sync and like a title threat this year. Aside from a second term fightback from the Huskies, the Rams were in control for the majority of the game, enjoying a 102-70 victory to kick-start their year.

CANTERBURY RAMS 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The match started with experienced veteran and Huskies captain, Leon Henry reading an Alex Talma pass then giving it off to Marvin Williams-Dunn for the first score on the board. After missing a three-point attempt, Toby Gillooly produced a neat lay-up to register the Rams’ first score of 2020. Henry and Perth Wildcats development player, Taylor Britt both traded two-points, as Canterbury used its first substitution to bring on Thomas Webley. That decision paid dividends as he picked up a rebound almost immediately then sank a turnaround jump shot, whilst Britt ran the court and put up another layup.

The Rams were starting to take control as the Huskies could not manage to find their range with accuracy. When Gillooly drained a three-point jumper in the seventh minute of the term, the Rams’ lead was out to 12. In the last 90 seconds, Canterbury showed they were not content with a minor lead as they piled on nine points to two to head into the first break with a 29-12 lead.

The second term started as it had finished with Britt sinking two baskets, whilst veteran Rashid Al Kaleem scored either side of the break for the Huskies. Johnny Fesolai managed to get the Huskies back a little with a two-point layup and the and-one basket from the line, but again the Rams raced away to extend the lead by out to 22 points four minutes into the term.

Young gun Taine Murray started to make his presence felt with four consecutive points to drag it back to 18, but then Gillooly returned serve and the Rams were away to the largest lead of the game – 23 points. Back-to-back triples from Tohi Smith-Milner reminded the crowd the game was far from over as the Huskies clawed to within 14 at the main break, but Canterbury was still in control.

All the work the Huskies had done was threatened to be undone early as Sam Smith and Mac Stodart were the first two on the board in the second half. Smith-Milner came back with another converted and-one opportunity, before Gillooly’s superb game continued as he applied pressure to the opposition with an important layup, drilling seven points in the term. Each time the Huskies threw down a challenge, the Rams responded with some class of their own, and the 24-16 term resulted in Canterbury extending the lead out to 22 by the final break and needing a special effort from Auckland to get back into the contest.

Nathan Wilson and Jaylen Gerrand tried their best early with the first four points of the term to cut the deficit back to 18, but the star of the show in Britt stepped up again, and settled the team. The sides traded blows midway through the term, with 21 points in the fourth minute as close as the Huskies got from then on. Talma, Britt, Jack Exeter, Mason Whittaker and Webley scored 14 straight points for the Rams to put the final nail in the Huskies’ coffin.

Murray, Anamata Haku and Wilson managed to cut the margin back a little, with Gerrand’s trey with three seconds remaining – matching that of Whittaker’s triple four seconds earlier – ending the match with the Huskies going down by 32 points in the second game of the competition.

Britt was simply outstanding in a best on court effort, sinking 22 points at a 55 per cent efficiency, whilst also picking up eight rebounds and an assist. Gillooly was equally strong, adding a match-high 25 points, along with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the win. Exeter (13 points, two rebounds and two steals) was strong off the bench, whilst Webley had seven points and seven rebounds, and Smith with the seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

For the Huskies, they were missing their top selection in Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa, but still struggled with connection compared to their rivals, understandable considering the minimal time the team has had together. Smith-Milner scored 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and one assist in the clear standout for Auckland, whilst Wilson finished strong with 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Both Murray (seven points at 20 per cent efficiency) and Henry (two points at 11 per cent efficiency) will be keen to sharpen up their shooting for the next game, though the pair still managed a combined 10 rebounds and five assists.

Canterbury have a night off today before fronting up against a Franklin Bulls outfit tomorrow night, whilst the Huskies have back-to-back matches on the weekend, starting with Manawatu Jets on Saturday.