Tag: Darcy Knox

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

2020 Sal’s NBL Grand Final preview: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets

THE conclusion to an entertaining and seesawing season is here, with the top two teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) going head-to-head for the chance to claim this year’s title. What makes the decider even more intriguing is the fact that both competitors – the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets – are yet to win a New Zealand (NZ) NBL title. The Jets came closest back in 1992 when they went down to Canterbury Rams in the grand final. With the Nuggets’ win over the Rams, Manawatu avoid lightning potentially striking twice, but have their own troubles overcoming a Nuggets team this season. Otago has won all four previous encounters, and in its first season for six years, already making an impact in the league.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

There is no turning back for either side in a clash that has witnessed the two best teams of the season reach the decider in the Nuggets and Jets. The Nuggets have accounted for the Jets on all four prior occasions, and only once was the margin in single digits, with two wins 25 points or greater. The most recent clash was on Tuesday when Otago got up 105-80, though once the result was decided, both teams rested their key starters, and the Jets were also without Tom Vodanovich. In the other heavy loss, 130-94, the Jets were missing Hyrum Harris who is equally as key to their chances. So in the two matches at full strength, the Nuggets have still won, but by an average of eight points.

 

PAST MATCHES:

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

The match was neck-and-neck for the most part, and the Jets even raced out to a six-point lead at half-time. The Nuggets fired up in the third term to regain the lead, and held on in the final term to record a big win. Otago marginally won the rebound game (35-34) as well as the assists (20-18), but crucially had less turnover (10-16).

Jayden Bezzant top scored for the game in an ultimately fruitful effort with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, as Vodanovich (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Harris (nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) had big games, as did Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds). Despite the quartet’s impressive numbers, just 13 of the team’s 100 points came outside them, whilst for the Nuggets, they shared the ball around.

Jarrod Kenny had what would be a season-high 28 points in the Nuggets’ return game, also picking up six assists, while Jordan Ngatai went on a tear with a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists). Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were influential off the boards, while Kane Keil (12 points) also reached double-figure points.

 

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After a tight first half with the Nuggets up by a point at the main break, Otago went berserk piling on 73 points in the biggest half to-date, completely dominating the Jets who could only manage the 38 points in that half. It meant the final margin blew out to 26 points as the Nuggets also tallied the highest score of the year. They shot at a remarkable 57.3 per cent from the field compared to the Jets’ 48.1 per cent, including 42.4 to 30.6 per cent from long-range. They almost had half the amount of turnovers (11-20), and more than double the steals (17-8), whilst winning the rebounding statistic (42-34) and assists (25-15) in a one-sided thumping.

Keil led the way with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, not that far ahead of teammates, Ngatai (23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals) and Hunt (22 points, two rebounds and three assists). Kenny had a handy 13 points and three rebounds to go with a game-high seven assists and four steals, while Aitcheson notched up 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals in a strong effort.

In a dirty night for the Jets, Vodanovich (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (18 points, six rebounds and five assists) were the best, though Samuel (14 points, four rebounds and two assists) tried hard. New face, Nelson Kirksey picked up 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in defeat, while Ashton McQueen had 11 points and three rebounds.

 

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After trailing by three points at quarter time, the Nuggets blasted away yet again to secure a 12-point victory over the Jets in the final round of the season. The 97-85 triumph earned the Nuggets top spot on the NZNBL table heading into the finals series, but realistically both teams knew they would face off again the next Tuesday. Once again the Nuggets dominated the assists (20-13), but only had one more rebounds, as the Jets made good on some second chance opportunities. Neither team’s shooting was anything to write home about, but the Nuggets marginally shaded the Jets from the field, 46.7 to 42.3 per cent.

Ngatai was the difference between the sides, putting in one of the greatest performances of the season on his way to 37 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He was one of four Nuggets to reach double-figure points with Keil (16 points, six rebounds and five assists), Hunt (15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) and Aitcheson (14 points, five rebounds and two assists) all busy. Kenny only had the seven points, bur amassed nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a real team game.

