Tag: Dane Brooks

Saints and Hawks continue unbeaten runs as Giants win first of three matches

WELLINGTON Saints and Hawkes Bay Hawks remained undefeated, and Nelson Giants won their first of three Round 4 matches in a blockbuster night of action in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night. The trio of clashes provided plenty of individual highlights and high-scoring efforts, with the Saints defeating Franklin Bulls by 29 points, Giants knocking off Canterbury Rams by 12, and the Hawks winning in a nail-biter against Taranaki Mountainairs by three points.

In the Saints’ win over the Bulls, Wellington always looked in control and showed why they are the team to beat this season, winning every quarter by at least four points. The home team created some great separation in the first half to race out to a 55-38 lead. Whilst the Bulls managed to keep it closer in the second half, the Saints again poured on back-to-back quarters of 28 points to race past the hundred point mark and win 111-82.

Kerwin Roach Jr had a match-high 22 points and nine rebounds, as well as five assists and three steals in the win, shooting four of 10 from beyond the arc. Dion Prewster (13 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals) did not have the same success from long-range with none from four attempts, though still contributed strongly. Tohi Smith-Milner (14 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists) and Taane Samuel (12 points, six rebounds, three assists) were both impressive, whilst Romaro Gill (17 points, six rebounds and two steals) and Isaac Miller-Jose (10 points, five rebounds, and two assists) averaged a point a minute coming off the bench.

Josh Selby led the way with 16 points and four assists for the Bulls, sharing the team-high points with Dane Brooks (16 points, two rebounds, three steals and two blocks). Jaylen Gerrand (12 points, two assists) and Jett Thompson (10 points) both reached double-figure points, as Zane Waterman had a quiet night by his standards with shooting (seven points) but still managed the team-high six rebounds and five assists in the loss.

In a much tighter contest, Hawkes Bay Hawks ground out a three-point win against a fast-finishing Taranaki Mountainairs. The Hawks led by five points at quarter time and raced out to a 14-point lead by the main break, looking well on their way to maintaining their unbeaten streak. The Airs refused to give in however, piling on 51 points to 40 in the second half to come close, but fall short, with a Marcel Jones triple attempt for a bid to level the scores in the last few seconds missing and consolidating the Hawks’ victory.

Ethan Rusbatch dominated for the Hawks, knocking down 33 points – including a whopping seven of 14 from three-point range – and five rebounds, whilst Jonathan Janssen picked up a double-double of 19 points and 10 rebounds. Derone Raukawa (10 points, seven assists) reached double-figure points, while Hyrum Harris (eight points, seven rebounds, five assists and four steals) did it all, and Everard Bartlett finished with seven points, four assists and three rebounds.

Francis Mulvihill (14 points) and Tai Wynyard (13 points, five rebounds and three steals) contributed to the Airs’ cause, but it was another dominant performance from Jones that kept them in the contest. Mr Double Double piled on 30 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks in another big performance. Haize Walker managed the five points and six assists, while Aaron Bailey-Nowell contributed nine points and two rebounds off the bench.

Meanwhile Nelson Giants grabbed their second win of the season and first of a heavy schedule this round, defeating the Rams after a strong second term. The Giants only lead by one point at quarter time, but then piled on 30-16 in the second quarter to race out to a 15-point advantage at the half. That lead increased to 17 at the final break, before the Rams made inroads in the final term to reduce it to 12, but it was a case of too little, too late, going down 91-79.

Hunter Hale dropped 37 points, six rebounds, six steals and four assists in a remarkable effort to drag his side to victory. Donte Ingram (19 points, eight rebounds and four assists) and Thomas Ingham (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also impressed, whilst Sam Dempster (five points nine rebounds and two assists) was dominant off the boards. Nic Trathen contributed seven points off the bench.

