Tag: chris johnson

2021 NZNBL team review: Auckland Huskies

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Auckland Huskies.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 4th
Wins: 11
Losses: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 85.5 (6th)
Rebounds: 35.3 (8th)
Assists: 15.1 (7th)
Steals: 7.0 (7th)
Blocks: 2.2 (8th)
Field Goal %: 45.0 (6th)

KEY PLAYERS:

Chris Johnson

The star import was enormous throughout the season, and whilst he had to head back to the United States prior to the end of the season, Johnson finished averaging a massive double-double. He put up 20.1 points. 11.0 rebounds, 2.9 steals and 1.7 blocks, shooting at 32.8 per cent from long-range, and 49.1 per cent from the field overall. When getting to the line, he rarely missed, with an 88.24 per cent success rate. In a remarkable feat of consistency, Johnson did not dip below 11 points all season, and had 20 or more on eight occasions, including a 30-point season-high outing on debut. He picked up 10 double-doubles throughout 2021, with his best saved for last, when he racked up 25 points and 20 rebounds – 16 defensive – against the Manawatu Jets.

Zach Riley

Starting the equal most amount of games, and playing in all 19 for the Huskies, Riley averaged 10.9 points, 4.5 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.2 steals. He was as consistent as any player, holding the team together through other absences and injuries. With a 40 per cent clip from long-range and 49.7 per cent from the field, Riley could be relied upon to hit the jumper. Like Johnson, he was emphatically good from the line, hitting 87.8 per cent of his free throws. Riley had a slower start to the season, only averaging in single digits for the first eight games, then had eight of the last 11 in double-digits. His consistency at times from game-to-game wavered from a points scoring perspective, hitting zero points from 29 minutes against Franklin Bulls, but then also putting up 32 points in 40 minutes against Taranaki Mountainairs.

Dontae Nance

The teenage star was outstanding for the Huskies off the bench, only starting three times, but making his impact felt when coming on the court. He averaged 11.5 points, 3.2 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.6 steals, lighting up the boards with his X-factor. He shot at 31.6 per cent from long-range and 40 per cent overall, still a raw talent but one with plenty of years to develop. The 16-year-old started the season on fire with double digits in three of his first four games, and had another five games of double-digits. Whilst consistency is still an area to iron out, no doubt Nance has some exciting traits.

Tom Vodanovich

Coming in for the second half of the season after his ANBL duties, Vodanovich showed why he was the 2020 NZNBL Most Valuable Player. He averaged 21.7 points, 7.7 rebounds and 1.7 assists from nine games, scoring 65.9 per cent of his free throws. His three-point shooting preference had him at 36.6 per cent, with an overall field goal percentage of 48.2 per cent. When Vodanovich is on, he is hard to stop, having two games of 33 points, and another four games of more than 20 points in his nine. His best effort was 33 points and 13 rebounds in overtime against Southland Sharks, the first of three double-doubles for the big man, with another 33 points and seven rebounds in the losing semi-final to Wellington Saints.

OTHERS:

Much like Vodanovich, Justin Bibbs only played the nine games, but put up 18.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 3.6 assists in that time, whilst Brooke Ruscoe (10.1 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.2 steals) and Nick Barrow (4.4 points. 2.8 rebounds) were regular starters. Jeremy Kendle played the first three games and racked up a ridiculous 28.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.0 assists and 1.3 steals before heading back to Australia to play.

SUMMARY:

The Auckland Huskies just found a way to stay in games and win matches without dominating the stats sheet. As the team stats show, they were fairly low down in the scheme of things, but still made finals and fought hard despite being undermanned. They unearthed Nance and had they had their best players all year long, they would have been a serious threat.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Semi-Finals preview: Final Four tips off tonight

TEN teams started in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), and just four remain after 13 weeks of top notch basketball action decided the final four which tips off tonight. Held at Te Rauparaha Arena over two consecutive nights, the four semi-finalists will face off in two do-or-die matches tonight, with the winner of each semi-final progressing through to tomorrow night’s grand final. The four teams in contention are Wellington Saints, Hawkes Bay Hawks, Southland Sharks and Auckland Huskies who remain in the hunt for premiership glory.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Thursday, July 22 @ 6pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Up first are the minor premiers, Wellington Saints taking on fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the opening spot in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final. The Saints finished on top with 16 wins from 18 matches, clearly the benchmark team ranked first in overall points and first in least points conceded making them an easy favourite for the overall title. In nine matches at home, the Saints did not lose, and their 7-2 record on the road was pretty imposing as well. For the Huskies, they secured their final four spot in the penultimate round, winning 11 games from 18 matches, including a 5-4 record at home, and a 6-3 record on the road, making travelling no fear for the side.

Fans do not have to look too far back to see the last time these sides faced off, with the Round 12 match just five days earlier and the Saints coming away with a 24-point win, 85-61. Captain and League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Dion Prewster went to work putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that game, well aided by Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds and two assists). For the Huskies, Justin Bibbs (18 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Tom Vodanovich (17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) were the two key players. In their only other encounter back on May 28, Wellington Saints easily accounted for the Huskies by 31 points in a 107-76 victory.

In terms of the key statistics, the Saints average almost 11 points more per game (97.1 to 86.2) and concede nine points less (76.7 to 85.4). Their shooting percentage is higher from inside and outside the arc, and from the free throw line, they have more rebounds and assists per match. In particular, the Saints are great at second chance opportunities, grabbing an average of 11 offensive rebounds per game. They can also win the ball back in transition, recording nine steals per game to the Huskies’ 7.2. In saying that, the Huskies are generally good with ball-in-hand, only committing the 11.8 turnovers per game, less than the Saints’ 12.9.