Vodanovich was the key scorer for the Jets, posting 28 points, six rebounds, two steals and one block, while Harris had 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in the loss. Bezzant helped out with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Samuel had the nine points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

 

Otago Nuggets 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
Manawatu Jets 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

In the latest one-sided contest, the Jets struggled from the get-go without Vodanovich on court as the newly-crowned MVP was missing for the qualifying final clash. The Nuggets bolted out of the gates and never looked back, piling on 80 points to 52 in the first three terms to end the contest and rest up for the semi-finals. Both teams knew they would make it through to the semis, and looked to manage their stars accordingly. The Nuggets smashed the Jets off the defensive boards (41-26), whilst also had their measure in assists (26-20) and again dominated the scoring accuracy with 53.2 per cent from the field to the Jets’ measly 38.1 per cent.

Hunt was the top scorer this time around, picking up 23 points as others were managed for minutes. Ngatai (11 points, nine rebounds and six assists) and Kenny (eight points, five rebounds and three assists) had an easy day at the office with plenty of rest, particularly for the last 15 minutes of the match. Instead, every Nuggets player scored at least four points on the night in a stunning team effort, as Jack Andrew came off the bench for 16 points and three rebounds. Keil (nine points, 12 rebounds), Darcy Knox (eight points, three rebounds) and Richie Rodger (eight points, three rebounds) also contributed.

Samuel recorded the most points coming off the bench with 17, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) was busy, as was McQueen (13 points, five rebound, three assists and two steals) and Nick Fee (11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals).

 

THE STARTERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 22.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 16.1 assists
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals

Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 15.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets)** 24.7 points, 9.3 rebounds
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 10.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Taane Samuel (Jets) 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals

** Only played three games

THE STARTERS – SEASON STATS:

Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.4 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 22.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals
Taane Samuel (Jets) 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.7 steals
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists. 0.7 steals

TEAM STATS: Otago Nuggets | Manawatu Jets

Points: 93.4 | 95.7
Rebounds: 48 | 57
Assists: 20.2 | 18.6
Steals: 9.3 | 8.2
Blocks: 2.8 | 2.5
FG%: 47.4 | 45.4
2P%: 56.8 | 56.1
3P%: 35.4 | 33.8
FT%: 69.7 | 68.4
Turnovers: 13.6 | 14.3
Personal Fouls: 16.9 | 19.4

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Nuggets need to do what they have done four times before because it has worked each time. They know it will not be easy with the Jets team at full strength pushing the top team on both those occasions. With an ability to share the points around both on the court and coming off the bench, the Nuggets can rely on anyone on their roster coming in and playing a role. Their shooting accuracy is terrific, particularly from inside the arc, whilst their assist game is the best in the competition.

The biggest strength of the Nuggets is that they do not really have a weakness in their game, and that the opposition has to play incredibly well to beat them because Otago does not just give up games. Their rebounding numbers might look low in comparison, but they do so well on the court to limit the opposition putting up shots, they play possession basketball and can dominate from the outset.

For the Jets, when at full strength, they can be a real danger. But unlike the Nuggets, they have had some unbelievable performances, and then they have had some games to forget. Their top four are high-volume shooters who can easily share between 20 points a game, whilst Kirksey has shown to be very capable coming off the bench – though could even get the start in this one. The issue with the Jets is that they struggle with points off the bench, and tend to fade out of games late with a lot of fouls – 19.4 per game is the worst in the league – which does not help.

You could make a case for having the best 1-2 combination in the league with Vodanovich and Harris, but if you are conceding points while they are having a breather, it is hard to play out four quarters of basketball. What the Jets really need is at about 15-20 points off their bench so it can keep the score ticking over while the starters are resting. Because the Nuggets are so deep, they are hard to matchup on for four quarters, so getting a strong start is crucial and then if the Nuggets start to get a roll on, the Jets cannot afford to let their frustrations show, and just try and stem the flow until they can grab the momentum back.

