Tag: brent matehaere

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #1 – Ngatai block saves GF for Otago, Nuggets hold on in final seconds

IN what was the culmination of an action-packed month and a half of basketball, the events that ensued in this season’s Grand Final between the Otago Nuggets and the Manawatu Jets, in particular the final minutes, fittingly rounded out the NZNBL this year as a whole as the Nuggets clinched a two-point victory (79-77). Due to this, it concludes Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments at the number one-spot.

For the full match report of this year’s Grand Final between the Nuggets and the Jets – Click HERE

Otago had defeated the Jets in their previous four encounters, meaning Manawatu entered the Grand Final as the underdogs. But for Tim McTamney and his side, all prior meetings were irrelevant and one win on the night could crown them NZNBL champions.

It only took a few seconds for the Jets to get their squad going, as Hyrum Harris dunked the ball with two hands, which was quickly followed up with a layup from the league MVP in Thomas Vodanovich. Fortunately for Otago, the experience and calmness from veteran teammate and Defensive Player of the Year, Jarrod Kenny, the Nuggets hit back with a couple of baskets of their own, slowing the momentum of the Jets.

Limited opportunities would present themselves to both teams in the opening period, but the Jets were smart enough to attack the rim early on, edging out a slight two-point lead heading into the first intermission.

An unexpected turn for the worst had the Nuggets on the back foot for the majority of the second quarter. Jordan Ngatai, Otago’s number one draft pick and Brent Matehaere’s go-to man, had run into early foul trouble and sat out for most of the second quarter meaning Otago’s secondary unit had to step up.

While Manawatu outscored the Nuggets in the second 24-22, Ngatai and Kenny gained extended periods of rest, as their bench players limited the Jets’ ability to score. Additionally, their bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil made their presence known, as they pulled down a number of rebounds to convert on numerous second chance opportunities. Furthermore, terrific ball-movement from coach Matehaere’s role players kept his side in the contest, culminating in a corner three for Richard Rodger to tie the game with few minutes to play in the first half.

In a first half that saw eight lead changes, there were not many things that the final was missing to make it a great game, but the main concern for Manawatu was their inability to capitalise on Otago’s turnovers (14 in the first half).

The combination of Hunt and Keil injected a sense of composure into their side, as the frontcourt duo strung together a pivotal 10-0 run. The points swing in favour of the Nuggets was quickly upended, as Kalib Mullins’ three-pointer out of the timeout got the Jets’ bench on their feet. Shortly before the final break, late field goals from Harris and Jayden Bezzant re-secured the advantage for Manawatu, as the Jets held onto a flimsy three-point lead with 10 minutes still to play.

Re-energised and raring to go, Ngatai opened up the fourth with the initial points of the stanza and after Joshua Aitcheson and Keil knocked down their third triples of the contest each, the Nuggets helped themselves to an 11-0 start to the fourth quarter, blowing the game out of the water. But the triple-threat of Vodanovich, Harris and Bezzant did not back down, gradually grinding away at the deficit throughout the final term. Luckily for Manawatu, they whittled the Nuggets’ lead down to just three points with over the two minutes left to play in the Grand Final.

As the intensity and the pressure started to grow for both sides, each basket started to feel like two, and Ngatai who had played limited minutes up to this point had a couple tricks up his sleeve. The Tall-Black and New Zealand Breaker penetrated the lane for another signature right-hand jam turning Trusts Arena into a frenzy. But, back-to-back buckets from Bezzant made the crowd hold their breath a little longer, as the Jets trailed by just one point.

With 33 seconds left on the clock, a Hunt shot-clock violation handed the ball back to Manawatu for the final possession and a chance to win the closing game of the season. However, as Harris drove down the corridor for the right-hand layup, Ngatai swooped in from the side, pinning the shot against the backboard with the game-saving block. A moment for Otago’s supporters to cherish for the rest of their lives.

After Aitcheson was intentionally fouled following regaining possession of the ball, the 22-year-old had a chance to ice the game. After missing one of his free-throws, the Jets chose not to call a timeout, meaning that Nelson Kirksey’s shot from half court on the buzzer was the last gasp for the green and white.

Sailing through the air for what seemed like an eternity, the ball clang off the left side of the rim as the Otago Nuggets claimed their first NZNBL title in franchise history, capping off what was a fitting way to end the most unique and possibly most controversial campaign in the NZNBL’s history. For this, it deserves the top-spot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the season.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #4 – Otago baffles Manawatu with 130-point display

WHILE the end result of the Otago Nuggets and the Manawatu Jets ended in a blowout, both teams put on phenomenal scoring totals. But in their second of five encounters throughout the 2020 NZNBL season, the Nuggets strung together perhaps the most dominant display of basketball across all fixtures this year securing the number four spot in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the season.

For the full match report between the Nuggets and the Jets – Click HERE

Heading into the contest, neither of the eventual grand finalists were yet to establish themselves as a serious top-two team. The Nuggets had only a modest .500 record with three wins and three losses to their name. Meanwhile for the Jets, they sat just half a game above Otago, earning four wins to this point thanks to an extra-game 30-point win over the Nelson Giants in their last outing.

Both sides would ensue in a back and forth opening period, as Manawatu’s newly signed wingman Nelson Kirksey got his stroke going early to open up proceedings. But Otago emerged with the more aggressive style of play by pushing the floor and attacking the rim, which in turn forced three early Jets turnovers and created a 12-5 lead as a result.