With Chris Johnson back in the United States and teenage talent Dontae Nance injured, the Huskies have looked to Bibbs and the returned Vodanovich as the key players. Vodanovich has averaged the 20.3 points and 78 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Bibbs (18.0 and 5.3) in that sense. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Zach Riley (10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists) are others who have stepped up in the absence of key players. Riley in particular has had a memorable season, winning the Youth Player of the Year.

The Saints on the other hand have no shortage of stars, with Prewster (18.7 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds) voted the best player in the NZNBL this season. Kerwin Roach Jr (17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds) has also been outstanding, whilst Samuel (16.6 points) is also an All-Star 5 this season, and Tohi Smith-Milner (13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists) has been outstanding throughout. When weighing up the two sides, it is hard to look past Wellington Saints who have been the best side all year, have very few flaws and an outstanding starting five that should get the job done yet again.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Thursday, July 22 @ 8pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Once the winner of the first semi-final is decided, it is straight onto the other match with a blockbuster second against third clash. Hawkes Bay Hawks and Southland Sharks both come in with 13-5 records from this season, and were as evenly poised as any to go head-to-head in this match. The Hawks did not lose a match at home in nine outings, including toppling both the Sharks and Wellington Saints, whilst their road record was a little more shaky with a 4-5 record. The Sharks were not as dominant at home but still recorded seven wins from nine matches, whilst also having six from nine away from home.

The most recent encounter between these sides was not so close, with the Hawks coming away with a comfortable 97-71 win on the road. In what was only the Sharks second loss on the road – after a one-point overtime defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies in the last match at ILT Stadium – the Hawks stormed to a 26-point victory. In an even team performance, five players had double-figure points for the Hawks, with Jordan Hunt (21 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (17 points, four assists and three rebounds) leading the way in the win. For the Sharks, Dom Kelman-Poto was a one-man wrecking ball with 27 points, four rebounds and two assists, whilst Joshua Cunningham put up 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists. In their earlier encounter back on May 8, the Hawks came away with a closer 12-point win at Pettigrew Green Arena, 85-73.

In terms of individuals, Kelman Poto is the sole member of the All-Star 5 in this match, with the Hawks having an overall balanced lineup. Looking at the key team stats, the Hawks are marginally ahead in points per game (93.2 to 91.3), and have conceded marginally less points to their opposition (83.4 to 84.3). The Sharks are a marginally better shooting team from inside the arc (56.1 to 55.7 per cent), though neither team could be split from outside it, with 36.9 per cent, and the Hawks hitting 1.3 additional three-pointers per game. Off the boards it is the Hawks who lead the way (37.7 to 36.9), whilst the Sharks are ahead in the assists (19.8 to 18.7) and steals (8.3 to 8.2), whilst also having less turnovers (12.0 to 13.1).

Having played every game for the Hawks, Hyrum Harris has been a rock across the court, able to impact in a multitude of ways on his way to an average of 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals. Leading the team for points, Devondrick Walker has put up 20.2 points. 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals in an impressive effort, whilst Ethan Rusbatch managed the 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. The depth of the Hawks is ultra-impressive, with Hunt (12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), Raukawa (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Rhys Vague (12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) also averaging double-figure points.

Kelman-Poto’s All-Star 5 season came about from his 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, shooting an a high 57 per cent from the field. He worked well starting every game with Cunningham (14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists), whilst three others reached double-figure point averages. Courtney Belger (12.3 points. 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals), Brayden Inger (14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Alonzo Burton (13.1 points. 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals) all played 17 or games this year showing great durability.

This game is hard to split, but with the Hawks having won both their previous encounters, the scale tips in their favour, but it could genuinely go either way given the stars on display in this contest.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Huskies secure Final Four spot after hard-fought win over Airs

AUCKLAND Huskies have secured the last spot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Final Four after producing a tough six-point victory over the last placed Taranaki Mountainairs. The Huskies needed to win to see off challengers below them, and they did just that despite missing talented stars Chris Johnson and Dontae Nance. A strong first half from the Airs had them on top for the most part, before the Huskies hit back and ran over the top of their opponents, 93-87.

Taranaki Mountainairs led by as much as 12 points midway through the second term, having led since the midpoint of the first term. At that stage, the Huskies had held a maximum of a two-point lead, and needed some momentum to come back their way. That happened in the second half of the second term, cutting that 12-point deficit back to just one at the main break.

They hit the front early in the third, and right up until midway through the final term had the advantage, pushing it out to six points at one stage. The Mountainairs hit back to take the lead and hold a three-point advantage at one stage, and it was see-sawing right until the end. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Huskies had taken control and got the job done by six points.

Auckland led the rebounds (40-34), assists (15-14), steals (7-5) and blocks (2-1) in fairly even areas. They had four less turnovers (9-13) and capitalised more off the turnover (11 points to eight), and had more second chance points (16-14). The Airs were far from out of the contest though, shooting at a much higher clip of 57 to 46 per cent from the field, including a really impressive 65 per cent from inside the arc. They only got to the charity stripe five times for two conversions, though in the paint converted 56 points to 48.

Justin Bibbs earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for the Huskies with 30 points – three of nine from long-range – six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Bibbs teamed up well with Zach Riley who had a massive game of 32 points – four of five from beyond the arc – six rebounds and four assists. Tom Vodanovich was the other player in double figures with 12 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa six points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Nicholas Barrow (six points, six rebounds and two assists) also contributed off the boards.