WHO WINS?

The clash looms as potentially the closest contest these teams have fought out, or at least something similar to their four-point thriller back in week one. If the Jets can get off to a good start and really apply scoreboard pressure, then there will be a game. But if the Nuggets can start strong, fans have come to know just how good finishers the Otago-based side is, and they have really slammed home the point in the second half. Neither of these teams have won a championship title, so no matter what happens, history will be made. Good luck to both teams and may it be a thriller.

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

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Giants trounce Nuggets, gain essential morale before finals

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Huskies claim upset win over second placed Nuggets

THE Auckland Huskies stunned the second place Otago Nuggets in a full four quarter performance to run out 12-point victors (81-69) in the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) last night. The Huskies led throughout the game, stopping the normally free scoring Nuggets in their tracks and controlling the tempo of the game with their attacking prowess.

OTAGO NUGGETS 18 | 20 | 13 | 18 (69)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 23 | 21 | 17 | 20 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Jordan Ngatai struck first for the Nuggets with the big man converting the first layup of the game before Marvin Williams-Dunn delivered for the Huskies with a triple. From there on in the play seemed to lie with the Huskies as Leon Henry chimed in with a three-pointer to push his side out to a solid lead. The ball ebbed and flowed across the court with neither side able to capitalise on their chances with Taine Murray and Otago Nuggets star, Jarrod Kenny missing a couple of shots. Ngatai seemed to be the only one able to apply any sort of scoreboard pressure for the Nuggets, while Auckland shared the load around with the likes of Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Tohi Smith-Milner asserting themselves on the contest. It was not until the six-and-a-half-minute mark that someone other than Ngatai hit the scoreboard for the Nuggets with Jordan Hunt stepping up to the plate to cut the deficit to one point. With the Nuggets pushing hard, Smith-Milner upped the ante in attack dropping back-to-back points to re-establish a four-point lead. The insertion of Darcy Knox into the game worked wonders for Otago with the Nuggets attacking the basket and using his frame to have an influence across the boards. With just over three minutes left in the quarter Kane Keil converted from a free-throw, keeping his side within striking distance of the Huskies, before a big final couple of minutes saw Auckland blow the lead back out to five points mainly thanks to Nathan Wilson.

The second quarter delivered very similar results for the Nuggets, who were unable to implement their signature style of play instead succumbing to the pressure of the Huskies. In the opening minutes of the quarter Richie Roger showcased his ability to shoot from range, sinking a triple with teammate Josh Aitcheson quickly following up on his good work to also slot a triple and reduce the margin to one point once again. Steadily drawing closer, Wilson held his nerve laying an impressive dunk and the converting again moments later for the Huskies. Despite the best efforts of Kenny, Auckland seemed unfazed, going about their business until Akiva McBirney-Griffin slammed one home for Otago to level the scores with just under seven minutes remaining in the term. The increased intensity saw the ball bubble around with both teams struggling to hit the scoreboard but it was Murray to break the stalemate first and send his side somewhat into a scoring spree. Murray was involved in everything, while Henry also chimed in, pushing the Huskies out to an 11-point lead but the Nuggets refused to give in stringing together a solid couple of minutes to dwindle the lead back down to six at half-time.

Continuing their hot start to the game, it did not take long for Mauriohooho Le’Afa to convert and extend the lead for Auckland. Having somewhat of a quieter quarter, Smith-Milner quickly got back into the thick of things while the Nuggets struggled to maintain possession with a couple of sloppy passes and missed shots at goal. Murray found his stroke from beyond the arc, sinking a nice three while for the Nuggets, Ngatai and Aitcheson stood up under the pressure to draw back the lead. The combination of Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Murray was proving too hard to handle for Otago, with the duo running rings around their opposition. Much like the patch in the second quarter, both sides were at a standstill unable to knock back points and feeling each other out. But it was the Nuggets that blinked first, gifting the Huskies with a chance to stream down court and convert for the first time in over two minutes. With the lead out at 13 points, the Nuggets looked to the bench to provide some fresh legs but it was Rogers that delivered sinking a much needed triple before Ngatai got his side back within seven points. But a big shot from Reuben Fitzgerald, stopped the Nuggets in their tracks heading into the final change.