However, a late run of points from center Taane Samuel and guard Haize Walker tied the score with less than a minute to go in the first. Two free-throws in the dwindling moments of the opening term from Jordan Hunt were responsible for the Nuggets’ two-point lead at the opening break, but the good shooting from both sides of the aisle continued well into the second quarter.

Otago once again got out to an early advantage, pulling away with another 12-5 scoring run. Unsurprisingly however, Thomas Vodanovich became the main focus point for Brent Matehaere’s side. As the multi-time Tall-Black started to catch fire in an impressive first half, managing to convert four of his seven attempts, with three of them triples as the Jets trailed by just a single point after 20 minutes.

The Nuggets decided they needed a different approach if they were to pull away from a persistent Jets outfit and through the deep ball, Otago found a solution. Creating a quick 8-0 run, the team from Dunedin got themselves out to a comfortable double-digit lead and began a dominant one-sided second half in turn.

Otago shot a ridiculous 56 per cent from the field in an authoritative third term, as the lead quickly grew out of control. Outscoring the Jets 38-23 in the championship period, Tim McTamney’s side needed drastic measures if they were to claw their way back from a 16-point deficit in the final quarter. Ashton McQueen started the fourth off in good spirits knocking down a lead-off three, but when Jordan Ngatai and Kane Keil started to heat up, there was nothing that the Jets could come up with to slow down the South Island onslaught that was the Nuggets’ second half.

Otago pushed all the way to the finish line, outscoring Manawatu 35-15 in the concluding 10 minutes, capping off a 73-point performance in the latter two periods of the game and gliding away with the 130-94 demolition of the Jets.

Collectively for the Jets, both Jayden Bezzant and Vodanovich led the way for their side with 18 points apiece, but five different individuals for the Nuggets reached double digits. Keil’s game-high 29 points, six rebounds and four assists led the way for Otago, as Ngatai and Hunt combined for a massive 55-point haul.

As a team, the victors completed their performance with a script of impressive stats. Firstly, they concluded their shooting with a 57 per cent accuracy rate, going 47 from 82 on the floor. Otago managed to knock down 14 triples and 22 free-throws, and lastly, a plus-six on the boards and a plus-10 in assists would round out the highest scoring performance from a team all season. Furthermore, the Jets’ 94 points of their own helped bring the overall total of the game to 224, the largest points total in a contest form both troops all season long.

A lot went right for both sides in this high scoring affair, but the Nuggets put the rest of the league on notice with the 130-point effort against the Jets. For this masterclass at both ends of the floor, there’s no arguing that this moment slots in at number four in Draft Central’s list.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Otago Nuggets

OTAGO NUGGETS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Nuggets had a season to remember returning to the competition, finishing on top of the table at the end of the 14-game regular season and then going all the way to premiership glory. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 12
Lost: 5

KEY STATS:

Points: 92.6 (3rd)
Rebounds: 40.6 (6th)
Assists: 20.2 (1st)
Steals: 9.2 (2nd)
Blocks: 3.0 (4th)
FG%: 47.4 (2nd)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 2 points

What else could it be? The match that guaranteed Otago Nuggets premiership glory. It was far from a straightforward win though despite beating the Jets on the previous four occasions. In the tightest match between the teams, fitting for a grand final, the Nuggets had to fight back from a four-point deficit at half-time to cut it to three by the final break and run over the top of their opponents thanks to a 27-22 final term to win, 79-77. Jordan Hunt topscored with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, as five players recorded six or more rebounds. Josh Aitcheson (16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Kane Keil (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one block), Jordan Ngatai (11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Jarrod Kenny (six points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals) were phenomenal on a memorable night for the organisation.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland Huskies by 12 points

While the final day of the regular season was by far the worst loss in terms of points, considering the obvious man management factor and that top spot was secured, you have to wind back to when the Nuggets went down to the Huskies on July 7 in a 12-point defeat. Trailing at every break and losing each quarter – albeit by no more than five points, it was just one of those games where the opposition team was better on the night. The usually accurate Nuggets were simply terrible from the field, shooting at just 32.4 per cent, including Kenny (30 per cent), Ngatai (22.7) and Richie Rodger (22.2). Meanwhile the Huskies were led by Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds and three assists), Tohi Smith-Milner (17 points, 10 rebounds), Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (12 points, six rebounds, three assists and six steals) and Leon Henry (11 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals) on a big night for them.

TOP PLAYERS:

Jordan Hunt 19.6 points, 6.1 rebounds 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals
Jordan Ngatai 18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Kane Keil 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals
Jarrod Kenny 11.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals
Josh Aitcheson 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Everything if you look back in hindsight. That is not to say they did not have their challenges, but in terms of their list, they predominantly had their best team out on the court each night, they followed team structures and just did all the team things perfectly. From the start to finish of the season, they were consistently in the top few teams and deserved the title by season’s end. While not many top teams end up following through after winning the minor premiership, the Nuggets did just that, and can celebrate their first ever franchise title.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

In the counter opposite to the above, nothing that could be considered serious enough to derail a season. They can look back and be proud of their year, because aside from the odd hiccup here or there in terms of losses, they legitimately were one of the contenders all season.

SUMMARY

Otago Nuggets were the premier team of the 2020 Sal’s NBL and were well coached by Brent Matehaere to lead his team to a memorable title. They had first pick in the Player Draft, and Ngatai paid them back in spades, with their second choice who slid in Kenny, also paying dividends. What a year to remember for the Nuggets.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #8 – Nelson’s statement win over Otago to conclude season

FOR most of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, the Nelson Giants struggled to string together many triumphs in the 14 games of their campaign, finishing with a record of five wins and nine losses. But when the final game of the regular season came around, the Giants were hell bent on finishing on a good note.