Deshon Taylor was the top scorer for the Rams with 19 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals, well supported by a dominant double-double effort from EJ Singler (18 points, 11 rebounds, five assists and two steals). Alex Talma had the 14 points, eight rebounds and two steals off the bench, as Sam Smith (seven points, three assists) and Ben Constable (six points, four rebounds) also contributed on the night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Bulls hold on in thriller over Jets as Nuggets find gold with big win over Airs

TWO counter-contrasting matches in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) competition saw the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls reign supreme to collect their first wins of the season. Whilst the Nuggets managed to do it fairly comfortably with a dominant 27-point win over Taranaki Mountainairs, the going was much tougher for the Bulls, surviving a momentum-swinging game and a tense final minute to salute by the barest of margins.

In the Bulls and Jets thriller, the Bulls led by as much as six points with 3:09 on the clock in the final term. Daishon Knight was threatening to spoil the party, with back-to-back baskets – and a Deandre Daniels block on Josh Selby – cutting the deficit to just two points with 2:29 left. Nicolas Fee‘s successful free throws just pushed the lead out to two baskets with 2:13 on the clock but no less than 12 seconds later, Daniels hit a three-point jumper and the Jets were back to within one point. Despite these baskets, the next two minutes would be a battle of nerves and attrition as neither side scored in that time. The Bulls had three shots and missed them all, with the Jets having two, as well as a couple of turnovers, and an offensive foul, with Knight’s dying seconds jump shot from inside the arc missing and Dane Brooks grabbing the defensive rebound, and the win.

Earlier in the match, the Bulls took a three-point lead into half-time after the teams could not be split following a quarter of action. The Jets were soon to take off though, piling on 29 points to 21 in the third term to race to a five-point advantage by the final break. Despite having the momentum, it was the Bulls who hit back early in the fourth and both teams were trading baskets – and the lead – until a Denhym Brooke triple with 4:09 on the clock gave the Bulls what would be the final lead change of the night. From there they got out to that six-point advantage before the last three minutes of tight basketball ensued.

The Bulls were costly from the field, shooting at just 42 per cent, though making up for it with 12 triples to the Jets’ six. They also took their chances from the charity stripe with 16 of 18 free throws made, whilst the Jets had the 15 of 20. The visitors led the rebound count by eight (50-42), as well as the blocks (5-1), though the winners had more assists (14-9) and steals (9-4) showing off their better ball-handing skills. The huge difference was Manawatu’s ability to punish the Bulls in the paint, with a whopping 60 points in there compared to the Bulls’ 38, who opted for the jumpers. The Bulls penalised the Jets off turnovers – despite having two more than Manawatu – with 19 points to 11 in that area.

Selby top-scored with 27 points, eight rebounds and four steals, whilst Zan Waterman was outstanding, collecting a double-double of 25 points and 14 rebounds. Joseph Nunag came off the bench for 20 points, while Brooks (10 points, six rebounds) was also handy. For the Jets, Jayden Bezzant was electric with 29 points – at 70 per cent from the field – as well as seven rebounds and two assists. It was the work of Shane Temara (18 points, 14 rebounds) and Daniels (15 points, 15 rebounds and four blocks) off the boards that kept the Jets in the contest, while Knight notched up 23 points, three rebounds and three steals in the loss.

In the more one-sided contest, the Otago Nuggets took control after quarter time and never really looked like losing against the Taranaki Mountainairs. The Nuggets took a two-point lead into quarter time – after trailing for the majority of the opening term – but never looked back once they hit the front late in the quarter, scoring 49 points to 26 over the next two terms to race out to a 25-point lead at the last change. It was a tighter fourth quarter, but the Nuggets still capitalised with 23 points to 21, winning 93-66.

The Nuggets dominated every facet of the game with a higher field goal shooting percentage (45 to 41), more rebounds (47-36), assists (23-12), steals (14-12), blocks (5-4) and less turnovers (19-24). They also had two less personal fouls (16-18), and won the battle of points in the paint (40-28) and points from turnovers (26-13), in what was a really complete performance from the Nuggets in front of home fans.