Kenny upped the ante in defence with a clever block finished off by Ngatai who gobbled up the rebound but simply could not convert. With a sense of urgency in their play and desperation to win ball back and score the Nuggets line-up contested everything that came their way but were plagued by inaccuracy, while the Huskies withstood that rush of momentum as Smith-Milner continued his merry way nailing back-to-back threes. Extending the lead to 14 points at the half way mark of the final term, Ngatai and Aitcheson took control for the Nuggets but it was simply not enough to offset the Huskies who could sense their second win. Despite a strong couple of minutes from Otago to reduce the margin to a mere eight points the closest they had been in the second half, Williams-Dunn crushed any hopes nailing the next four points.

Ngatai dominated for the Nuggets, sinking a team high 19 points along with eight rebounds and three assists. The next closest for the Nuggets was Hunt with 12 points and seven rebounds while Aitcheson managed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. For the Huskies, Murray showcased his scoring prowess with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists to his name. Teammate Smith-Milner was hot on his tail when it came to scoreboard contribution with 17 while his 10 defensive rebounds capped off a stellar performance. Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Henry also managed double digits for their side with 12 and 11 points respectively but it was Henry’s rebounding ability that really shone recording 14 for the night, in what was a team effort from the bottom of the table Huskies.

Timmins’ 24 earns Bulls third win on the trot against Nuggets

FRANKLIN Bulls have flipped their 0-2 start to the season on its head, after collecting their third consecutive victory against the Otago Nuggets, securing a top four spot in the process. They won the first and last terms, which was enough to see them get the job done by six points, 85-79 and hand the Nuggets back-to-back losses.

OTAGO NUGGETS 17 | 18 | 26 | 18 (79)
FRANKLIN BULLS 23 | 17 | 19 | 26 (85)

[ … MATCH STATS … ]

With both sides looking to avoid back-to-back losses early on this season, the Nuggets went into Thursday night’s competition looking to place themselves at the top of the standings next to the Canterbury Rams. Whereas, the Franklin Bulls were hoping to place themselves above .500 with their third win of the campaign.

The Nuggets struck first in immediate fashion off the back of a Jarrod Kenny three pointer, but from the get-go, the long ball would be the story of the first 10 minutes, with three attempts from deep finding their mark in the opening two minutes.

With the Bulls edging out a six-point advantage heading into the first break, it was the Nuggets’ Jordan Hunt that was leading the scoring category with a solid nine points under his belt, but oblivious to the fact that his first quarter would be his best. Meanwhile, the Bulls’ Sam Timmins, who had a humble six points, would only begin to take hold of the contest.

The three-ball would again be the initial method of scoring to open up the second quarter, as Hunt’s three ball again found its mark one more time in the first half. But, this time Franklin would answer back with a one-two combo, nailing back-to-back triples two minutes in. The back-and-forth would ensue further, with Joshua Aitcheson joining the fray, adding onto the three-ball totals.

At the conclusion of the first two periods, Franklin’s bigs started to shine through, as Timmins would round off a good first-half stint on the boards with nine points and five rebounds, which was further supported by Dom Kelman-Poto’s seven points on top of that, as the Bulls held on to a solid yet slim five-point lead.

A Jordan Ngatai floater to open up the second half provided promising signs for the Nuggets, as Aitcheson would back that up with a venomous three to give Otago the lead with less than three minutes remaining in the third.