The NZNBL this year has been touted as one of the most even in terms of the skill and the ability of all seven teams. Nelson’s final matchup with the first ranked Otago Nuggets is truly a testament to this statement, as it makes an appearance in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments of the 2020 NZNBL season.

Full the full match report between the Giants and the Nuggets – Click HERE

Coming off of two demoralising defeats at the hands of the Auckland Huskies (67-96) and the Taranaki Mountain Airs (95-102) in their two prior outings, Nelson was in need of some dire momentum if they were to put themselves in as good of form as possible heading into finals week. However, to do this the Giants had to be flawless for a full four quarters if they were any chance to conquer minor premiers, Otago Nuggets.

While Otago limited the minutes of their marquee duo in Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny before their Qualifying Final as well as both bigs in Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil being absent due to “niggles” according to coach Brent Matehaere, the point still stood that Nelson needed to make a statement before finals.

The opening 10 minutes of play did not bode well for the Giants, as the Nuggets blew out of the starting blocks with their shooters ablaze, knocking down six first quarter threes led by Darcy Knox and Richard Rodger who had two each in the opening term. Otago produced an attractive 28-21 quarter time lead and it was obvious what Nelson needed to limit them for the remainder of the contest.

Mike Fitchett managed to hammer home the message of limiting Otago’s long-range shooting, as the Giants held the Nuggets to just four threes in total over the next three quarters and contribute to their fantastic defence during the stretch of play.

Through multiple stops and neutralising Otago’s scoring avenues, Nelson found themselves in the lead halfway through the second after a corner three from Thomas Ingham. The majority of the second entailed the trading of buckets, but a 7-0 scoring run thanks to Mike Karena and Tom Gargiulo, capped off the first half in dominant fashion and gave their side an eight-point advantage at the main break.

Despite a couple of big plays from Otago, the Nuggets could not eat into their double-digit deficit as Karena and his side continued their good defence in the final quarters of the encounter. Next to Karena, Zeb Lovell and Mika Vukona provided supplementary points down low in the paint as the Giants pummelled their South Island neighbours around the basket.

A final layup by Tysxun Aiolupotea with 27 seconds left in the game put the stamp on the one-sided affair, with the Giants putting on a defensive clinic over a Nuggets side that now had to quickly shift their focus to the Manawatu Jets a couple days later.

Nelson held the Nuggets to just 46 points in the last three quarters, as the Giants accumulated 76 points of their own in the same period of time. The winning side tallied 52 points in the paint, compared to the Nuggets’ 30, helping the Giants achieve a 52 per cent shooting average on the night.

Karena led the game in scoring with 26 points and three assists, while Ingham added a further 17 points and five rebounds. On the other side of the aisle, Knox displayed his offence for the Nuggets by serving up a team-high 17 points off the bench in 23 minutes of court time.

Nelson’s 97-74 demolition job of Otago marked their fifth and final win of the season and slotted them into sixth position to conclude the campaign. But the fact that Nelson was able to trounce the eventual champions of the season, fully embodies the level of competition the NZNBL had on display this year.

Otago strikes gold, defeating Jets for first ever NZNBL title

THE New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 2020 season has ended in a thriller, with the Otago Nuggets clenching their first ever Championship title, in an exhilarating 79-77 conclusion to the campaign over the Manawatu Jets. The contest saw many lead changes and scoring runs and could only be separated by a missed three-pointer at the buzzer with Brent Matehaere and his boys heading back to the South Island with an extra piece of silverware.

OTAGO NUGGETS 15 | 22 | 15 | 27 (79)
MANAWATU JETS 17 | 24 | 14 | 22 (77)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

This year’s NZNBL Grand Final was a matchup between the two undisputed top teams all season long, but the Jets had a massive chip on their shoulder, as they were yet to defeat the Nuggets in their four prior contests. But the green and white looked to their key players to have a noticeable impact on a Nuggets squad that had yet to face adversity up to this point of their campaign.

It was Manawatu with the explosive first punch as Hyrum Harris slammed down the two-hand jam just mere seconds after the opening tip. This was then followed up with a layup from Thomas Vodanovich, as the Jets stunned Otago within the opening sequences. The experience of Jarrod Kenny and the range of Joshua Aitcheson quickly settled the nerves amongst their side, with a couple of field goals in what would be an adrenaline-filled opening term.

While both sides continued to trade baskets in the initial minutes, Manawatu maintained a slight edge, as they got to the rim fast and early on dribble penetration and fast break offence. The second half of the first quarter entailed a scrappier brand of basketball, as both teams struggled to find their targets. This trend was abruptly bucked after a strong second chance bucket from youngster Akiva McBirney-Griffin, after almost three minutes without a made basket from both sides, cutting the deficit to one point, 13-12.

Aitcheson’s lucky drop from three-point range and a putback-layup from Nelson Kirksey concluded proceedings in the first period, with the Jets held a fragile 17-15 lead thanks to their defensive pressure. Otago’s nine opening-quarter turnovers and Manawatu’s six steals created what seemed like a lop-sided first 10 minutes, but Aitcheson’s two threes were keeping the Nuggets within striking range.

Matehaere’s bigs Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil came through with a couple buckets to lead off the second, quickly handing the side the lead while appearing to have a new level of calm. But, back-to-back layups for Vodanovich quickly reminded spectators why he was named the league’s Most Valuable Player.

