Tag: Dane Brooks

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.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 19: Giants v Huskies and Jets v Airs

THE weekend to close out week four of competition is the first of the short 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) season where all seven teams take to the court. Manawatu Jets and Taranaki Airs face off after a little break from their last matches, while Auckland Huskies also enter the fray for the first time, fresh up against a Nelson Giants outfit that played last night.

NELSON GIANTS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

In the opening match of the night, a Giants side fresh off snapping its four-game losing streak come up against an improving Huskies side with fifth spot on the line in this clash. After a slow start to the season, dropping their first few games, the Huskies have rebounded nicely to notch up four of the pat five games and really look a damaging threat. Impressively, they have been able to knock over three of the top four sides and looked great in doing so, even when most of their wins have been low scoring, but effective. Their performance against the Airs on Thursday reaffirmed they could stick at it for longer and notch past 100. The Giants on the other hand have only scored above 80 once in their past five games, but managed to win last night by reaching that total and conceding just 64 points to the Rams.

The Giants were thrilled to welcome back Mika Vukona for his first game of the season, putting up eight points, three rebounds and two assists off just over 12 minutes in the match. With more time on court expected in this game, he could be a real danger for the Huskies who need to find a way to stop him. Along with Vukona, the Giants also have the top center in the league with Mike Karena also returning last night and he averages 17 points, five rebounds and two assists this season. For the first time, Nelson may well have its strongest starting lineup without minute restrictions, and the duo along with Dane Brooks (9.9 points, 6.0 rebounds) and Thomas Ingham (15.3 points, 5.1 rebounds) loom as a team not to be underestimated as they eye off consecutive wins.

Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa has been sensational since coming into the team, averaging 19.8 points, 5.1 assists and 4.9 rebounds. Leon Henry has shown his experience guiding the team with an identical points and rebounds balance of 11.7. Tohi Smith-Milner had a huge 20-20 game on Thursday to guide his side to the win, which resulted in his average going up to 14.3 points and 8.6 rebounds. The other crucial one to watch is teenager Taine Murray who has shown plenty of potential on the scoring front with 17.5 points per game to be a real game changer for the Huskies.

The match is a danger game for the Huskies who can join the top four, two wins clear of their opponents, or slip back level with the Giants. The stage is set for it to be a massive encounter.

MANAWATU JETS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

A top four clash between Manawatu Jets and the top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs promises to be an absolute pearler to close out week four of competition. With only a week left until finals, the Airs have been the most prolific scoring team, but have also conceded the most points on average too. Their run-and-gun high octane style of basketball is exciting and they back themselves to match it with any other side. Franklin Bulls have beaten them twice, but have only lost two of the remaining nine contests. The intriguing note is that one of those losses was to the Jets back on July 5, which means Manawatu could be level on top by the end of the night. The Jets have transformed themselves from an inconsistent side to a really strong one, winning four of the past five, and only a disappointing 36-point shocker in between.

Impressively, the Jets have hit 100 in all of their most recent wins, so are the next highest scoring team behind the Airs. Both Jayden Bezzant (21.8 points) and Tom Vodanovich (21.5) are prolific scorers, though it would be remiss not to include Taane Samuel (18.3) and Nelson Kirksey (14.8) of whom the latter has filled the role of the recently injured Hyrum Harris (14.0). Harris is nearing a return which will only strengthen the Jets, as he and Vodanovich both maintain double-double averages thanks to 13 and 12 rebounds apiece respectively. The Jets have the same top five in different orders for points, assists and rebounds showing the importance of their top-end talent, and have the best starting team in the competition.

The Airs have not done too much wrong since the Jets loss, and won four consecutive games against quality opposition. They were all fairly close, but were able to notch up wins and move two games clear on top of the Sal’s NBL table. A disappointing defeat to Auckland Huskies on Thursday night bumped them back a bit, so they will not want to lose here and surrender top spot. Derone Raukawa is on track to win the competition’s MVP and is clearly an elite talent. He averages 23.3 points and 7.5 assists, able to do it himself or set up his teammates. He has been incredibly supported by the work of double-double specialist Marcel Jones. The big man time and time again gets it done with 22.3 points, 14.9 rebounds and 4.6 assists. The pair are near-unstoppable, and with Shane Temara (12.1 points, 6.3 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Ken Tuffin (10.3 points, 5.7 rebounds) providing great support, the team has a strong core.

Given these teams are the two highest scoring teams in the competition, expect the game to produce a couple of tons and plenty of electrifying baskets.