However, the fans that attended Trusts Arena were treated to an intense final couple of minutes, as Timmins once again showed his prowess around the ring putting the Bulls’ noses back in front. This was short lived, as a wrestling match would follow. The Nuggets would force the hand of Franklin, preceding the last quarter off the back of baskets from Jack Andrew and Darcy Knox providing their side with a five-point cushion. It made Kelman-Poto’s three-point play to end the period an important one, cutting the Bulls’ deficit to a single basket prior to the final break.

Sioeli Vaiangina, an unlikely hero to commence the fourth quarter, would go the extra mile on the boards, hustling his way to three rebounds in a matter of passages, aiding his side to level the scoreboard with eight minutes to go. Shortly after, Isaac Davidson would provide one of the best offensive plays to date this season, putting Kenny on skates before converting on a mid-range jump-shot, injecting the Bulls with a shot of adrenaline, thus keeping his side in the game.

Thanks to a dominant inside display, seven straight points fell the way of Timmins late in the clash, which would in turn break open the game single-handedly. Therefore, solidifying the decision to make him man-of-the-match and helping his side to their third straight win, taking out the contest 79-85.

In a surprising twist, Otago would combine for a higher conversion rate from two- and three-point range, however, it was Franklin overall that shot better on the whole, going 48 per cent from the field (31/64) compared to the Nuggets, who shot at a 46 per cent clip (29/62). But the main differences would fall under the categories of free throws and rebounds, as the Bulls owned the charity strike earning 14 points from the line, six more than the Nuggets. Furthermore, a plus-six on the boards only added to the reasons for Franklin’s late game triumph.

Timmins, who played at a consistent level in 24 minutes of court time, notched up 24 points and 12 rebounds in a performance at both ends of the court. Nikau McCullough’s 27 minutes off the bench allowed him to showcase his defensive abilities with 14 points and a game-high four steals, meanwhile 13 points apiece for Davidson and Kelman-Poto would round out the bulk of Franklin’s scoring.

For Otago, four starters would reach double-digits with Hunt securing a team-high 18 points, whereas the number one draft pick in Ngatai amassed 15 points and eight rebounds, which became tainted at the expense of six turnovers in 28 minutes of court-time. Tall Black veteran and Cairns Taipan Kenny would accumulate 13 points with three of his field goals coming from deep.

With both the Bulls and Nuggets sitting near the top of the standings, both teams have the chance to get ahead of the pack. For the Bulls, they hold the opportunity to extend their winning streak to four against the Jets on Saturday, whereas the Nuggets can look forward to a duel against the top of the table Rams, who are keen to undo their blunder that came at the hands of the Giants.

Nuggets bury Giants with final term flurry

OTAGO Nuggets found an extra gear when required in the final term to storm past an understrength but gallant Nelson Giants in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Nuggets pulled all the strings throughout the game, and were in control to the extent that Wednesday night’s top scorer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jarrod Kenny did not even attempt a shot. Instead, it was Jordan Ngatai who led the way with 23 points, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals, supported well by a host of teammates.

OTAGO NUGGETS 26 | 30 | 20 | 31 (107)
NELSON GIANTS 19 | 26 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Despite some whispers that star Giant and Tall Blacks legend Mika Vukona might take to the court during the match, Nelson opted to let their first pick sit out and instead return for Sunday night’s clash with Manawatu Jets. Given the Giants were still missing other top three draft selections, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks, the firepower was severely impacted. Not so much for the Nuggets, fresh off a win against the Jets 24 hours earlier, as they raced away to a 26-19 lead at quarter time.

Kane Keil score the first points of the night, as he and Jordan Hunt went to work early with four points apiece leading the Nuggets to an 8-2 advantage five minutes into the term. Whilst many expected Kenny and Ngatai to do all the damage early, it was the former who opted to use his slick passing to advantage to dish off dimes to teammates, whilst the latter had just four points in the term.