Early foul trouble for Jordan Ngatai and an extended rest period for Kenny early in the second quarter, saw Otago’s second unit display some terrific ball movement. The main highlight of this was a well-executed corner three by way of Richard Rodger. A similar story to the first, the Jets maintained a slight lead heading into half-time and following an And-One from Harris with less than two minutes remaining, it seemed Manawatu would inherit the momentum. But, Keil’s three to answer back with 90 seconds to go undid most of that.

In a half that saw eight lead changes and a halfway deficit of just four points (37-41), the NZNBL’s final game of the season had it all. But the main talking point of the game to this point was Ngatai’s lack of court time through 20 minutes. The number one draft pick had only seven minutes and 46 seconds on the hardwood, which when coupled with Otago’s 14 giveaways, was slightly worrying for Tim McTamney’s side that they were not further ahead.

Vodanovich and Kirksey led the way on the scoreboard for Manawatu with 11 each, whereas Hunt and Keil contributed 11 and 10 points for the Nuggets in a first half that saw a different story of play from each squad. With Ngatai making his return in the second half, Otago had an air of composure surrounding them, kicking off the third period with a fast-break layup to Hunt a minute and a half in. As well as Keil knocking down the mid-range jumper shortly after.

The two players helped the Nuggets to a remarkable 10-0 run, which was capped off by Ngatai’s first bucket of the game leading to a Jets timeout to try and stall the Minor Premier’s confidence.

Manawatu’s team huddle worked momentarily, as Kalib Mullins knocked down a triple to get the Jets bench on their feet. The rest of the third period remained relatively level-headed, with Manawatu grinding their way back into a one-possession game and eventually back into the lead credited to Vodanovich’s second three of the game, putting the score at 51-50.

Late buckets from Harris and Jayden Bezzant helped the Jets re-secure the lead for the final break, leading 55-52 with the final stanza still to be played and neither team really gaining a real upper hand on one another.

Ngatai’s quarter-opening layup and Aitcheson’s third three of the contest gifted the lead back to Otago, and Keil added insult to injury with a third three of his own. An And-One from Ngatai rounded out an 11-0 run for the Nuggets blowing the game out of the water two and a half minutes into the final period.

However, over the next five minutes, the combination of Vodanovich, Harris and Bezzant brought the deficit back to as little as three points with just over two minutes left in the game. But, another signature right-hand jam from Ngatai held off the Jets a while longer in an event filled final two minutes. A couple buckets from Bezzant brought Manawatu back from the dead with less than a minute to go making the score 78-77, and after Hunt conceded a shot-clock violation with 33 seconds left for Otago, the Jets had the chance to win the game with one more field goal.

But Ngatai had other plans, after pinning Harris’s layup to the backboard on a game saving block with 29 seconds left. After a couple of intentional fouls, Aitcheson’s single made free-throw put the Nuggets up by two.

Not calling a final timeout, the last second half court heave from Kirksey would hit the left side of the rim to end the final play of the season, as the Nuggets held on for a hard-fought 79-77 win. After the two-point triumph, the reality had set in for Otago knowing that they had won their franchise’s first ever NZNBL title.

In a game that saw both teams earn every single basket, neither side was able to crack 50 per cent shooting, but the difference proved to be Otago’s range as they knocked down 10 triples over the four phases of play compared to Manawatu’s six. Another glaring difference in the statistics was the rebounding totals, with Otago earning a plus-13 on the boards (48-35).

Despite Manawatu forcing 23 turnovers from the Nuggets, it was Otago that capitalised on their chances, earning 20 points from turnovers, five more than the Jets.

After an honourable 21-point and seven-rebound performance, it was only fitting that Jordan Hunt was awarded Finals MVP honours. Meanwhile, Aitcheson had himself a season-best performance of his own, amassing 16 points off of four threes and six rebounds.

Despite limited minutes with just 11 points and eight turnovers, Ngatai still made valuable contributions with six rebounds and four assists. Whereas, Kenny had an all-around night with six points, seven boards and eight assists.

Another MVP-calibre performance from Vodanovich (24 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) was not enough to get his side over the hump. Nevertheless, another great night from Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals) rounded out a prolific season on the whole for the two New Zealanders.

In what was a top-to-bottom job from the beginning of the season, it was certainly an entertaining finale to the NZNBL for 2020 and after receiving his championship medal, Coach Matehaere credited his team for their tremendous finish to the season.

“To my guys, you wouldn’t have seen it on television because we were sitting behind a screen, but on Draft Night… oh what a night,” reminisced the Coach of the Year.“ I was smiling all the way through [picks] one to 12 or one to 84. Kia Ora boys, this is our moment.”

Nuggets reach first grand final in franchise history, halt Rams’ run

LIKE all great stories, there is eventually an ending. This was the case for the Canterbury Rams’ spectacular New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Finals Week run, as they fell to the minor premiers and championship favourites, the Otago Nuggets. In what was a clinic from the Nuggets’ marquee signings, Jordan Hunt in particular helped elevate his side to their Franchise’s first ever Grand Final appearance, after surgically defeating a fatigued Rams squad, 97-79.

Knowing full well that Canterbury was not fully rested, Hunt expressed post-game that it was a major point for him and his side to exploit. “We just wanted to come out strong,” said Hunt. “It was pretty tough on the Rams coming off of two previous games in two days, so we just tried to put the foot on early and keep it there.”

OTAGO NUGGETS 29 | 25 | 27 | 16 (97)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 17 | 18 | 22 (79)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Having already pulled of remarkable upsets in their first and second elimination finals against the Nelson Giants and the Auckland Huskies, Canterbury’s biggest and most challenging opponent stood directly in front of them.