Vukona return sparks Giant win over Rams, ends four-game slide

THE Nelson Giants’ runaway fourth quarter has led to the ninth straight downfall of the Canterbury Rams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL), as the return of Mika Vukona helped spark a strong performance, despite a limited run on the floor last night.

NELSON GIANTS 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

While it remains very unlikely for either the Giants or Rams to make the top four, both teams had a lot of pride on the line before squaring up last night in Saturday’s opener. The Giants, who looked at ending their four-game skid, had to knock off a Rams side that was desperate for a win, having lost eight straight contests prior to the matchup.

Good news for Nelson straight off the bat, New Zealand Hall of Famer and 162-time Tall Black in Vukona made his first appearance for the Giants, coming off the bench in his side’s bid to gain some room off the bottom of the standings. Meanwhile, the Rams’ chances looked bleak, as key guard Taylor Britt was absent due to an elbow injury.

Nevertheless, Reuben Te Rangi, Benjamin Carlisle-Smith and Alexander Talma got their squad going early, opening up a 6-0 start to the clash of the two South Island sides.

The advantageous start for the Rams would set the tone for the majority of the first term, pushing their lead to as much as nine points off the back of two free-throws from Te Rangi. The conversion rate was the ultimate factor in obtaining the 22-13 lead at quarter-time for Canterbury, as the squad shot over 40 per cent from the field compared to the Giants, who shot under 30 per cent.

After Vukona made his first basket of the season 37 seconds into the second period, it seemed as though Nelson started to gain a little bit of momentum. But, a well organised and prepared Canterbury side parried most of their runs during the first few minutes of the second.

Following an injury scare to the Rams’ Samuel Smith, Canterbury continued to outperform the Giants in all methods of scoring. Methods varied from points in the paint to second chance points to points off the bench, as Mick Downer’s squad flexed their depth late in the first half.

An unsportsmanlike foul on Te Rangi allowed Nelson back into striking range, as Nicolas Trathen’s technical free-throws and Theo Johnson’s three helped cap off an effective 13-0 run giving Nelson the lead for the first time in the game. Te Rangi’s three tied the contest up, but a Dane Brooks and-one and dunk solidified the half-time lead at the main break, giving his team the five-point edge 42-37. Thanks to his last-minute run of plays, Brooks led the way for his team in scoring and rebounding prior to the third quarter, adding 10 points and five rebounds to the cause, while Te Rangi was held responsible for his 11 individual points.

A glaring red light for Canterbury’s first half downfall was in the category of points from turnovers. Nelson’s defence led to eight points from forcing takeaways, as the Rams were yet to produce in that fashion. Despite this, the Rams contributed 15 second-chance points, compared to Nelson’s 11, highlighting one of the few good things the bottom-dwellers of the league did up until half-time. The Rams’ Jack Exeter knocked down a lead-off three to get Canterbury off on the right foot, as Canterbury quickly levelled the playing field a couple minutes into the second half with both sides sitting on 44 points apiece.

With both sides going basket-for-basket in the middle stages of the third period, Nelson could start to exploit the Rams’ holes in their defence, separating themselves from their opponents and after Johnson’s And-1 dunk, they could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel leading by as much as seven points with just over a quarter to play.

That lead would remain for the rest of the third phase as a Mac Stodart’s alley-oop layup on the buzzer gave the Rams a modicum of hope going into the final ten minutes, as they continued to search for answers to lock down the key (the Rams allowed 38 points in the paint through three quarters).

Nelson’s frontcourt started get results as the big-man duo of Mike Karena and Vukona helped extend their team’s lead into double-digits for the first time of the night, leading 72-57 with just under eight minutes remaining. Following this, everything started to fall, as Alexander McNaught added to his impressive performance with a three-pointer of his own.

Another scoring run from the Giants would put the result beyond all doubt all the way to the final whistle, as Nelson ran away with the contest by a potent 16-point deficit, 80-64. It therefore ended their four-game losing stretch and improving their record to four wins and seven losses. On the other side of the tape, the Rams move a game and a half back on the standings, losing their ninth straight after a string of close defeats over the last few weeks.

Brooks led the charge for the Giants, standing with Karena as one of the only two players to reach double digits in scoring. The shooting guard remained reliable from the field, hammering home 26 points and eight rebounds in his man of the match performance. For Karena, 11 points and five rebounds completed a modest performance off the bench, as Vukona made a substantial impact in his return to the hardwood (eight points, three rebounds and two assists).