Young gun Tysxun Aiolupotea was doing what he could in the first term, forcing fouls from the opposition and scoring four consecutive free throws to cut the nine-point deficit into a five-point one late in the term. Thomas Ingham‘s desperate attempt to score in the last few seconds saw him finish the term with a couple of free throws himself and his side headed in seven points behind.

Ngatai soon made his intentions known with the first five points of the second term, whilst Hunt completed the alley oop from Kenny, earned the foul and then sank the and-one opportunity. When Ngatai made it eight points for the term in less than two minutes, he and his side were in complete control and the margin had blown out to 18 points. Ingham and Nicolas Trathen tried their hand to get the Giants back into it with the next five points, but another clever layup after a steal from Keil piled on more pressure for the trailing side.

Without the Giants’ big three, Ingham and Trathen were left to pick up the slack in the first half as the pair almost exclusively piled on the points scoring 34 of the Giants’ 45 points. Trathen had 19, as well as five rebounds and an assist at the half, whilst Ingham had 15, seven and three in an equally big performance. Ngatai had started to get his hot hands going with 14 points in the term to move up to 18, as he became the predominant score alongside Hunt who had 12.

Coming out after half-time, Kenny’s refusal to put up a shot continued as he provided a neat assist to Ngatai for a layup. Otago had led by 11 at the main break thanks to a Jack Andrew buzzer beating dunk, but were not out of the woods yet. Nelson could not quite find the right formula to score enough. The game looked all but over in the third term when Richard Rodger drilled a three-point jumper with seven minutes remaining after the Nuggets had gone on a tear, scoring nine of the first points for the term.

A late inclusion into the Giants squad and wearing the injured Thane O’Leary guernsey, Josh Leger tried all he could getting into the post, visibly frustrated by the Nuggets’ defence, but he was forcing them to be accountable on that end. To that point earlier in the term, the Giants defence around the perimeter had been lax which let the Nuggets free reign at times shooting from long-range. Both Leger and Zeb Lovell were starting to work their magic and then came Riley Bensemann.

Trailing by 14 points, the Giants shooter shot back-to-back three-pointers, then handed off an assist for a Josh Bloxham three minutes later. In a remarkable turn of events, the Giants were within five points and it was a ball game. Sensing the importance of the moment, Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere called a time out and questioned the communication of his side. The pep talk worked for the last 90 seconds as they scored seven of the last nine points of the quarter to lead 78-68 at the final break.

The teams traded blows early in the final term, but once the Nuggets got going thanks to a Ngatai triple with six minutes remaining, they had control. Scoring 22 of the last 32 points, it was party time for the undefeated side as their 17-5 run in the middle of the term from that Ngatai triple ended any doubt about the winner of the contest. For the last few minutes the Nuggets starters were on the best enjoying the show as the bench players went to work padding some of their stats and working hard both defensively and offensively to send a message to the rest of the competition.

Whilst Ngatai was the star, the Nuggets had a huge amount of contributors, with Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Keil (11 points, four rebounds) impressing from the starting line-up. Off the bench, it was Aicheson (13 points, two rebounds) and Rodger (11 points, two assists and two steals) who scored a fair chunk of the points. The likes of Darcy Knox (eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) and teenage wrecking ball, Akiva McBirney-Griffin – who claimed as many bodies on the court as he did points – played strong roles across the game.

For the Giants, Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds) and Ingham (17 points, eight rebounds) did not really add too much to their first half domination, with Bensemann’s nine points, and Aiolupotea and Lovell’s eight each the next highest for the side. Lovell also finished with seven rebounds and three assists, but it was the team turnovers that cost the Giants with 22 to 12, and whilst they had a plus six in rebounds, were minus eight in assists.

Sunday could not come fast enough for Giants fans who will welcome back Vukona with open arms. The side has been gallant without him and the other injured stars, but did not have enough class to really run out four quarters. For the Nuggets, they rest up for the week and have certainly earned it, heading 2-0 to start their 2020 campaign.

