Tag: Denhym Brooke

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 1b preview: Airs, Rams and Jets enter competition

AFTER three standalone matches on individual nights last weekend, Round 1 continues this weekend with the three winners from those matches coming up against the three sides yet to play – Taranaki Mountainairs, Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets – in a massive weekend of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Thursday, April 29 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

Taranaki Mountainairs enter the 2021 NZNBL season with a Thursday night encounter against the Southland sharks. The Sharks passed the first test against Nelson Giants last week with a dominant 43-28 second half to scoot away with a 19-point victory. They will be tested here though, with a more experienced Airs outfit featuring Marcel Jones and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who showed just how much damage they could do last year, and will be keen to back it up this season. Francis Mulvihill was a rising talent and Tai Wynyard is always a player to keep an eye on, so the Sharks will need to be wary of what the opposition could do, particularly Jones who is prone to double-doubles. What was impressive about the Sharks was the evenness of scoring, with six players scoring double-figure points. Led by Josh Cunningham (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Dom Kelman-Poto (11 points, seven rebounds), the side proved too good for the Giants thanks to their accurate shooting, including 52, 38 and 93 per cent from the two-point, three-point and free throw ranges. The one area that might be a concern is the rebounding with the duo picking up 18 of the team’s 39 rebounds, though the Sharks did use the ball well, with Brayden Inger picking up four assists.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

In the second of three straight matches between sides in their first matchup for the season and teams contesting their second games, Wellington Saints host the fresh Canterbury Rams. The Saints were able to take care of business in a comprehensive win over Otago Nuggets on opening night, posting a 95-73 victory on the back of a dominant first three quarters. Dion Prewster was phenomenal in the performance of the opening weekend, racking up 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a huge effort, whilst Kevin Roach Jr had the 19 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists. Otherwise the Saints had plenty of contributors with four players picking up five or more rebounds in an even performance, and the likes of Taane Samuel and Tohi Smith-Milner almost getting to double-figure points with nine apiece. The Rams will go in with their reliable set up, led by Perth Wildcats development player Taylor Britt who lit up the NZNBL last season. The likes of Alex Talma, Sam Smith and Jack Exeter will be ones to watch, though Jack Salt is the big man set to make his long-awaited return to the competition.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

It might not have been deliberately orchestrated, but the Auckland Huskies are the third straight winner from the opening weekend to face a side coming into the league for the first match this weekend. The Huskies won a thriller over Franklin Bulls, coming from behind to storm to victory in the last term and get up, 99-96. The win came off the back of 32 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals from Jeremy Kendle, as Nicholas Barrow and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa almost picked up double-doubles thanks to 17 points piece and nine and eight rebounds respectively. Even Dontae Nance had 31 minutes off the bench for 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, in an even spread across the four players. The Jets have a bit of unknown about them, with some young players coming through, though Jayden Bezzant stood out in 2020 and will be one to watch this season, while DeAndre Daniels and Daishon Knight are others on the list. Add in the two Temara‘s in Shane and Troy, and the three-point shooting machine of Nikau McCullough, and the Jets have some nice pieces for the 2021 season.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

The Airs enter their second match on Saturday night up against the Otago Nuggets who will be keen to bounce back from the 22-point loss to the Wellington Saints. From the Nuggets’ perspective, there was still plenty to like, with a trio of players really standing out in this game. Sam Timmins led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst both Isaiah Moss (20 points, six rebounds) and Josh Aicheson (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) put in the work. Every player on the team scored at least one point as the Nuggets showed great depth, but it would not be enough to roll the Saints. The Airs will be keen to try and quell them in this contest.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

The Manawatu Jets will double-up over the weekend to travel to Franklin where the Jets will face a Bulls side ready for revenge. Franklin came agonisingly close to victory in the first match, going down to the Huskies with a fadeout last term to lose by three points, 96-99. Josh Selby stood out with 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Denhym Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds) also stood tall as starts. Off the bench, Joseph Nunag hit up 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes on court to provide some valuable time in rotation.

Other double-ups for the round:

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Sunday, May 2 @ 3:00pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

Picture credit: NZNBL

Huskies hold nerve in tense finish against Bulls

AUCKLAND Huskies have saluted in the tightest of matches to secure a win in the ‘Battle of the North’ clash, defeating Franklin Bulls by three points thanks to a late Jeremy Kendle dagger. The Huskies got up 99-96 at the Bulls’ home court last night, trailing by six points at the final break, but then scoring 30-21 in the last term to grab the victory. It was far from a simple run home though, with the Bulls in front in the dying 30 seconds, before the Huskies held their nerve and regained the lead by the final buzzer.