Sam Timmins was enormous in the win, picking up a double-double with 22 points, 12 rebounds – five offensive – five assists, three blocks and two steals, teaming up well with Isaiah Moss (28 points, four rebounds, three assists and three steals). Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds, three assists and five steals) was also lively across the court, and Josh Aicheson (nine points, four rebounds and five assists) made the most of his 21 minutes on court. For the Airs, four players did most of the damage, with Marcel Jones (12 points, 10 rebounds) and Tai Wynyard (11 points, 10 rebounds) picking up double-doubles in defeat. Baxter Fenwick (12 points, three rebounds) and Francis Mulvahil (11 points, four assists and three steals) were the others who tried hard.

Of the four sides, both the Bulls and Airs back up the quickest, set to clash on Thursday night, with the Jets to take on the Canterbury Rams on Friday night, while the Nuggets meet the Jets in Manawatu’s second game of next round on the Saturday evening.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 1a preview: Trio of matches to tip off new season

A TRIO of highly-anticipated matches will tip-off the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, which has come around quickly after what was seemingly an eternal wait since last year’s successful NZNBL during a time where most of the world was in lockdown. The top New Zealand basketballers took centre stage across the globe due to the nation’s success with handing the COVID-19 pandemic, and the six teams from that competition – Taranaki Mountainairs, Franklin Bulls, Nelson Giants, Auckland Huskies, Manawatu Jets, Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams – are back. They are joined by successful franchises, Wellington Saints, Southland Sharks and Hawke’s Bay Hawks.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Saturday, April 24 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is absolutely fitting that the first match of the brand new season pits the reigning premiers up against the most successful team in history. In what was a challenging year for everyone, the Otago Nuggets took out the title in 2020, and will be hungry to go back-to-back with a full season, and complement of teams back in action for 2021. There might be a score to settle for Wellington Saints fans, who will no doubt want to remind the Nuggets of the superiority they have held over the competition in the past decade, winning six titles between 2010-19, and having another three runners-up efforts. In short, 2013 was an outlier as the Saints went to reach every deciding playoff final in that time.

The last time these teams played was way back in 2013 before the Nuggets disbanded, which saw the Saints win 97-72 in that encounter. Sam Timmins was a big driving force for the Nuggets in 2020, and whilst the reigning premiers will be missing some of their stars, the likes of Darcy Knox and Richie Rodger will be ones to watch this season. Tohi Smith-Milner, Taane Samuel and Ken Tuffin were unsurprisingly amongst the top players last year for their various sides, and they all team up for the Saints in this clash, making it a mouth-watering encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Sunday, April 25 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Two of the newer sides in the competition, the Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies both showed some serious potential in 2020, and whilst they fell short of making the final, they could be proud of their efforts. The Huskies have had quite the journey in terms of relocation of the past couple of years, but they got the Auckland faithful behind them, and will be keen for another Battle of the North which is a fledgling rivalry between the sides.

Who could forget the long-range shooting and overall class of up-and-comer Isaac Davidson, as the Bulls have a number of players to keep an eye on in 2021, such as Dane Brooks and Denhym Brooke. Josh Selby is the big inclusion, with the ex-NBA guard set to light up the court for the home side. Tom Vodanovich was outstanding last year and he returns to the Huskies lineup in 2021, though he will be around some fresh faces. After a promising season in 2020, Nick Barrow and Reuben Fitzgerald will be among the names to keep an eye on, though another ex-NBA talent in Chris Johnson is a huge get for the club.

NELSON GIANTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Monday, April 26 @ 2:00pm
Trafalgar Centre

Unfortunately 2020 did not go to plan for either of these sides, with Southland Sharks opting not to compete in the NZNBL, while the Nelson Giants copped injury after injury early in the season which derailed their season. They ended up losing in the first elimination final to Canterbury Rams after finishing fifth at the end of the regular season, so the Giants will be keen to improve on that effort in 2021. The Sharks have had plenty of time out at sea and will be ready to feast, having had success in 2013, 2015 and 2018 amongst the Saints’ golden era.