Nuggets get it done in tight battle with Jets

IN the first game for both the Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets, it did not take long for the Jets to open the scoring. After getting into the groove and momentum of the game both sides found it easy to score, unleashing an enthralling battle to watch with neither side willing to take a backwards step. The game went down to the wire as number one pick Jordan Ngatai landed the match-winning three-pointer in the dying seconds of the game to give the Nuggets the first win of the season (104-100).

MANAWATU JETS 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
OTAGO NUGGETS 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Jets got off to a screamer, peppering away at the scoreboard and most importantly converting opening up a 6-0 lead. Tanae Samuels was the first to inflict pain on the scoreboard while the highly touted Tom Vodanovich got involved in the scoring moments later sinking a shot from outside the arc. Big man Ngatai inserted himself in the play for the Nuggets but was unable to hit the scoreboard the first couple of tries instead leaving it to Joshua Aitcheson who landed the first blow for his side with a well played layup.

However that was quickly overshadowed with Vodanovich displaying his long-range shooting and hitting back to back threes proving he was a force to be reckoned with. The Jets were not afraid to play the ball around and shoot from down town as Jayden Bezzant proved a key playmaker. The point guard left many in awe with his good handles and ability to dish off dimes in limited space. Bezzant and Vodanovich were combining for just about everything with the two lighting up the court while the Nuggets struggled to hit the scoreboard.

But the tables started to slightly turn as Otago well and truly worked their way back into the quarter thanks to Jarrod Kenny and his strong drive down court. Down 16-4 at one stage the Nuggets reduced the margin to 16-12 at the four minute mark before really putting their foot down and overpowering the Jets in the dying stages of the quarter to claim a one point lead. 

Holding the slimmest of leads at the break the Nuggets had every intention of maintaining that lead with Kenny driving the ball down the court. With the ball bobbling up and down the court it was the Nuggets who settled first claiming a couple of crucial shots before the Jets kicked it up a gear. Inspired by Hyrum Harris and his defensive pressure the Jets were able to generate some attacking forays that saw Samuels convert and take back the lead.

With a wealth of pressure on both teams the lead chopped and changed throughout the term coming to somewhat of a stalemate midway through the team with neither side able to add to their tally such was the inaccuracy and pressure. Ngatai jumped into the thick of things for the Nuggets knocking down a crucial three to push his sides lead out to five points.

Despite things seemingly being on their terms, the Jets stood up to the challenge as Bezzant got busy both on the scoreboard and in terms of playmaking while Vodanovich and Nicholas Fee also got involved, with the latter draining a three retaking the lead with less than three minutes on the clock. Heading into half-time with a six point lead Vodanovich had all but showcased his sheer dominance thanks to 17 points while Bezzant had 14 points. For the Nuggets, Ngatai led the way with 12 points, four rebounds and three assists.

Otago went on a scoring spree in the third quarter knocking back 27 points to 16 in what was an inspired effort. Controlling majority of the play the Jets were quick to add to the scoreboard in the third, with Vodanovich and Harris working well in offence. But the tables slowly started to turn as Jordan Hunt upped the ante for the Nuggets and Kenny got busy hitting the scoreboard.

Input from the likes of Kane Keil and Akiva McBirney-Griffin saw the Nuggets generate even more attacking power and slowly cut the deficit. As the quarter wore on Otago overtook their opponents to take a five point lead credit to their grit and determination to keep the Jets at bay and apply their own offensive masterclass,  

The last quarter delivered plenty of intensity with scores drawing level once again showcasing just how tight the game was. Kenny continued to star doing both the offensive and defensive things well for the Jets. the pace of the game did not let up with both teams streaming down the court and applying a wealth of offensive pressure.

Samuels was a prominent threat for the Jets in the last quarter but it was the efforts of Kenny that stood head and shoulders above everyone else on the court. The 35-year-old was simply in everything, seeming to have the ball on a string and was aggressive on the offensive end tying things up with two minutes left on the clock.