For the Airs, Tai Wynyard was huge early, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds in the loss, whilst Marcel Jones went about his business without missing a second of action, putting up 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Scott Telfer 12 points, three steals and two assists), Haize Walker (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (11 points, two rebounds) all hit double-figure points as well in defeat.

Auckland Huskies host Wellington Saints in the Huskies’ final game of the year next Sunday, whilst the Airs conclude their season with a home game against Nelson Giants on the same day.

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Sunday

THE Auckland Huskies continued their winning ways in their second outing of the round in the New Zealand National Basketball League while the Hawks bounced back after a loss earlier in the round.

Manawatu Jets (66) defeated by Auckland Huskies (75)

In their second game of the round it was the Huskies that made it two from two with a hard-fought win over the Jets. The Huskies asserted themselves nice and early on the contest establishing a handy six-point lead credit to some late free-throws. Scoring was hard to come by in the first few minutes of the second term as the ball ping-ponged up and down the court before the Jets hit back to get within two points and then steal the lead. This seesawing affair continued until once again it was the higher placed Huskies that kicked things up a notch. Only two points separated the two sides at half time and within the blink of an eye the Jets were level once again and had the lead in a complete replica of the second quarter. Manawatu started to motor, pouring on the scoreboard pain and creating an eight-point lead but it was not enough to worry the Huskies who fought back in the dying stages. With the lead chopping and changing the final quarter was always going to be a heart in your mouth finish and it certainly was. Auckland quickly tied things up as the intensity in the game steadily lifted and they eventually stole the lead. the buffer grew from two points to four before blowing out to the winning total of nine.

The Jets had two predominant scorers with Daishon Knight and Deandre Daniels leading the way. Daniels was the topscorer for Manawatu producing 23 points in his 40 minutes out on court while also racking up nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Knight finished with a double-double to his name credit to his 21 points and 10 rebounds all of which were defensive. Jayden Bezzant was the only other player to have a real impact on the scoreboard credit to his nine points and three rebounds. For the Huskies it was the work of Chris Johnson that stood out as he sunk 25 points but also amassed a staggering 20 rebounds with 16 of them defensive. Bigman Tom Vodanovich was also in strong form producing 20 points, two assists and four rebounds in the win. Justin Bibbs and Zach Riley were the other two that had a notable impact for Auckland draining 14 and 10 points apiece.

Southland Sharks (71) defeated by Hawkes Bay Hawks (97)

The Hawks reversed their fortunes from earlier in the round with a resounding 28-point win over the Sharks last night. Taking the court for the second time in as many days the Hawks managed to string together some clever basketball to outsmart the Sharks and get the win. They burst out of the blocks in the opening quarter piling on a whopping 37 points while keeping Southland to 18 at the first break. Their accuracy and proficiency was on full display as the visitors continued to put the foot down in the second, extending out to as much as 28 points at halftime. While the Sharks upped the ante somewhat in the third term the Hawks never lost control, able to consistently ride the wave and withstand any type of pressure thrown their way. The fourth quarter was much the same as the Hawks remained in the driver’s seat, controlling proceedings and finding easy avenues to the rim to keep the scoreboard ticking over and the Sharks at bay.

It was a tough day at the office for the Sharks but Dominique Kelman-Poto was up to his usual tricks scoring 27 points in his 29 minutes out on court. Kelman-Poto also managed two assists and four rebounds in the loss while teammate Joshua Cunningham was the next cab off the rank when it came to scoring with 13 points at 55 per cent from the field along with eight rebounds. Brayden Inger was the only other player to hit double figures for the Sharks with 10 points. For the Hawks, Jordan Hunt was the man proving to have the hot hand as he dropped 21 points at 44 per cent from the field. Hunt did not stop there as he also recorded four assists and two deflections as Devondrick Walker also found himself in the thick of things with his 17 points, four assists and three rebounds. Both Deone Raukawa and Ethan Rusbatch showcased their class with 12 points apiece as the latter also walked away with four assists and a steal.

Photo credit: NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Friday night

IT was an action packed Friday night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) with three big games as Southland Sharks, Wellington Saints and Auckland Huskies took out the win in each of their respective matches.

Canterbury Rams (81) defeated by Southland Sharks (92)

The second placed Sharks imposed themselves against Canterbury Rams claiming an 11-point win. It was neck-and-neck to start the game with both sides taking a while to settle into a rhythm, going blow for blow in the opening term to sit at 21 points apiece. The battle continued into the second quarter with the Rams and Sharks unable to break away from one another as Canterbury proved they can match it with the best in the business. Skipping out to a handy lead midway through the third term, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sharks were about to gain control and jump into the driver’s seat, but that was not the case as the Rams hit back. With the game hanging in the balance it was time for the Sharks to put the foot down and consolidate their standing on the ladder. A flurry of points midway through the quarter gifted the Sharks the lead and from there they steadily built on their buffer as a three point margin turned into a five point one, so on so forth.

Edward Singler worked in overdrive for the Rams racking up 26 points in his 40 minutes out on court while he also amassed four assists and 13 rebounds. Teammate Deshon Taylor was also influential with his 20 points at 39 per cent from the field. Taylor also collected four rebounds and three steals. Jack Salt showcased just how much damage he can do in 25 minutes pouring on 16 points and a whopping 15 rebounds. Courtney Belger was the topscorer for the Sharks registering 23 points at 64 per cent from the field while Joshua Cunningham also impressed with his 22 points and five rebounds. Alonzo Burton was amongst the thick of things dropping 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds while Dominique Kelman-Poto sunk 12 points at 38 per cent from the field.