Donte Ingram is the name that everyone will be keen to see front up for the Giants, as the excitement machine has headed to the NZNBL after representing Loyola Ramblers to the NCAA Final 4. Otherwise predominantly local, the likes of Tom Ingham and Nic Trathen were some talents who really stood out in 2020. The Sharks are one of the teams to beat with Dom Kelman-Poto‘s emergence from impressive player to star in 2020 and then returning back to the Sharks for the 2021 season will be a storyline in itself. Toby Gillooly‘s finals campaign for the Rams wrote itself last year in a match-winning effort against Auckland Huskies, while veteran guard Courtney Belger and Alonzo Burton are other names to remember this season.

Picture credit: NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 NZ NBL: End of season stats leaders

WITH the NZNBL season done and dusted Draft Central takes a look at some of the top performers throughout the season. Taranaki Mountainairs, Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets have quite a few players that feature within the top five areas in focus given their impressive 2020 campaign.

AVERAGE POINTS:
Taranaki Mountainairs star, Derone Raukawa leads all comers when it comes to points with an average of 23.7 a game. Raukawa was a commanding presence for the Airs and was a key reason his side got as far as they did with his ability to find the basket and score. Hot on his heels was teammate Marcel Jones who also impressed throughout the season averaging an impressive 22.8 points thanks to his tenacity and drive to the rim. MVP winner Thomas Vodanovich also had a commanding influence on the scoreboard with the Manawatu Jets bigman leading the way for his side and hitting the scoreboard regularly to register an average 22.4 points. Although the Auckland Huskies had a challenging year it did not seem to faze Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who proved to be the go to when it came to posting a decent tally single handedly influencing the outcome of games with his average of 20.7 points a game. Rounding out the top five is Jordan Hunt who managed 19.6 points a game for premiers Otago Nuggets.

AVERAGE ASSISTS:
Topping the table for points, Raukawa also took out top spot for assists with the Airs playmaker amassing an average of 7.4. Classy with ball in hand, Raukawa was both a threat on the scoreboard and in transition constantly dishing off dimes to his teammates to create attacking forays. Jets player Hyrum Harris also impressed throughout the season racking up 6.4 assists a game thanks to his vision and execution while Mauriohooho Le’Afa showcased his strength with ball in hand to record 5.4 a game. There is no denying that premiership player Jarrod Kenny was electric with ball in hand, able to slice through the full court press and release the rock with confidence racking up 5.2 assists a game as Taylor Britt closed out the top five with 4.6 assists for the Canterbury Rams.

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:
Frequently hitting the scoreboard, Jones also showcased his firepower and strength off the backboard with a whopping 13.1 rebounds a game. Jones was an integral member for the Airs with his ability to gobble up anything that came his way. Not far behind him was Harris with the Manawatu Jets representative proving to be a menace for opposition teams with his rebounding position to pick up an average of 11.6. Coming in at third on the leaderboard, Leon Henry had a solid season for the Huskies dragging down 10.9 rebounds while Vodanovich showcased why he was MVP featuring in the top five for rebounds with an average of 10.2 thanks to his commanding frame and read of the play. Although he did not get as much court time as his counterparts Alexander Talma secured fifth spot on the tally with a season average of eight rebounds.

AVERAGE BLOCKS:
When it came to defensive pressure and blocks Samuel Timmins led the way not only for his side but for the competition with the Franklin Bulls player notching up 1.7 a game testament to his impeccable foresight and elevation to get hands to ball. Shane Temara was not far off the pace with 1.1 blocks a game while Joshua Leger recorded an average of a block a game. Both Dane Brooks and Henry managed just under a block a game sitting at 0.9 blocks a game highlighting their defensive pressure for their respective teams.

AVERAGE STEALS:
Harris had a hand in just about every facet of the game with the Jets star taking out top spot for steals with a competition high 2.7 highlighting his ability to cleanly attack the ball and most importantly succeed. Similar to Harris, Mauriohooho Le’Afa had an impressive season featuring highly in most areas with an average of 2.5 steals while Jayden Bezzant also starred for the Jets with his speed to dart around the court and get a hand in at every opportunity that came his way with 1.9 steals a game. Henry amassed 1.6 steals a game as Josh Bloxam completed the top five with 1.5 steals.