Pre-dating their third matchup, the Nuggets had emerged victorious over their South Island neighbours on both occasions. But, with both of those meetings being decided by 10 points or less, the Rams were not an immediate write-off before the opening tip. However, coming off a strong qualifying final triumph over the Manawatu Jets, it certainly seemed a ‘David vs Goliath-type’ line-up for the two sides and Otago was determined to win the franchise’s first NZNBL title.

Number one pick Jordan Ngatai kicked off the proceedings with an aggressive layup with his favoured left hand, while Joshua Aitcheson added to Nuggets confident start. Then 100 seconds in, an up-and-under layup by Rams’ captain Taylor Britt on Defensive Player of the Year Jarrod Kenny, got the second of the two teams up off the ground.

The ball started to find some range during the middle stages of the first quarter as both sides starting looking to the deep-ball, and at an efficient rate. A 35-second stretch saw back-to-back-to-back threes from Rams Toby Gillooly and Alexander Talma and Otago’s Kenny, highlighting the accurate shooting in the opening 10 minutes of play.

Keeping Mick Downer’s squad at arm’s length during the first term, a corner-three via Hunt extended Otago’s advantage to greater than two possessions, helping the Nugs to an advantageous 29-22 quarter-time lead. The Nuggets maintained 61 per cent shooting from the field off of 11 made attempts, nine of which were created through assists, as Hunt and Ngatai accumulated nine and eight points apiece amongst a fast-paced first term.

Another Kenny triple extended Otago’s lead to 10 points kicking off the second, but the Rams tried another approach of scoring, which came evident throughout the duration of the period. Going with a twin-tower formation between Talma and Thomas Webley, Canterbury hammered Otago’s frontcourt around the rim with close-range shots. But the Nuggets continued to capitalise on easy baskets, more times than not through dribble penetration and lacklustre help defence courtesy of the Rams.

Canterbury’s second half prospects of a comeback were hindered further, following a put back layup from Hunt. Otago held a handsome 54-39 half-time lead as a result of forcing numerous turnovers with Canterbury’s total at nine. Talma led his side in points at the main break, but with Hunt, Ngatai and Kenny each in double-digits at this stage, the Rams needed to pull a rabbit out of the hat if they were to claw their way back into the match.

With the Rams shooting 40 per cent leading into the third quarter, the red and black needed to hit their shots and quickly with time running out. But the second half started with defence for the Rams, as Reuben Te Rangi’s statement block on Ngatai set the tone for the next 10 minutes.

Even though both teams struggled to convert from the field, the Nuggets at least found some success on their shots, slowly but surely stringing together a 7-0 run to begin the second half and pushing their already commanding lead to 20 points. With the Rams desperately needing solutions, Brent Matehaere’s squad could smell blood and looked to their ball movement to deliver one last debilitating blow to a struggling Canterbury outfit.

As more of Otago’s bench players were getting some court time, fatigue became more and more of a factor in the later stages of the contest, as the Rams just could not keep up with the top-ranked seed in the League. And after Kane Keil’s reverse layup with 20 seconds remaining in the third, the 24-point lead (81-57) in favour of the Nuggets looked insurmountable for Canterbury, while Hunt continued his rampage, sitting pretty with 28 points through three phases.

Despite Canterbury’s roster depth and winning out in the bench points statistic, there was simply no answer for Otago’s marquee signings. This, coupled with the fact that the Rams were playing their third game in as many days, marked a battle that the underdogs just could not win.

One last charge for the Rams would ensue, off the back of Samuel Smith and Benjamin Carlile-Smith baskets, bringing the deficit to as little as 13 points. But following Darcy Knox’s layup and Ngatai’s three with a few seconds left, the Nuggets would cross the finish line cementing their place in the club’s first Final ever, knocking off the dark-horse Rams 97-79.

Otago’s 50 per cent shooting carried them for all four quarters as well as their 22 assists, capping off a well-rounded team effort on the night.

Leading them through the game, Hunt’s game-high 33 points and 10 rebounds earned him man of the match honours, as Ngatai and Kenny added 23 and 16 points each, as well as both of players doling out seven assists.

Sam Smith led the Rams in scoring with a flurry of late buckets, compiling a modest 13 points. Meanwhile, the duo of captain Britt and Webley combined for 24 points, whereas Te Rangi concluded his night with 10, alongside three rebounds and three assists.

The Rams’ Cinderella story came to an unfortunate ending last night after surprising most pundits to this point, but the Nuggets were plainly the more superior side over four quarters and can now look forward to their first ever grand final appearance on Saturday since their inception in 1990 when they face the Jets.

Nuggets justify top seed with big win over MVP-less Jets

OTAGO Nuggets have justified their top seeding from the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) regular season with a vital 25-point qualifying final win over a Manawatu Jets side missing the league’s best player this season. Otago went in full strength for the top of the table clash, and came out with its fourth win in as many attempts, dominating the opening three terms to rest up in the final term ahead of the semi-final. With Sal’s NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Tom Vodanovich a late out of the contest, life was always going to be difficult for the Jets, who struggled to have the same scoring output without their number one big man, going down 105-80.

OTAGO NUGGETS 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
MANAWATU JETS 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Once word that Vodanovich would miss out got out, the Nuggets went from favourites to raging favourites, but they still needed to get it done on the court. Knowing that the top ranked side in the semi-finals would play the lowest ranked remaining team, posting a win in the qualifying final became important. With all their big guns in the line-up, the Nuggets hoped to get off to a strong start, and that they did.

Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt had a couple of baskets on the board in the opening minute, as a couple of missed shots and then a turnover by the Jets already had them on the back foot. Ashton McQueen quickly came to the party with five points of his own off Hyrum Harris assists for the Jets to regain the lead, only for Josh Aitcheson to take it straight back. The teams traded blows in those opening few minutes, before the Jets started to make some mistakes through turnovers and fouls.

Otago took full control of the moment, piling on nine straight points to lead 16-7 with less than five minutes to play. Taane Samuel finally broke the drought for the Jets with a couple of free throws, but a layup from Akiva McBirney Griffin followed by a Richie Rodger triple – off a Jets turnover – extended the lead out to a game-high 12 points. McQueen and Samuel seemed to be the biggest resistance from the Jets, as they and Jayden Bezzant got the second placed side back within eight points. Six consecutive points to the Nuggets – four from Kane Keil and two from Jarrod Kenny – blew the lead out to 14 with 37 seconds to play, but a late Nelson Kirksey trey helped draw his side within 11 at the first break.

The second term did not give Jets fans much more hope as the Nuggets piled on the first five points of the quarter to build a handy 16-point lead and each time the Jets trained a shot, the Nuggets responded, both from the inside and outside. The top two teams have not been afraid to register points from beyond the arc, and that was on show again, while Harris was producing some nice dimes throughout the first half to keep his team alive. Then the facilitator got his first points with an important triple with four and a half minutes left on the clock, countering that of Darcy Knox moments earlier, but the Jets were still 14 points in deficit.

Following a Nicholas Fee three-point jumper with 3:43 left on the clock, the Jets trailed 35-46 and needed a spark. Instead, this was where the game was won, as the Nuggets piled on the last seven points of the quarter to blow the half-time margin out to 18, with a Kenny layup in the last few seconds exemplifying why the top side was in firm control of the contest with a 53-35 advantage at the main break.

The Nuggets showed no signs of slowing down in the third as they pushed the lead to beyond 20 thanks to baskets from Kenny, Hunt and Ngatai, and answering each of the Jets’ makes with one of their own. Manawatu was rattle and it showed when Kalib Marsich-Mullins fouled Keil from outside the arc midway through the term and then the long-range shooter drained all three free throws for his team to hold a 24-point lead.

Each time the Jets would score, the Nuggets would answer, as Jack Andrew came off the bench to string a couple of baskets together including an impressive dunk, as Samuel was trying all he could to get his side going. By this time, the Nuggets trio of Hunt, Kenny and Ngatai would rest up with Coach of the Year Brent Matehaere confident his chargers would finish the job off in the last 15 minutes.

Six straight points to the Nuggets leading into the final minute of the quarter had a game-high lead of 27 points, something that went out 28 not long after with Kirksey’s layup matched by Rodger’s long-range bomb just two seconds remaining in the term. The final break had the Jets leading 80-52 and in complete control with the game’s largest margin.

The game was done and dusted by then, with the Jets making the decision to sit both Harris and Samuels out of the contest for the entire quarter in readiness for Thursday night’s semi-finals. To the losing side’s credit, they managed to chew back some of the deficit as the bench players came to the party, though it was always going to be a case of too little, too late, with the Nuggets rotations holding off Manawatu enough to record an impressive 105-80 victory to advance through as the top ranked team in the semi-finals.

The Nuggets were more deadly from the field, with less attempts, but more makes, shooting at 53 per cent efficiency compared to the Jets’ 38, including a 66 to 52 per cent differential from inside the arc. Whilst the Jets had more steals (11-6), the Nuggets recorded the only four blocks of the game, as well as dominating the rebounds (52-39) and winning the assists battle (26-60). Both teams had 15 turnovers in what was a fairly solid performance, but the class of the Nuggets and the loss of Vodanovich proved key in the end.

Hunt top scored in the match with a remarkable 23 points off less than 18 minutes, including 10 of 14 from the floor. Keil stepped up with the most minutes of any player – 27 – just missing out on a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. With just 20 minutes, Ngatai still recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists, which equates to a triple-double if you factor in 40-minute averages, while Kenny spent more time on the bench than on the court, for eight points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Andrew off the bench amassed 16 points and three rebounds in a really handy performance.

The Jets had four players who recorded double-digit points, led by Samuel off the bench with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) and McQueen (13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) also tried hard. Harris only played the 18 minutes in readiness for the semi-finals, but had six rebounds, four assists and two steals to go with his one trey, while Fee finished with a solid 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The next matches for both sides are uncertain at this stage, with the elimination finals tonight to determine the winners. If favourites win, then the Nuggets will look to take on Taranaki Mountainairs, while the Manawatu Jets face Auckland Huskies, though nothing can be certain with both Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams both in contention.

Vodanovich claims NZNBL MVP as All-Star Five announced

TOM Vodanovich was announced as the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) last night after taking home the award at last night’s awards ceremony ahead of the Finals Series. Manawatu Jets’ Vodanovich polled 101 votes to finish four votes clear of Jordan Ngatai (Otago Nuggets, 97) who was a further vote clear of Derone Raukawa (Taranaki Mountainairs, 96).

The MVP Award was determined by votes from each coach after every game of the regular season and finalised once a panel of 11 people – including the seven head coaches – cast their final votes. The Manawatu Jets big man averaged 21.9 points (ranked third in the league) and 10.4 rebounds (ranked fourth) off 31.8 minutes, as well as two assists and one steal per game. Vodanovich told the New Zealand (NZ) NBL website he was honoured to be named as this year’s MVP.