Taranaki Mountainairs (81) defeated by Wellington Saints (89)

It was a one sided affair between the Taranaki Mountainairs and Wellington Saints as the latter recorded a handy eight-point win. It was a much closer match than many would have anticipated given it was a first verse last clash but in the end the Saints proved why they are top of the ladder, owning the court with their speed and cleanliness. The Mountainairs impressed in the opening term piling on 23 points to 17 to hold the lead and continued that hot form in the second to maintain a nine point buffer heading into the main break. The Saints ate into the deficit in the third going into the final break down by five points before shifting gears in the final quarter to steal the ascendancy and the lead piling on 27 points.

It was the Marcel Jones show the Airs with the bigman imposing himself thanks to his 29 points and ability to hit them from deep draining three of his six attempts. Jones also picked up six assists and six rebounds in the loss. There were three other players that hit double-digits as 11 proved to be the lucky number with Tai Wynyard, Haize Walker and Scott Telfer all managing 11 points each. Wynyard got busy off the boards with four rebounds as Walker registered three assists. For the winners it was the efforts of Tohi Smith-Milner and Dion Prewster that stood out. Smith-Milner topped the table credit to his 25 points in 31 minutes of action while he also proved to be a menace in defence picking up 15 rebounds, two steals and a block. Prewster was not far off the pace with 24 points, six rebounds and two steals. Taane Samuel found his groove walking away with 14 points to his name as both Kevin Roach Jr and Kenneth Tuffin slotted 10 points each in the win.

Nelson Giants (96) defeated by Auckland Huskies (104)

It was a game that could have gone either way given how evenly they match up but in the end it was the Huskies that got the chocolates with a hard-fought win. The Huskies got the first points of the game to kickstart their campaign but that only signalled what was going to be a seesawing affair. The Giants held the lead at quarter time credit to a flurry of points to close out the term and continued to monopolise the play in the second forcing Auckland to play catch-up basketball. The Huskies came out with a point to prove in the third levelling the scores with a tick under five minutes to play. They started to generate some real momentum but were still down at the final change. With it all to play for in the final 10 minutes of the match the Huskies unlocked another level to attack the rim and keep the Giants guessing. They tied the scores and from there put the foot down to reign supreme with a blockbuster final quarter of action.

Donte Ingram had a night to remember producing a whopping 38 points. He had a hot hand from beyond the arc draining five of his eight attempts to convert at 63 per cent. Ingram also reeled in 10 rebounds and two steals to cap off an all-round solid performance. Next best was teammate Hunter Hale who proved to be in fine form with his 30 points, eight assists and nine rebounds to just fall short of a triple double. Thomas Ingham was the only other player to make it out of single digits recording 12 points in his 33 minutes out on court. It was a more evenly shared load for the Huskies as four players hit double-digits. But it was Justin Bibbs that did the most damage draining 31 points, five assists and four rebounds. Zach Riley was also in dominant form for the Huskies producing 25 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his nine rebounds and two steals. Tom Vodanovich reminded everyone what he is capable draining 20 points in his 38 minutes out on court while Chris Johnson chimed in with a handy 13 points to get his side over the line.

Photo credit: NZNBL Twitter

2021 NZNBL Round 10 preview: Top four battles headline the round

ROUND 10 of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) commences tonight with some ladder defining clashes headlining the round. With the finals inching closer and closer now is the time for the sides to hit their stride and start to rally some much needed momentum.

Canterbury Rams vs. Southland Sharks
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

Both sides are coming in off a loss and will be eager to get back to their winning ways in this contest. Canterbury Rams have won three of their past five encounters while Southland Sharks have won four of their past five making for an enthralling battle. In terms of ladder positioning the Sharks well and truly have the upper hand currently locked in at second spot while the Rams are stuck in the mid-table logjam at sixth so a win here could be a huge upset for Canterbury. However, the Rams do have two dominant scorers in Deshon Taylor and Edward Singler. Taylor averages 22.3 points a game along with five assists while Singler is not too far behind with 18 points. The scoring load is a lot more shared for the Sharks with the likes of Dominique Kelman-Poto, Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham all viable options. Kelman-Poto leads the pack for the Sharks with his average of 16.1 points while Inger averages 15. Cunningham is pretty well rounded thanks to his 13.4 points, 2.1 assists and 6.7 rebound average making him a key cog in the Sharks outfit and one the Rams will need to stop if they are to topple the second placed side.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Wellington Saints
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
TSB Stadium

It is going to be a battle between first and last when the Mountainairs and Saints go head-to-head. The Saints are in blistering form up in top spot on the ladder with 11 wins to their name while Taranaki have struggled to find their mojo all season, glued to the bottom of the table. The last time these two sides met the Saints walked away with the chocolates in a one-sided affair and will be keen to replicate that output once again given they average a higher number of points, assists, rebounds and blocks than their opponents. Looking at key contributors, it is hard to go past the likes of Marcel Jones for the Airs with the bigman leading the way with his average of 21.5 points, 3.9 assists and nine rebounds to fall just short of a double-double. He will need a helping hand from the likes of Tai Wynyard and Haize Walker if the home side are any chance of upsetting the apple cart. For the Saints they have no shortage of scoring options with Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Taane Samuel all influential figures. Prewster averages 20.9 points along with 5.1 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds. Roach Jr is also explosive thanks to his 16.7 points, 4.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds while Tohi Smith-Milner is also a force to be reckoned with off the boards.