LEADERBOARD:

AVERAGE POINTS:

Derone Raukawa: 23.7
Marcel Jones: 22.8
Thomas Vodanovich: 22.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 20.7
Jordan Hunt: 19.6

AVERAGE ASSISTS:

Derone Raukawa: 7.4
Hyrum Harris: 6.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 5.4
Jarrod Kenny: 5.2
Taylor Britt: 4.6

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:

Marcel Jones: 13.1
Hyrum Harris: 11.6
Leon Henry: 10.9
Thomas Vodanovich: 10.2
Alexander Talma: 8

AVERAGE BLOCKS:

Samuel Timmins: 1.7
Shane Temara: 1.1
Joshua Leger: 1
Dane Brooks: 0.9
Leon Henry: 0.9

AVERAGE STEALS:

Hyrum Harris: 2.7
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 2.5
Jayden Bezzant: 1.9
Leon Henry: 1.6
Josh Bloxam: 1.5

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Nelson Giants

NELSON Giants are first up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Giants ended up the bottom placed team after a sixth placed regular season finish, going down to Canterbury Rams in the first elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 5
Lost: 9

KEY STATS:

Points: 84.0 (6th)
Rebounds: 41.1 (5th)
Assists: 14.7 (7th)
Steals: 7.3 (5th)
Blocks: 2.3 (7th)
FG%: 44.2 (5th)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 5 points

It might be easy to say the Giants’ best win came against eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets in the final week of the season, but realistically taking into account what the motives were in that game in terms of management ahead of Finals, the narrow victory over a full-strength Manawatu Jets side earlier in the season takes the cake. No Jets player scored more than 18 points, as Theo Johnson put on 20 points and three rebounds, while Mike Karena had 17 and six, and Nic Trathen had 11 and six.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland by 29 points

The game was over by quarter time after the Huskies shot a lights-out 17 from 17 to start the match, piling on more than 40 points in the best first term of the season. The Giants managed to match it with their opponents after that, but the gap was a bridge too far despite the best efforts of Karena (15 points, eight rebounds).

TOP PLAYERS:

Mike Karena – 17.5 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Thomas Ingham – 14.9 points, 4.6 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Dane Brooks – 10.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 1.3 steals
Nic Trathen – 10.3 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.7 assists, 1.1 steals
Mika Vukona – 8.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Nelson Giants always looked like a dangerous team at times given their big man out on court, Karena was the best center in the competition, and his ability to be able to go inside or outside, and shoot at a high 54.2 per cent clip from two-point range and 37.5 per cent from three-point range was always going to be hard to stop for opposition clubs.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

A slow start to the season caused by injuries to Karena, Dane Brooks and Mika Vukona, the latter of whom did not return until late in the season. If the Tall Blacks legend had played a full season, there is every chance the Giants might have finished higher on the ladder, with his experience crucial to the side.

SUMMARY

The Nelson Giants might have finished seventh overall post-finals, but given the losses of key players to injury, the team was always playing catch-up basketball. At their best, the Giants were clearly able to match it with the best sides, and it was more the fact they struggled to get their full side on the court often enough. There were enough signs there to suggest if they can retain their big guns for another season next year, the Giants could be more competitive when the whips are cracking, and more consistently as well.

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Jets

FINALS action is finally here in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and for one of these teams, there is no tomorrow with the first elimination final, as well as the qualifying final taking place at Trusts Arena. All seven teams that competed in the Sal’s NBL competition were always going to make the post-season series, but the order mattered, particularly for the top two who earn a double chance.

For Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams, one team will end its campaign tonight, while the other will need to win a further three matches in order to do the unthinkable and come from a bottom two spot to lift the trophy aloft. The other two sides in action tonight have a little more to fall back on, but it will certainly make it no less of a high stakes game, with the winner of Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets to be handed the lowest placing winner of tomorrow night’s elimination finals, while the loser takes on the highest placing winner of those matches.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

In the opening match of the night, the sixth placed Nelson Giants and seventh placed Canterbury Rams do battle for the right to stay alive in the Sal’s NBL competition. The winner goes on to face Auckland Huskies, while the loser bids farewell as the first team eliminated in this year’s modified competition.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 22 | 14 | 27 | 22 (90)
Nelson Giants 39 | 16 | 20 | 22 (97)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Nelson Giants 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
Canterbury Rams 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 | (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Mike Karena (Giants) 19.0 points, 8.0 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Dane Brooks (Giants) 13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.5 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams)** 21.0 points, 2.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Reuben Te Rangi (Rams)** 15.0 points, 4.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 2.0 steals
Alex Talma (Rams) 8.0 points, 10.0 rebounds, 1.5 assists, 1.5 steals

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.7 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.1 steals
Mike Karena (Giants) 17.4 points, 5.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Rams need to utilise their scoring power with a great balance between their bigs and smalls, led by Taylor Britt. The key to winning will be allowing open looks and not giving Nelson Giants the space inside the perimeter. The Giants have a lot of capable close-range shooters and the biggest job may be Alex Talma up against Mike Karena. If Talma and his teammates can limit the influence of the former Ram, then it will go a long way to winning.

For the Giants, the key is stopping Britt, who has been one of the top performers in the season thus far. But in doing so, Nelson must also be aware of Reuben Te Rangi who is a sensational acquisition in the middle of the season, and the Tall Blacks scorer has the capability of putting up Britt-like numbers. He does not have the same impact in multiple ways that Britt does, but he can still use his ball-handing skills to set up the transition offence.

WHO WINS?

It is hard to pick given both these sides have suffered long losing streaks in the Sal’s NBL competition, but both picked up important wins on Saturday night. With greater balance across the floor, the Rams may well deserve to go in as favourites despite finishing lower, though if all the bigs of the Giants can get cooking, then they may overpower the Rams on the inside.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

The qualifying final between the top two sides in Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets will be the fourth meeting between the sides, and the minor premiers Nuggets will be looking for yet another win having defeated the Jets on each of the three past occasions.

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
Otago Nuggets 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Otago Nuggets 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Otago Nuggets 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 26.3 points, 8.7 rebounds, 4.7 assists, 2.0 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 16.0 points, 4.3 rebounds, 6.7 assists, 2.7 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 19.0 points, 4.7 rebounds, 3.7 assists
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 20.3 points, 5.3 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 2.3 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 24.7 points, 9.3 rebounds
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.0 assists
Taane Samuel (Jets) 14.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.0 assists

** Only played two games

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.9 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.6 steals
Hyrum Harris (Jets) 15.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 6.9 assists, 2.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

Both these teams are capable of sharing the ball around and setting up their teammates, and given both should be at full strength and rested after sharing minutes in their losses on Saturday night, it is expected to be a blockbuster. The Nuggets just have to keep doing what they are doing because it has worked the past three times against the Jets. They allow Jordan Ngatai to run the offence, and with Jarrod Kenny being a key distributor, the likes of Jordan Hunt and Kane Keil come into the fore on the inside and outside of the perimeter respectively.

For the Jets, having a full-strength starting five, they are so damaging because any one of them could put up 20 points which makes them so hard to guard. Accuracy is absolute key from the Jets, and while Tom Vodanovich can go on absolute scoring sprees – as he has shown at times this season – the key to stemming the scoring flow is restricting Hyrum Harris as he really makes this happen. He not only can sink jumpers from just about anywhere, but he can build transition offence with terrific passes and work hard on defence to win the ball back for the opposition. He is the key to Manawatu’s chances.

WHO WINS?

There is every chance this game goes down to the wire, and could well end up a single-digit margin between the sides. If the teams can both play to their potential, expect triple-digit scores on the board and many 20-plus point scorers. The Nuggets have had the Jets measure on the past three occasions so they will start favourites and are predicted to win, but the Jets have been good the past few months and if their scorers get cooking, watch out.