The first term saw the Bulls start off strongly, scoring 24-17 to take and early seven-point lead into the break. The home team was making it count from beyond the arc, with Denhym Brooke and then Jaylen Gerrand (twice) grabbing their side an early lead. Kendle was getting on the Bulls’ minds though and was already beginning to have an impact in the paint. The Bulls were hitting the scoreboard in a big way though, with another Brooke triple with five minutes on the clock, and the lead had ballooned out to 17-6. The Huskies hit back to score nine of the next 13 points to cut the deficit to six, as Nicholas Barrow was starting to add to his total. Brooke was still a problem though, securing an and-one chance, and then Bulls took the first break with a strong advantage.

The early going in the second term went all the way of the Huskies as Zach Riley, Theo Johnson and Kendle piled on eight consecutive points for the visitors to hit the front within 90 seconds. Josh Selby steadied the ship for the Bulls, but he Huskies were beginning to hit their straps. They got out to an eight-point lead when Dontae Nance nailed a triple, but the Bulls kept the Huskies within arms-length to head into the break only four points down, but it was a dominant last 15 minutes from the Huskies who were on a 46-31 roll since being 17-6 down.

A Nicholas Fee triple in the opening 10 seconds of the second half show that the Bulls were up for the fight, but Barrow responded a minute later for the Huskies. After leading by six points with seven minutes on the clock in the third term, the Huskies watched their lead evaporate as it was the Bulls’ turn to take control. Fee hit a triple and then Selby nailed back-to-back layups and the Bulls were back in the lead. The Huskies regained it back with a few minutes remaining, but Selby and Dane Brooks proved to be a problem and the Bulls held a handy six-point buffer at the final break.

The intensity was high early in the final term as neither team could strike in the first 90 seconds, but it was Gerrand who hit the two-point jumper for a seven-point Bulls lead. It was never going to be enough the way the game was going, and the Huskies kept getting it back to within a single basket with every chance they got. Each challenge was answered, and with six minutes left, the teams traded baskets – and the lead – multiple times.

Once Brook Rosuco-Taiaroa put his Huskies in front 86-85, then nailed a triple moments later, the lead was beginning to grow. Shot after shot missed, with Adam Dunstan eventually breaking the drought for the Bulls, and Nance responding almost immediately for the Huskies. Joseph Nunag handed the Bulls the lead with two minutes on the clock as the sides prepared their final substitutions for the run home. When Brooks scored a two-pointer, the lead was three and the Bulls were in a better position. He would miss the next two-point jumper though, and Barrow made a free throw, and Kiana Saxon produced a successful jump shot and scores were level with 38 seconds on the clock.

Selby held his nerve with two successful free throws in the last 30 seconds, and the Huskies made the decision two points down they would take out the clock until an opening, which they found through Kendle who made no mistake. With nine seconds remaining, the Huskies were 97-96 up. The Bulls hoped Selby would be the man to win the game a second later, but the shot missed, and a deliberate foul on Nance after collecting the rebound sent him to the line where he hit the winning free throws for a 99-96 victory.

Kendle racked up a massive 32 points, shooting seven triples from 13 attempts, and also collecting six rebounds, there assists and two steals. Nance (18 points, four rebounds and three assists), Barrow (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Ruscoe-Taiaroa (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) also worried the opposition across the court. For the Bulls, Selby knocked down 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds), Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Nunag (14 points, three assists) were all lively.

Auckland Huskies next face Manawatu Jets on Friday, while the Franklin Bulls take on the Jets the day after in a quick turnaround for their opponents.

Picture credit: NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: NZNBL

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 continue to be Airs kryptonite, win in OT thriller

FOR the second consecutive time, the Auckland Huskies have upset the league-leading Taranaki Mountainairs in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) season’s second overtime contest of the year, 102-99. Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 22 points and 21 rebounds was a huge factor in the result as the Huskies continued their good form over the last couple of weeks as the season builds towards finals.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 24 | 20 | 22 | 17 | 19 (102)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 23 | 24 | 15 | 21 | 16 (99)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Looking at reaching a .500 record for the first time since the start of the season, the Huskies needed to find a way to slow down the one-two punch of Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones.

Auckland also had the challenge of stopping the Airs bench players from contributing further, as they looked to their own secondary players to chip in wherever they could. Meanwhile, a win for Taranaki would make it five in a row, in what has been a perfect start to the second half of the Sal’s NBL season.

Leon Henry and Smith-Milner’s opening field goals started the Huskies off on the right foot. But as expected, Jones and Raukawa got going early for the Airs answering back with field goals of their own.