Nelson Giants vs. Auckland Huskies
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The Giants and Huskies are both looking for ways to weasel their way out of that mid-table logjam and this is the perfect opportunity. A win here for the Huskies could boost them into fourth spot while if the Giants get the win they will close the gap between them and sixth on the ladder. The Huskies have won two of their three encounters so far this season against the Giants and will be wanting to make it three from four by taking advantage of their winning momentum. Both teams are relatively well-matched up with the only main difference coming in the blocks category with Auckland impressing down in defence. Hunter Hale is the main facilitator for the Giants with his ability to attack the rim thanks to his 26.6 point average plus his 4.5 assists and 3.8 defensive rebounds. He will need the likes of Donte Ingram to step up to the plate if the Giants are to keep their hopes alive. Meanwhile the Huskies have a couple of key points scorers with Chris Johnson topping the table thanks to his 20.3 points. He is also handy on the assists front with an average of three to his name along with 7.3 defensive rebounds. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa and Dontae Nance are also known for their ability to chime in and hit the scoreboard which the visitors will need in this contest.

Otago Nuggets vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is going to be an enthralling top four battle as Otago Nuggets host Hawkes Bay Hawks in hope to solidify their standings on the ladder. The Hawks currently sit two games ahead of the Nuggets but a win here could shift things and give the home side some real confidence heading into the backend of the season. But Otago will have to pull out the big guns having gone down to Hawkes Bay by 30 points last time the two sides met. Both teams are coming in off a loss and will be looking to put their foot down with a strong showing here. Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins have been the most dominant scorers for the Nuggets with the pair averaging 21.6 and 20.6 points respectively with the latter also racking up 4.9 assists and 11.1 rebounds. The Hawks have a number of players capable of causing some scoreboard trouble with Ethan Rusbatch boasting an average of 19.4 points, Devondrick Walker averaging 18.9 and Hyrum Harris with 13.3. Harris is no slouch when it comes to assists picking up 3.6 per game while also imposing himself off the boards with a team-high 5.4 rebounds making him one to watch.

Franklin Bulls vs. Taranaki Mountainairs
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The Mountainairs will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while the Bulls will be hoping their added break will give them the legs to overrun the struggling side. Not much separates the two teams with the Bulls sitting second last on the ladder but two wins ahead while Taranaki will be yearning for a win and this is probably their best opportunity. It was a blowout the last time they met with the Bulls claiming a 16-point victory but when looking at form it is the Mountainairs that hold the upper hand registering a win last round while the Bulls are on a four-game losing streak. Keep an eye out for Joshua Selby given he averages 24.4 points, 3.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds for the Bulls and expect Jones to do the heavy-lifting for the Airs. Denhym Brooke is also a crucial cog for the Bulls recording an average of 10.9 points as Francis Mulvihill will hope to be crafty with ball in hand.

Manawatu Jets vs. Auckland Huskies
Sunday, July 4 @3:00pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

Manawatu Jets are set to take on the Huskies as they look to bounce back from a shock loss last week. The Huskies got over the line by nine points back in April when the two sides locked horns and will be hoping to repeat that feat once again to continue their way up the ladder. Manawatu have been guilty of turning ball over and will need to treasure possession in this clash if they are to roll the Huskies. The Jets will need big efforts from Shane Temara, DeAndre Daniels, Daishon Knight and Jayden Bezzant if they are to post a competitive total and generate some real momentum. Knight tops the table with an average of 23.4 points while Daniels is also prolific thanks to his 16.5 points. Temara and Bezzant average 15.7 and 15.6 points apiece with the former also able to dish off dimes with ease thanks to his average of 3.2 assists.

Southland Sharks vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Sunday, July 4 @5:00pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The final game of the round is between Southland Sharks and Hawkes Bay Hawks – another top four battle. Sitting on 10 wins apiece heading into the clash, this one could prove to be ladder defining so expect both sides to leave nothing to chance. The two sides have played off three times this year and the Hawks have come out on top each time giving them a wealth of confidence and belief heading into this clash. Expect a high quality game with the likes of Kelman-Poto and Rusbatch renowned for their ability to hit the scoreboard with ease for their respective sides.

Photo credit: Shane Wenzlick/Photosport via NZNBL

Saints shine in high-scoring overtime thriller, as Huskies grab second big win of weekend

WELLINGTON Saints have returned serve on Hawkes Bay Hawks to post a thrilling overtime win in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night, as the Auckland Huskies drew level with Otago Nuggets on eight wins following a memorable weekend of basketball. Whilst both contrasting results – the Saints winning by seven points after not being able to be split for 40 minutes and the Huskies dominating the second half to win by 23 – both were equally important for the Final Four calculations.

In the Saints-Hawks game, it was the visitors who raced off to a strong start in a high-scoring first term with 60 points on the board and a 32-28 lead in favour of the Hawks. They were hoping to win against the Saints for the second time in two weeks, but Wellington – despite playing in front of no fans – were not going to spoil their perfect home record thus far in 2021. The Saints quickly hit back with a dominant 30-17 second term to regain the lead by nine points and look to be in control. That was quickly whittled down by the Hawks who won the second term by seven, and they hit the front by three points in the last 10 seconds of the match.