“Just playing in this league has been awesome,” Vodanovich said. “People have come from all over the country and competed week in and out, and proven that there is some excellent talent here, so to pick up this is an absolute honour, especially with the calibre of players we have here.”

Along with the MVP, the League’s All-Star Five was announced, which unsurprisingly featured all three of Vodanovich, Ngatai and Raukawa. Joining the trio in there were Raukawa’s teammate Marcel Jones, and Auckland Huskies’ Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa. A couple more awards handed out to players were Youth Player of the Year (Taane Samuels – Manawatu Jets) and Defensive Player of the Year (shared by Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Otago Nuggets’ Jarrod Kenny).

Off the court, Nuggets’ coach Brent Matehaere won Coach of the Year for guiding his team to the minor premiership, while Canterbury Rams’ General Manager Caleb Harrison won the Team General Manager of the Year. Franklin Bulls’ social media team also received plaudits for its work, recognised as providing the League’s best social media content.

Sal’s NBL League General Manager, Justin Nelson said it was a fantastic night to celebrate the effort put in by all teams, players, coaches and staff on and off the court to make it happen.

“It has been a huge effort by the seven teams and all the players and coaches to be here for this year’s competition, so to be recognised by their peers is testament to what each award winner has achieved,” he said.

“Tom won a close race for the MVP, it’s an award that is mostly decided by the coaches, so congratulations to him, while what a night for the Nuggets with three award winners on their return to the Sal’s NBL.

“I’m also really pleased for Caleb Harrison. “He works very hard as an outstanding General Manager in the league and as a result we continue to see the Canterbury Rams take great strides forward as a professional organisation.”

Giants trounce Nuggets, gain essential morale before finals

ANOTHER upset win for the Nelson Giants can be added to the books, as they came away with an impressive 23-point shellacking of the top of the table Otago Nuggets in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) middle game of the triple-header.

NELSON GIANTS 21 | 31 | 22 | 23 (97)
OTAGO NUGGETS 28 | 15 | 15 | 16 (74)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Knowing full well the outcome of last night’s result was to have no effect on each team’s positioning for next week’s Finals, the Nuggets were without starting big-man Jordan Hunt and stretch-four shooter Kane Keil. As a result, both Brent Matehaere and Mike Fitchett could tinker around with their sides before their games next week, despite it being a clash between first and second last. It also allowed both coaches to allow any players with “niggles” to gain much needed rest.

Even though young Kiwi big-man Akiva McBirney-Griffin got the starting nod from his side, Mike Karena quickly reminded him of the pecking order to begin the game, converting on a running hook. Nevertheless, Joshua Aitcheson knocked down a triple to get the ball rolling for the Nuggets. It was evident early on that each team went about scoring in totally different fashions. For the Giants, it was attacking the rim hard and getting up close and personal with Otago’s frontcourt, as 14 of their first 17 points came from inside the paint. For the Nuggets, they knocked down five shots from deep in their first ten attempts, signalling a more distant approach to getting on the scoreboard. The quarter time totals would reflect a slight advantage in favour of the Nuggets, who’s 28-21 lead came as a result of their bench’s contributions, outscoring Nelson’s 12-2 in the first 10 minutes. Eight points of which, came by way of Darcy Knox, along with Matthew Bardsley and Samuel Aruwa hitting a shot each.

To commence the second, Nelson slowly but surely began to crawl their way back taking the lead halfway through the quarter, thanks to a corner three from Thomas Ingham. But, both sides would remain within earshot of one another, dealing blows to back and forth for most of the remaining few minutes in the first half. Consecutive fast-break layups from Karena and a three-pointer from Tom Gargiulo handed Nelson a commanding nine-point lead heading into the main intermission after a 31-15 period, due mainly to instrumental rebounds, which in turn translated to a bunch of second chance points in the paint over the first two periods (14-4). Karena and Knox both led their teams in scoring at halftime, with the Giants’ center compiling 17 points in eleven and a half minutes of court time, before getting the second half started with an and-one.

A nice Euro-Step by Jordan Ngatai got the number one draft pick going after a rather quiet first half, making just one three in the initial 20 minutes of game time. With this being just one example of lacklustre performances through three quarters, Otago struggled to cut into the double-digit deficit that the Giants had created. An enormous dunk by Ngatai looked to spark an injection of energy into his side, as McBirney-Griffin repeated the action on the next play forcing Nelson to call a time-out.

The task of a fourth quarter comeback was made even harder for the Nuggets however, after a hook-shot once again from Karena extended Nelson’s lead to 16 with 30 seconds left in the third, as both teams went to the huddle one more time for the regular season with Nelson on top 74-58. Nicolas Trathen made Otago’s lofty deficit even greater to start the fourth, following a friendly roll from deep. And to make matters worse, Zeb Lovell’s up-and-under layup helped Nelson to their biggest lead of the contest (20). The Nuggets remained persistent in staying in the contest, but the fact of the matter was that Otago was undermanned and lacking size. And after Gargiulo was able to find the target for his second three with three minutes to go, Nelson could secure the upset result and obtain their fifth win of the year, taking home the triumph 97-74.

It was a one-sided affair down low in the paint, as the absences of Hunt and Keil factored majorly into the statistics. Nelson put their foot down with an impressive 52 points in the paint compared to Otago’s 30. While a number of bench players got remarkably more minutes due to the insignificance of the meeting, it remained a two-man effort through four quarters. A stat line of 26 points in 17 minutes, alongside three rebounds and three assists rounded out a dominant night around the rim for Karena, whereas Ingham was feeling his stroke to finish off the season with three threes to go next to his 17 points and six rebounds in another quality performance.