Missing the first free-throw, Darcy Knox did not make the same mistake twice, sinking the second with 44 seconds left on the clock. The ball streamed down the court with Bezzant missing the layup and the ball ending up in the hands of Ngatai who despite having a quiet second half, stood up to the pressure delivering the all important three-pointer. 

It is no surprise that Vodanovich secured a double-double with 28 points and a whopping 14 rebounds, Bezzant top-scored with 30 points and five rebounds while Samuels knocked back 20 points. Harris, while he did not have a huge impact on the scoreboard, managed to reel in 11 rebounds credit to his defensive positioning. For the victors, Kenny wowed with his 28 points and six assists while Ngatai slotted a double-double with his 19 points and 10 rebounds.

2020 Sal’s NBL June 24 night preview: Jets v Nuggets and Bulls v Airs

NIGHT one of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showndown results are in the books, with Taranaki Mountainairs and Canterbury Rams emerging victorious to tip-off their seasons on the right note. Now the Airs front up again tonight to take on Franklin Bulls, whilst Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets are up first for their respective first games of the season.

MANAWATU JETS VS. OTAGO NUGGETS

In the final match of three games between sides yet to step out on court, two teams that have plenty of top-end talent will go head-to-head in what is predicted to be an exciting contest. Manawatu Jets might have finished on the bottom of the table last season, but expect that to change in 2020 with the former Southland Sharks duo in Tom Vodanovich and Hyrum Harris running around in the green, black and white. Similarly, whilst the Nuggets might not have played last season, they picked Jordan Ngatai with the first pick in the Player Draft, and then managed to secure another player they had potentially earmarked for the top pick in Jarrod Kenny. All four players have some serious skill and expect them to be among the top players to watch this season for their respective sides.

The Jets are a side that has plenty of local talent too, with captain and club legend Tia Temata-Frost one who is important to the structure of the side. Whilst he cannot play in this game, or indeed until July, Nelson Kirksey looms as a shrewd pickup and one who if the Jets can start off on the right note, could have an impact late in the season leading up to playoffs. The Nuggets might be an unknown quantity in terms of what they could offer, returning to the league for the first time since 2014. They have been able to pick up a lot of local selections to surround their two stars, with Josh Aitcheson and Darcy Knox among the ones to watch heading into the season.

We saw last night how important cohesion and familiarity can be on the court with Canterbury Rams so accustomed to playing together. This will likely give the Jets an advantage, but with the Nuggets having that damaging duo on court, they will be hard to stop.

FRANKLIN BULLS VS. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

In the first of many this season, a side having played a game the day before takes on a team fresh off a break. But in this encounter, Franklin Bulls will play their inaugural game in the competition, as the side enters the Sal’s NBL for the first time in history. They take on a Taranaki Mountainairs team that is looking to roll over its form from the night before into this clash, having already notched up a win against Nelson Giants.

The Bulls come into this match with a couple of important bigs in Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins likely to shake up the competition on court. Led by new coach Liam Simmons, the Bulls are that unknown quantity, but have some serious young talent down to their last selection in the draft in Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape. Jackson Stubbins showed some promising signs for Manawatu Jets last season and had earned a co-captaincy there for this season, but will now be looking to ply his trade for the Bulls and get Franklin off to a perfect start in their inaugural game.

For the first time in these previews, there is some evidence to go in with for one side, and the Mountainairs showed they will not be an easy beat this season, coming from a point down at quarter time against the Giants to run out 112-96 winners. Derone Raukawa lived up to all expectations as the second pick in the Player Draft, dropping 28 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and a steal, sooting at 66.7 per cent from the field, including a remarkable five of six three-point bombs. He will be hard to stop, but it was the contributions of Francis Mulvihill (16 points, five assists and two steals) and Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) that really showed there will be plenty of support for Raukawa on the court.

The Airs will be hard to stop if they can bring last night’s form into this game, but the Bulls have the element of surprise on their side, making this a tantalising clash.