Back-to-back Ethan Rusbatch free throws handed the Hawks a three-points lead, which meant Wellington needed a saviour. That came in the form of Tohi Smith-Milner who drained the three-pointer to level the scores at 98-apiece. The extra period was just as exciting, with the first eight points – including two triples to Taane Samuel – going the way of the Saints. From there they traded baskets, with Rusbatch and Jarrod Kenny both lively for the Hawks, though the Saints had the better composure as the experience of Kerwin Roach Jr and Dion Prewster to nail the free throws off the deliberate fouls handed them the seven-point win, 119-112.

Prewster won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for a massive 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, coming agonisingly close to a huge triple-double in the win. Smith-Milner picked up a double-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, but it was the deadeye long-range shooting of Samuel – 12 of 14 from the field and six of eight from beyond the arc – who recorded 33 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Roach Jr (16 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists) and Kenneth Tuffin (10 points, four rebounds and two steals) also hit double-figure points.

Rusbatch had a team-high 27 points as well as two rebounds, whilst Hyrum Harris was a master thief on the night, racking up 10 steals, eight rebounds and five assists to go with 16 points. Devondrick Walker (19 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Derone Raukawa (16 points) reached double-figure points, as Kenny hit four of four from long-range on his way to 18 points and two steals, and Jordan Hunt managed 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Meanwhile in the more one-sided game, the Auckland Huskies overcame a one-point half-time deficit to post a big 23-point win. The visitors led by two points at quarter time, but lost the second term by three to head into the main break 40-39 down. The second half was a different story, piling on 30 points to 23 in the third term, then completely dominating the final one with 24 points to seven, and running out 93-70 winners.

Tom Vodanovich picked up another MVP with a huge 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, scoring four of 10 from beyond the arc. Chris Johnson (23 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) continued his wonderful season, whilst Justin Bibbs (16 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Zach Riley (11 points, two rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the victory.

For the Nuggets, Sam Timmins crashed the boards as expected, finishing with 21 points, 16 rebounds – 13 defensive – and seven assists, whilst Isaiah Moss helped out with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Luke Aston (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks) and Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds and two assists) both providing some scoring assistance on the night.

Wellington Saints will play the Nelson Giants in a rescheduled clash on Wednesday night, before a second clash with Taranaki Mountainairs on Friday. Auckland Huskies also take on the Giants, on Friday night, whilst the Otago Nuggets host the Hawkes Bay Hawks on Saturday night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Huskies stun Sharks, Hawks topple Bulls and Jets bounce back against Rams

THREE games of single-digit results including one overtime match has seen one of the nights of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. The Auckland Huskies needed extra time to shake off a fast-finishing Southland Sharks for the Sharks’ first loss at home of the year, Hawkes Bay Hawks did enough through the middle two quarters to down the Franklin Bulls in a closer-than-expected five-point win, and Manawatu Jets bounced back from their disappointing loss to last placed Taranaki Mountainairs the night before to win by seven over Canterbury Rams.

The match of the night belonged to the Huskies-Sharks, with the game going right down to the wire. Yet to lose at home, the Sharks lead by a narrow two points at the first break. That turned on its head as Tom Vodanovich stepped up a gear and the Huskies won the next two terms by a combined 12 points to lead by double digits at the final break. Southland roared back to life in the last term, levelling the scores by the final buzzer, with a Tom Cowie layup in the final minute ensuring the teams finished at 83-apiece. The overtime period saw both teams trading blows, with Justin Bibbs turning up the heat for the Huskies and scoring the last seven points for his side to come from four points down, to hit the front with less than a minute left courtesy of a three-point jumper.

Vodanovich had some kind of night, nailing five of 11 from long range on his way to 33 points, 13 rebounds – six offensive – and two assists. He teamed up well with Bibbs who also lit up from long-range putting together five of 13 from beyond the arc to finish with 27 points, five assists and three rebounds. Chris Johnson (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks) and Dontae Nance (11 points, three rebounds and three assists) also hit double-figure points in the win.

Josh Cunningham was the standout for the Sharks, shooting at 72 per cent, picking up 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, whilst Brayden Inger (20 points, five rebounds) and Alonzo Burton (19 points, five rebounds and two steals) both stood tall. Dom Kelman-Poto also impressed off the boards with seven points, 11 rebounds and three assists, whilst Toby Gillooly (nine points, seven rebounds and three assists) was strong.

Hawkes Bay Hawks came from 12 points down at quarter time to win the next two quarters by 11 and eight points respectively and lead Franklin Bulls by seven with a term to play. Whilst the visitors did cut into the lead by two points in the final term, the Hawks won 95-90 overall to maintain their good form in the top two.

Devondrick Walker was phenomenal with 21 points – five of 13 from long-range – seven steals, four assists and four rebounds, whilst Ethan Rusbatch had 21 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Jordan Hunt came off the bench for 20 points and two steals, whilst Rhys Vague (12 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Hyrum Harris (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) were also impressive.

Kyrin Galloway had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a big double-double for the Bulls, as he and Isaac Davidson (21 points, six rebounds and three assists) did the bulk of the scoring for the losers. Jett Thompson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Adam Dunstan (10 points, six rebounds) also worked hard.

After losing to the last placed Airs the night before, Manawatu Jets got the better of Canterbury Rams by seven points. Trailing by six points at the first break, and seven by half-time, the Jets dominated the third term to score 26-14, then finished off strongly to win 92-85 and bounce back from their defeat.

Daishon Knight was unbelievable with the best games of the year, putting up 30 points, 16 rebounds – 11 defensive – and 11 assists, as well as three steals in a full 40 minutes of court time. Also spending 40 minutes on the court, Deandre Daniels managed the 22 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals, whilst Nikau McCullough had 25 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.