While each basket for the Rams seemed to be a challenge, Te Rangi continued his good start to the season with a team-high 15 points and four rebounds. Meanwhile, Toby Gillooly earned his salt at the free-throw line attributing five of his ten points to the charity strike, going five from six.

Both sides encounter the Auckland huskies in their next on-court appearances, with Nelson to face the side in the next 24 hours and looking to close the gap for fifth spot in the standings. Next up for the Rams, they can look forward to some rest as the injury woes continue for the Red and Black, lining up against the Huskies on Wednesday night looking to avoid a double-digit losing streak after their ninth consecutive loss last night.

Bulls make early charge to stamp authority in win over Giants

FRANKLIN Bulls’ three quarter dominance of Nelson Giants helped the Bulls secure an impressive 12-point win in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Bulls won the first three quarters of the match to lead by 19 points at the final break, and while Nelson hit back to win the last term 19-12, it was too little, too late as the Bulls celebrated a nice 82-70 victory.

NELSON GIANTS 18 | 10 | 23 | 19 (70)
FRANKLIN BULLS 28 | 13 | 29 | 12 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

The Nelson Giants were undermanned in this uphill battle, but fought the Franklin Bulls valiantly all night. Unfortunately they put themselves in a hole early and spent the rest of the game trying to dig themselves out of it. Dane Brooks got the fans out of their seats early at the Trusts Arena with what was a no look, falling down layup that somehow found its way through the hoop. Very early into the game, the Giants’ defence looked fierce with back-to-back blocks from Josh Ledger. However Sam Timmins would come back with a gigantic block, right off the backboard. From the get-go, the match looked to be a highly competitive night.

But that thought came way too soon as the Giants offence instantly looked dire and stagnant. One second they were running the floor with first quarter liveliness, the next – they were not. With less than four minutes remaining in the first, the Bulls had already made twice as many field goals with three times the amount of assists. The Bulls’ decision to run plays through Isaac Davidson was working, as he was playing very aggressive. Shooting with confidence, clearing his way to the paint, he was foundational in the Bulls leading by 10 at the end of the first quarter.

The second quarter saw both teams play more smoothly. The Bulls stepped up on defence and the Giants started running screen heavy plays. This change in energy was nice to see, but late. Although it took the Giants way too long to realise that the constant dribble handoffs to the left side was simply not working, as the 10-point lead remained constant. And when they finally began to attack the middle, the Bulls clogged them up beautifully. 

It really cannot be said enough – the Bulls’ defence, especially when going around screens, was sensational. Their hustle on that side of the floor was the most exciting feature of the second. They forced the Giants to shoot wild threes with no seconds left on the shot clock. Despite the fierce defensive pressure from the Bulls, with a lot of luck, Thomas Ingham was able to hit one from long-range. The end of the half looked like a before training shootout, with four three point attempts from both teams in less than 30 seconds. It ended with the Bulls leading 41-28. 

One of the biggest differences in style was just the patience shown by the Bulls on offence. They spread the floor and attacked the rim when they should have. Not just when they could have. There were numerous times when the Giants just drove in on two or three defenders, just for the ball to bounce off the rim and into the hands of the Bulls. The Giants’ deficit continued to climb and with that came more ugly shots. By the time the buzzer sounded, the Bulls led 70-51 with one period left. 

The fourth appeared to be the classic, ‘winning team takes foot off the pedal as win is assured’ quarters. The Bulls scored only 12 while the Giants nailed in 19, finishing the game with dignity. The Giants shot 13 threes in the last period making only three, while the Bulls ran with the second unit. What struck out from this game was the similarities in rebounding numbers. Clearly effort was not what was holding the Giants back, that would be missing teammates – five more turnovers – and missing shots – 40.6 per cent from the field, 10 per cent less than their opponents – which are areas the Giants can work on for their next match.

Giants’ captain, Ingham was one of the few in the blue jerseys with a hot hand, dropping 18 points on 46 per cent from the field. He would also be the only player in the starting line with double figures on his stat sheet. Nic Trathen worked hard off the bench for 15 points, draining three of four from long-range in the process, while Alexander McNaught had seven assists, almost half of his team’s total.

For the Bulls, it was all about Dominique Kelman-Poto who ended the contest with 26 points in 28 minutes while shooting an insane 78 per cent from the field, as well as eight rebounds. He was far from alone though with Davidson sinking 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Chris McIntosh (10 points, three of which were triples) also reached double figures.

Both teams next play on Saturday night with Nelson Giants taking on Canterbury Rams in a bottom two battle, while Franklin Bulls lock horns with Otago Nuggets.