Only three minutes into the contest both teams traded baskets profusely with 18 points being scored, as defence seemed to come few and far between passages of play. However, the battle between Raukawa and Auckland’s Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa was a fierce one early. Nevertheless, it did not stop Taranaki’s point-guard from collecting 11 of his sides first 18 points.

As a strong post-move from Mitchell Dance and aggressive block from Denhym Brooke made it seem like the Airs might edge out a first quarter lead, a three-pointer by Le’afa gave Auckland the 24-23 lead at the first break, capping off a 10-point quarter for the guard.

In a more casual start to the second quarter, it was not until the fourth minute of play that a Jones three and six straight points by Shane Temara allowed Taranaki to take a hold of the game, leading by eight at the mid-way stages of the second.

After Auckland’s timeout, a Smith-Milner three kick started a 9-0 run for the Huskies, handing them back the lead with a couple minutes still to play in the first half.

Two straight buckets for Jones, following an early exit appearing to be a groin injury to Smith-Milner (would return in the second half), sparked another late run for the Airs, giving the Gold and Black a three-point lead at the main break, 47-44.

Kevin Braswell’s squad despite trailing by just three points, failed to really slow down Raukawa and Jones, with each of them scoring 15 and 16 points respectively, while Jones grabbed seven boards too. For the Huskies, their skipper in Henry led from the front with 12 first half points, aiding his side to a 44 per cent shooting and 11-assist first half.

Three minutes into a rather uneventful third quarter, Jones pulled down his tenth rebound, adding another double-double to his impressive track record. However, Smith-Milner’s hustle on the glass helped his side regain the lead the next play and log a double-double of his own just a couple minutes later.

Two three-pointers from Auckland wing Taine Murray with a few seconds remaining in the third, gave Auckland a four-point advantage with ten minutes to go, 66-62, as the Huskies looked to repeat history by knocking off a strong Taranaki side.

Murray would continue the fourth from deep with his fifth three of the game. But the Airs continued to fight back inside the key, as the front court duo of Jones and Temara hounded the rim earning their points up close and at the free-throw line.

For 20-year-old Reuben Fitzgerald, throughout the game he had found himself in the right place at the right time on various occasions, accumulating five rebounds leading up to the first half of the final quarter, four of which were offensive. This was capped off with a key layup and the foul, putting his side four points ahead late in the game, as well as putting enormous pressure on Taranaki to answer.

Moving on to the end of the game, with both sides tied at 83-83, back-to-back offensive rebounds for the Airs and a missed three on the buzzer by Raukawa, would set up the second overtime contest of the season, the second for Taranaki as well.

A nice swing play to Jones would kick off OT with a hook shot in front of the basket, which was followed by threes from Jones again and Raukawa, putting the Airs up by as much as six. Back-to-back buckets from Smith-Milner and Le’afa brought the game to within a single possession and after Murray’s hanging reverse layup, the game was tied with 100 seconds remaining.

As more buckets were traded in the final minute of play, Le’afa’s bonus free-throws created a three-point deficit with 16 seconds on the clock. As Kenneth Tuffin’s layup would bring the contest back to one, bonus free-throws from Le’afa and Smith-Milner would be enough for the Huskies to once again topple the Airs, squeezing out the 102-99 victory.

Even though the Airs shot a pretty consistent 36 per cent from the field, it was not enough to get their side over the edge. Nevertheless, another great night from the duo of Jones and Raukawa was on display.

For Jones, he finished his night with 36 points and 17 rebounds, while Raukawa walked off the court with 28 points and eight assists under his name. Additionally, Temara completed the game with 15 points and eight rebounds.

In a game of bulk statistics, Smith-Milner made his statement game in Thursday’s opener with 22 points and 21 rebounds. His performance was the first 20-20 game in the NZNBL season to this point. Meanwhile, Murray’s team-high 28 points on six three-pointers led the side in scoring. Finally, Le’afa and Henry’s 21 points apiece, rounded out a strong performance from the Huskies’ starting five.

Auckland’s win earned them a record of five wins and five losses, putting them just outside the top four as they eye up the bottom of the table Nelson Giants on Sunday night.

Following last night’s contest, the Airs will look to bounce back against a top four foe in the fourth seeded Manawatu Jets, who could challenge for the top spot in the following week if they can get the job done this weekend against Taranaki.