EJ Singler had a team-high 26 points, as well as eight rebounds and two steals for the Rams, with Deshon Taylor (23 points, five rebounds and three assists) also stepping up. Max Darling (15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) contributed off the bench, whilst Sam Smith (eight points) and Jack Salt (six points, three rebounds) also shared in the points despite the loss.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 9 preview: Wellington match goes ahead as league adapts to COVID-19 restrictions

FOUR rounds remain in the hotly contested New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), as the top four sides have created some separation from the remaining six, though a mid-table logjam means that some of those fifth-eighth teams could give it a shake with a lot of luck.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Thursday, June 24 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Arena

In what is simply a must-win for both sides, and particularly for Franklin Bulls in the scheme of their season, the eighth placed Bulls take on the fifth placed Canterbury Rams. The wounded Bulls are a loss away from having a line put through their season – if the ink was not dry already – whilst for the Rams, a win means they keep in touch with the top four, as Otago Nuggets sit just a win ahead. Franklin Bulls are 2-4 at home with the Rams 1-4 on the road, which shows neither side has been particularly successful in those areas. Kyrin Galloway (11.5 points, 4.5 rebounds and 1.2 blocks) and Manuel Ayol (13.7 points, 6.7 rebounds and 1.7 steals) are two who have come in and made an impact for the Bulls, whilst Isaac Davidson (8.0 points, 5.0 rebounds and 2.3 assists) is just warming up. It will take quite an effort to beat the likes of EJ Singler (17.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals), Deshon Taylor (22.1 points, 5.1 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 3.0 steals) and Quintin Bailey (11.2 points, 4.5 rebounds).

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, June 25 @ 7:30pm
TSB Stadium

In the now standalone Friday night game, Taranaki Mountainairs will host Manawatu Jets in a bottom two clash. Back at home where they grabbed their only win this season, the Airs have a chance to double their win tally in season 2021, sitting at 1-11 from the year. The Jets are not much better with a 3-9 season, though they have come incredibly close to a number of other victories. The Airs are 1-5 at home and the Jets are 1-6 on the road, so one side will grab its second win from those parameters. Marcel Jones has been a lone hand for the Airs all season, racking up 21.4 points, 9.8 rebounds, 3.7 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.3 blocks to lead his side in every statistical area. Carlin Davidson (8.2 points, 4.6 rebounds, 2.1 assists and 1.2 steals) and Haize Walker (9.1 points, 3.5 assists and 3.3 rebounds) have been the next best for the Airs. The Jets have had no trouble finding some big scorers, with Daishon Taylor (22.8 points, 5.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 2.0 steals), DeAndre Daniels (16.3 points, 9.2 rebounds and 2.3 blocks) and Shane Temara (15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds) all making their presence felt.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Saturday, June 26 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium

Another mid-table side desperate to keep in touch with the top four is Auckland Huskies, who will tackle the top of the table Southland Sharks. The Sharks are yet to lose at home, winning five straight at ILT Stadium, and will go in as raging favourites, having amassed a 10-3 record this season. Having played the 13 games compared to the second placed Hawkes Bay Hawks’ 12 (9-3) and third placed Wellington Saints’ 11 (9-2) they have less games in hand, so will be keen to keep winning and avoid one of those sides in the final four. The Huskies are 2-3 on the road, so will need to be at their best to cause an upset. The Sharks have had remarkable consistency, with all five of their starters playing every game, and starting in every match bar one the exact same way. Dom Kelman-Poto (16.8 points, 8.6 rebounds and 3.4 assists), Josh Cunningham (12.3 points, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and Courtney Belger (13.1 points, 5.1 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.9 steals) are the red-hot trio to watch. Chris Johnson has been the star for the Huskies, averaging 20.9 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.7 assists and 1.8 blocks in 10 matches for Auckland. Teenage star Dontae Nance (13.1 points, 3.1 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.6 steals) and Brooke Ruscoe (14.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals) have been other consistent contributors.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Saturday, June 26 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The second placed Hawks enter the round with a home game up against Franklin Bulls, With the Bulls coming off a match a couple of nights before, the Hawks will be keen to use fresh legs against the Bulls in the Saturday night fixture. They are yet to lose at home from six matches, so will be heavily favoured to pick up their 10th win of the season and keep touch with the top of the table Sharks. The Hawks have six players with double-digit point averages, led by Devondrick Walker (18.7 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.4 steals) and Ethan Rusbatch (18.65 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.5 assists and 1.2 steals), whilst Hyrum Harris (13.3 points, 7.4 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 1.7 steals) has contributed across the board for the impressive Hawks.

MANAWATU JETS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Saturday, June 26 @ 7:30pm
Fly Palmy Arena

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. HAWKES BAY HAWKS
Sunday, June 27 @ 5:00pm
TSB Bank Arena

Originally scheduled to be their second game of the round, the Wellington Saints now take on the Hawkes Bay Hawks first on Sunday evening at TSB Bank Arena. Due to the COVID-19 restrictions in Wellington, the Saints’ visiting clash against Nelson Giants was moved from Friday night to the following Wednesday night, whilst the Sunday night battle with the Hawks remained at the same venue and time, but with no crowds allowed in. Expect the Saints to create their own atmosphere in this massive top three clash, with both sides heading into the round with nine wins, though the Hawks could have notched up their 10th by this stage. The fresh legs and home court should hand the Saints a strong advantage. Dion Prewster has led from the front with 19.8 points, 5.8 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 1.6 steals, whilst Kerwin Roach (17.0 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.7 steals) and Tohi Smith-Milner (12.6 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.2 steals) have also stood out.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Sunday, June 27 @ 5:00pm
Edgar Centre