In what was a quiet night for both Jarrod Kenny and Ngatai, with both combining for 29 minutes of court time, the night belonged to the youngsters. Props went to Knox, who came off the bench to account for a team-high 17 points, meanwhile McBirney-Griffin and Richard Rodger each paved their own way with 13 points apiece.

The fates of both teams are already known for their first matchups of Finals Week, as the Nuggets who locked up top spot in standings go up against the Manawatu Jets in the qualifying final on Tuesday night. At the other end of the table, the Giants lock horns with the Canterbury Rams on Tuesday night as well, however, it will be a win or go home situation, as the teams engage in first elimination final of the postseason.

Otago grounds Jets, Nuggets solidify top spot ahead of Finals Week

IN a battle of the top two teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL), the Otago Nuggets out-bodied a persistent Manawatu side to claim the top seed on the ladder after grounding the Jets 97-85.

This comes after MVP-candidate Jordan Ngatai put on a spectacular performance last night, with each victory building much needed momentum as Finals Week fast approaches for next Tuesday.

OTAGO NUGGETS 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
MANAWATU JETS 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

With the minor premiership on the line, both sides knew the importance of last night’s meeting, but with the two teams possibly matching up in the qualifying final, neither side was too keen on giving away too much in terms of tactics. Nevertheless, the game would go ahead, as Manawatu got off on the right foot to begin last night’s proceedings with a 10-2 start, thanks to their marquee signings in Jayden Bezzant, Thomas Vodanovich and Hyrum Harris. The slow start for Otago was quickly remedied, as Joshua Aitcheson’s consecutive threes brought the Nuggets back to a level playing field halfway through the opening period. However, back-to-back threes from Vodanovich (his third of the quarter) and Nicholas Fee placed momentum back into the hands of the Jets heading into the first intermission. The Jets’ 26-23 first quarter lead was a fragile one, as Jordan Ngatai got his stroke going in the last few seconds.

Vodanovic’s rhythm continued into the second and eventually half-time, as he opened up the term with another triple to add to his name, but Otago’s Kane Keil returned the favour with one of his own beginning what would become an action packed second period. Even though Manawatu maintained their impressive 50 per cent shooting in the second term, it was an even more impressive 10 minutes for Otago’s Ngatai. The number one draft pick built upon his strong first quarter to possess 22 points at the main intermission along with four rebounds and four assists. Ngatai’s counterpart in Vodanovich also had himself a solid first-half performance, constructing a two quarter 17-point effort, as his side trailed by a slim four points at the main break, 52-48.

Keil’s and-one gave the Nuggets a lovely seven-point edge to begin the second half, as the game’s tempo slowed down for both sides for most of the third quarter. Six minutes in, a technical foul to Taane Samuel allowed the free-throws of Ngatai and Akiva McBirney-Griffin to gift the Nuggets their biggest lead of the contest, leading 73-60. A few minutes later, Richard Roger’s knock-down three would put the Nuggets up by a devastating 18 points, setting up a fourth quarter that needed to be perfect from the Jets if they were to crawl their way back into the uphill battle. Despite Manawatu forcing 11 turnovers from the Nuggets, Otago did a beautiful job moving the ball, accruing 18 assists to the Jets’ 10 prior to the final period. Additionally, the Nuggets owned a plus-six in the rebounding numbers through three-quarters, signalling a hard-earned lead up to this point.

A 7-2 start for Otago in the fourth extended their lead past 20 points for the first time in the game, as a frustrated Manawatu outfit could not find a way to body up against a strong Nuggets line-up. But the Jets would fight back, through getting to the free-throw line and from deep thanks to Nelson Kirksey, capping off a tidy 10-0 run to bring Manawatu to within eight points. However, once again, Keil made his points count, knocking down another three to halt the comeback with a couple minutes remaining and extending the Nuggets’ lead back to double digits. After knocking down his sixth and seventh free throws, Ngatai polished off a resilient Jets side to help Otago secure their ninth win of the season with the 97-85 outcome, thus obtaining the minor premiership in subsequent fashion.

Following their win against Manawatu last night for the third time this season, it continues their winning streak to four-straight across the competition and solidifies their top spot on the ladder. This comes as Brent Matehaere’s squad shot and passed the lights out in the win. In terms of shooting, the Nuggets maintained a conversion rate of 46 per cent throughout four quarters and 37 per cent from three (13/35). Alongside this was Otago’s ball-movement, as they stockpiled 20 assists, seven more than the Jets in that statistic specifically.

You could point to a lot of factors for last night’s result, but there is no denying the monstrous effort from New Zealand Tall-Black, Ngatai, as the 27-year-old garnered 37 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a beautiful display of effort and accuracy. On top of Ngatai’s performance, three others dropped double-digit totals, as Keil’s 16, Jordan Hunt’s 15 and Aitcheson’s 14 points helped Otago over the line tremendously. Once again, Vodanovich rang true as Manawatu’s back bone, collecting a formidable stat-line of 28 points and six rebounds. Harris’ 20 points and 12 rebounds reflected a successful night out on an individual level, while Bezzant had a relatively quiet night, after acquiring just 13 points and five rebounds from the point.

The win for Otago establishes the Nuggets as the team to beat in the postseason, seeing their record improve to nine wins and four losses, the League’s undisputed best as they await the Nelson Giants in their season closer. The loss for the Jets keeps them ranked second in Sal’s NBL for the time being, as the Franklin Bulls require the Jets to lose their final contest against the Auckland Huskies on Saturday, as well as a win of their own and favourable results to account for the point differentials.