Final quarter thriller leaves Airs two games clear at top of the table

HIGH-octane offence combatted stringent defence, as Taranaki Mountainairs came out on top of the Otago Nuggets, 106-105 in one of the games of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. For much of the game, both teams took care of the ball, but it was Taranaki that took home the win despite a fierce second half comeback from the Nuggets.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 32 | 29 | 22 | 23 (106)
OTAGO NUGGETS 21 | 28 | 27 | 29 (105)

[… FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The opening night of week four action rounded out with what was promised to be the game of the season so far between the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs and the third-placed Otago Nuggets. It is fair to say that fans were made good on that promise, and then some.

The promise of plenty of offence was certainly delivered with 53 points being scored in the first quarter. The Nuggets won possession off the tip which resulted in a missed dunk opportunity for Jordan Hunt, one of many shots missed at the rim for Otago. Marcel Jones opened the scoring for the game with a silky post-hook, as the reply came straightaway from Josh Aitcheson with the corner three.

Jones would continue to show why he is one of the best players in the league as he was stealing defensively, facilitating the offence with multiple assists, and banking in threes, it all seemed to be going his way early. His activity was contagious for his team as Taranaki was doing it on both ends.

With the starters beginning to have a break, it was the unlikely performances of bench players Denhym Brooke of the Airs and Matthew Bardsley of the Nuggets who would turn super subs for the quarter. Brooke would go five for five from the floor and end the quarter with 12 points, while Bardsley would drop eight, keeping the Nuggets in the game.

A Francis Mulvihill splash would intervene his efforts as the lead extended to double digits for the Airs. Jordan Ngatai’s only three points for the half would close out the quarter to end 32-21. An evenly poised contest with offence the clear difference. Taranaki was shooting 60 per cent and had twice as many assists than Otago for the quarter as its static offence needed to get moving as the game progressed.

A Jarrod Kenny splash started the second quarter and set the tone for he and the Nuggets as they outworked the Airs early. Kenny looked to score aggressively inside and out and another triple from him prompted a reply from MVP race leader Derone Raukawa, who earned three points the old fashioned way.

To typify a slow scoring night, a Ngatai air ball preceded a big Brooke put back and-one from the weak side, while the offensive explosion began to settle as both teams started to sort themselves out defensively.

Though the Nuggets made in-roads to the early deficit they gave up, another Mulvihill splash pushed the lead out to 12. Backup forwards in Brooke and Zachary Easthope supported Jones and Tai Wynyard, however, it would be Mitchell Dance that would take over, scoring six down the stretch.

Despite new inclusion Aaron Roydhouse knocking down his first shot in the competition from downtown, the Airs would maintain their first quarter lead heading into half-time up 61-49. Though they only shot 10 per cent less from the field, some inconsistent defence from the Nuggets allowed 29 bench points and 38 points in the paint for Airs. Brooke (15 points) and Jones (11 points, six rebounds, five assists) were important for the Airs while Hunt (11 points) led the way for the Nuggets.

Kane Keil opened the second half with a big triple in a quarter that would see him score eight. Hunt’s physicality inside would lead to a couple of baskets as the lead was suddenly back down to five. Much like the start of the second quarter, a renewed energy surge struck the Nuggets, but they were still unable to string that big run together that would see them within a possession of the Airs.

Ngatai forced his way back into the game late in the quarter with a smooth spinning layup and a three-point play, however, Raukawa going coast to coast and a Shane Temara dunk kept the scores at 83-76 heading into the last break. You still could not help but feel the momentum was with the Nuggets as it seemed the Airs starters were starting to fatigue.

The final 10 minutes were some of the most exciting basketball the competition has seen so far. Some big blows either way held the margin until the Nuggets stars in Ngatai and Kenny took control, while Bardsley was so vital down the stretch with his athleticism and hustle all over the court.

Kenny found his way to the line multiple times, but it was free-throws from Hunt that tied the game at 98-apiece with just over two minutes left to play. It was the first time the scores were level since the score line read 0-0.

A go-ahead basket from Kenny was answered with the double-double machine Jones hitting a jumper to tie, as he went back to back with a pretty floater to give the Airs the lead with one minute to play. As he had done all game, Keil came up clutch with a much-needed triple before some Kenneth Tuffin free throws changed the lead again.

With thirty seconds left, who else was going to step up? That’s right, the super subs of the first half decided to end the flurry they began with Bardsley laying it in, and Brooke doing the same to make the game 106-105.

The Nuggets had no timeouts left and went to their star player Ngatai who had some scoring left in him. His baseline teardrop narrowly missed as time ran out on the loose ball, handing the Airs the narrow but well-deserved victory in a thriller.