Also on Sunday night is the fourth placed Otago Nuggets hosting the Huskies in what is a tough weekend for the sixth placed Huskies. Auckland will not want to lose both its games this weekend, whilst depending on results, the Nuggets can bridge their gap on the mid-table sides even further with a win in this game, though can close the gap right up with a loss. Sam Timmins is in some remarkable form for the Nuggets, hard to stop close to the basket at both ends, the big man is averaging 18.8 points, 12.9 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.4 steals and 1.4 blocks from 12 games thus far in season 2021. Isaiah Moss (19.6 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists and 1.2 steals) and Geremy McKay (13.3 points, 6.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have been others who have also amassed big points totals.

NELSON GIANTS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Wednesday, June 30 @ 6:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

A five-day delay has seen Nelson Giants host the Saints at the Trafalgar Centre as a standalone Wednesday night fixture. The Giants are 5-7 and on the verge of being knocked out of finals contention, but a huge upset here and they are back on track. The Saints are 2-2 away from TSB Bank Arena, whilst the Giants are 3-3 at home, but it will take a huge effort to topple Wellington in this clash. American duo Hunter Hale (26.9 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.9 steals) and Donte Ingram (17.3 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals) have done the bulk of the damage this season, whilst Sam Dempster (6.5 points. 7.2 rebounds and 1.8 assists) has been a huge influence off the boards.

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

NBL1 West wrap: Round 10

ROUND 10 of the National Basketball League (NBL)1 West competition played out over the weekend with some tight results, as well as some massive blowouts. We take a look at a feature match from each of the men’s and women’s divisions.

WOMEN’S:

It was a thrilling contest between Lakeside and the Senators at the Lakeside Recreation Centre, yet it was Warwick who stole the win with three points. Warwick hit the board early with a three-pointer, leading to a string of shots. Lightning returned the favour with a three-pointer of their own. A dominant performance was displayed from both teams as scores were 12-18 in favour of the Senators leading into the second period. The Warwick Senators were quick to take advantage of their lead, with a three-point jump shot and managed to maintain the lead. However, Lakeside were slowly making a comeback as scores reached 26 for each side. The tight contest continued between both sides as scores were levelled multiple times throughout the second period. But it was not enough to stop Warwick from taking the lead once again by the third. Despite three-point jump shots being scored by Lightning, it was not able to deter Warwick from once again holding the lead through majority of the fourth period. The thrilling final battle between the two teams concluded with a free-throw being made, taking the final score to 88-55.

Despite the loss, Ashleigh Isenbarger impressed for the Warwick Senators with 27 points and 17 rebounds. Mikayla Pirini also had a decent performance with 18 points and five assists. For the winning side, Stacey Barr and Mackenzie Clinch-Hoycard dominated on the court with 30 and 25 points respectively. Jayda Clark’s game also was impressive with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists.

Joondalup Wolves won against the Perth Redbacks by 13 points whilst the South West Slammers scored a stunning upset against the Redbacks by 61 points. Cockburn Tigers were unable to get on top of a dominant Perry Lakes Hawks. The Willetton Tigers and the Rockingham Flames both found wins against the Mandurah Magic and Lakeside Lightning.

Results:

Joondalup Wolves defeated Perth Redbacks (84-71)
Warwick Senators defeated Lakeside Lightning (88-85)
Perth Redbacks defeated South West Slammers (98-37)
Perry Lakes Hawkes defeated Cockburn Tigers (74-45)
Willetton Tigers defeated Mandurah Magic (66-53)
Rockingham Flames defeated Lakeside Lightning (81-58)

MEN’S:

With a slow scoring start to open up the game, the Goldfield Giants was the first to get points on the board thanks to two free-throws being made. However, the game began to intensify during the first term’s second half. Both sides wanting to take the lead, as a tight contest between the two emerged. A snap two-point shot from the Eastern Suns helped them snag the lead heading to the end of the period. The scores were 29-32 and in favour of the Suns heading into the second period with a time-out being used as well. Goldfield managed to snag the lead from their opponent as the third period rolled around as a result of a few shots and free-throws being taken. Despite Goldfield still holding onto the lead as the third progressed, the Suns were on their heels, slowly coming back into the game. By the final period, the scores were levelled before a string of points scored by Suns helped them take out the win against Goldfield.

Chris Johnson was crucial in the Suns win against the Goldfield Giants thanks to an impressive 27 points, seven assists and two rebounds to his name. Also impressive for the Suns was Jermaine Malie who scored 16 points and Ryan Blanchett also scoring 16 points during the game. For the Goldfield Giants, Deng Kunay stood out on the court with 22 points, five rebounds and two assists, alongside Hamish Cummings with 20 points and Jerome Reid with 19 points.

Results:

Perth Redbacks defeated Joonalup Wolves (100-87)
Lakeside Lightning defeated Warwick Senators (94-80)
Geraldton Buccaneers defeated East Perth Eagles (81-62)
Perth Redbacks defeated Southwest Slammers (88-53)
Willetton Tigers defeated Mandurah Magic (94-91)
Eastern Suns defeated Goldfield Giants (99-96)
Lakeside Lightning defeated Rockingham Flames (95-81)
Joonalup Wolves defeated Geraldton Buccaneers (88-69)

 

Picture credit: Eric Paul Goldie