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

TARANAKI Mountainairs have kept their dreams of finishing in the top two of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown alive after downing Nelson Giants by seven points last night. In what was a team effort – five players scored double-figure points – the Airs reached the hundred mark yet again in the 102-95 win.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 20 | 26 | 28 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 24 | 27 | 16 | 28 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Both teams were able to gets shots off early, but back-to-back threes by Thomas Ingham and Dane Brooks gave the Giants an early advantage. Denhym Brooke countered with a triple of his own for the Airs, and the big guns in Derone Raukawa, Mika Vukona and Mike Karena all got on the board with some points. Trailing by as much as six, the Airs drained three consecutive treys – one to Marcel Jones and two to Shane Temara – to hit the front themselves. They did not lose it again for the rest of the quarter as both teams share the points around.

The Airs long-range shooting was a huge feature of the opening term as the Giants looked to get as close to the basket as possible. The teams traded baskets in the last couple of minutes as Nic Trathen had a late triple to follow on from Mitchell Dance, but it would be Zach Easthope who had the last say with a layup as the clock ticked down to four seconds for Taranaki to lead by four at the first break.

The second term opened with Ken Tuffin scoring his first points of the game with a jump shot after missing his earlier three-point attempt, as the Giants kept in touch with the third placed Airs through another Trathen triple just two minutes into the game. Raukawa and Jones scored the next seven Airs points, but then their side went three minutes without scoring. Despite the long period, Nelson did not fare much better with a Karena driving layup a minute earlier the first time the Giants had been in front since midway through the first quarter.

The teams traded buckets in the second half of the term, as the Giants through Ingham and Karena built a handy lead. Temara scored five late points for his side to cut the deficit to three points by the main break. Having had a break later in the term, Raukawa returned to the court for the second half to try and spur his team on after conceding the lead in the second quarter.

Just nine seconds into the quarter and Tuffin got to the rim with a nice layup and Vukona fouled Jones on a three-point attempt to send the big man to the line which he duly delivered to give his side a two-point advantage. Vukona soon made up for his error with a two-pointer of his own, and the teams again traded passes. Josh Bloxham cleverly picked up a steal off a Raukawa pass and Karena fed the ball to Ingham for a triple to hit the front. No sooner had the Giants went ahead, and Raukawa quickly drained a triple of his own to give his team the advantage.

The Airs maintained that advantage throughout the term, as the Giants got as close as three points with 2:22 left in the quarter. However the last two baskets – to Raukawa and Tai Wynyard – extended the lead out to seven at the final change, with no score added in the last 74 seconds of the game as the Giants kept having chances but not nailing them. Four consecutive shots resulted in three offensive rebounds for Nelson, before Wynyard finally grabbed a defensive board, only for Jones to turn the ball over again. Not long after the siren sounded with the Airs up by seven.

Still within striking range, the Giants continued to push as Karena, Trathen and Ingham all scored early baskets. Temara produced an entertaining dunk, while Raukawa was still making life difficult for the opposition with his shooting. Midway through the term, the game was well and truly alive with the Giants drawing within a point on a number of occasions. Vukona capitalised off an and-one chance with two minutes and 43 seconds remaining and the scores 89-88 in favour of the Airs.

That seemed to wake the third placed team up a little as Jones and Brooks both contributed with jumpshots to push it out to six points and the Giants never got closer. Karena’s basket with 56 seconds on the clock put the Giants to within six, but then the deliberate fouling was on and the Airs made sure to get the ball in the hands of Raukawa who delivered from the charity stripe. An Ingham turnover in the last 38 seconds resulted in a Tuffin basket, and while Theo Johnson nailed a late triple, it was too little, too late for the Giants who went down 102-95.

Raukawa finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and two rebounds, while Jones picked up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another big performance. Temara had 20 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench, while Dance (13 points) and Brooke (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the Giants, Ingham top scored with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Trathen came off the bench for 20 points of his own to accompany five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Karena (18 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Brooks (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) both picked up double-figure numbers while Vukona aided his teammates well with five rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with eight points.

Taranaki takes on Franklin Bulls tomorrow in a must-win clash if the Airs are to secure a top two spot, while Nelson plays its final game on Saturday against Otago Nuggets knowing it is set for the first elimination final on Tuesday.

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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