Jones (26 points, 12 rebounds, seven assists, three steals) and Raukawa (22 points, seven assists, 9/9 free-throws) put up another good performance as Brooke (17 points, seven rebounds) played big minutes off the bench. Temara’s (14 points, 12 rebounds) effort flew under the radar as Taranaki sit two games clear on top of the ladder. They face Auckland on Thursday and will be looking to continue their high-scoring winning ways.

Hunt (24 points, eight rebounds) and Kenny (20 points, eight assists) starred for the Nuggets as well-rounded games from Keil (20 points, eight rebounds, six assists) and Bardsley (18 points, eight rebounds) almost pushed them over the line. Ngatai (11 points, 28 per cent shooting) was quieter than usual and will no doubt come out firing in their match against the Rams on Thursday.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 10 night preview: Nuggets v Jets and Rams v Airs

A COUPLE of teams hoping to break into the top two, and a top-against-bottom clash are what fans will come to see in the Saturday night outing for Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs MANAWATU JETS

Opening up Saturday night action is a battle between a couple of mid-table teams who at their best can push anyone in the competition. The Nuggets started strongly to win their first two games in week one, but have dropped three of their last four since then to slip to a 50 per cent win-loss record. If they win here, they will leapfrog the Jets into third and sit a win off the top two. For the Jets, victory would move them on level pegging with the top two teams – at least temporarily – and give them some breathing space on the rest of the competition.

As it stands, the Nuggets are averaging 87.8 points per game, slightly below the Jets’ 94.6. Both teams have some top-end scoring power, so putting up big numbers is not too difficult for the respective teams. The Jets are far superior when it comes to rebounding though, ranked second with 43.6 per game compared to the Nuggets’ sixth ranking of 35.8. When it comes to assists, the sides are dead level on 18.3 per game, while the Jets have the higher shooting accuracy.

In the Nuggets’ first game this season, they got up in a four-point thriller thanks to a barnstorming third term. Trailing by six points at half-time, Otago piled on 27 points to 16 in the third quarter to hit the front and then hold on in a high-scoring last term to win 104-100. On that night, Jarrod Kenny had a massive game with 28 points – including five of nine from outside the arc and a total 61.5 per cent accuracy – while dropping six dimes in the process. Jordan Ngatai had 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists himself, while Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were also prominent in supporting roles.

Three players did all the scoring damage for the Jets in the loss, with Jayden Bezzant finishing with a game-high 30 points, as well as five rebounds, five assists and four steals. Tom Vodanovich dominated with 28 points and 14 rebounds, and Taane Samuel helped with 20 points and four rebounds. Hyrum Harris fell short of a double-double and had nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists on the night.

With Harris having missed the last couple of games, the Jets have missed him, but have also made do, still making their way up the table. It will be a tough game and it could well come down to the depth, with both teams fourth and fifth players capable of contributing to the headliners.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs TARANAKI AIRS

Two teams at opposite ends of the Sal’s NBL ladder take to the court in the second game, with the Airs looking to go outright top with six wins from nine games if they get up, while the Rams hope to peg back a win and break a five-game losing streak.The good news for Canterbury is that the ladder is so even, by the end of the night, the Rams could theoretically sit fourth again after slipping to seventh following last night’s loss to the Auckland Huskies.

The Airs have been the team to beat throughout the season with 101.5 points per game to rank first overall, while the Rams come in at a respectable third, though somewhat down in the averages with 88 points per game. Taranaki is also ranked number one in rebounds with 45.5 and assists with 19.6. While the Rams are mid-table in both statistical areas, it is clear to see the Airs are playing better basketball both in theory and practice. The one aspect the Rams hold over the Airs is the experience and knowledge that they have beaten them before.

Back on June 27, Canterbury got up by 11 points, 112-101 despite a fast start from the Airs. Trailing by four points at quarter time after a 66-point combined opening quarter, the Rams won the next three terms by four, eight and three points respectively. More importantly though, the Rams have to win to avoid becoming the first team to lose to every team in the competition once. In the win, it was Taylor Britt who came agonisingly close to a triple-double after having ridiculous numbers of 30 points, 10 rebounds and nine assists, shooting at 63.2 per cent from the field. Sam Smith was also impressive with 23 points, four rebounds and three assists, while three other players – Alex Talma, Thomas Webley and Mason Whittaker – all score double-digit points. Talma and Webley combined for 18 boards too with the former picking up double-double for his troubles.

The Airs still had some strong performers with Derone Raukawa leading the way once again with 25 points, though it was Marcel Jones who did the most damage, dominating his way to a double-double thanks to 19 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals. Ken Tuffin (14 points, six rebounds) and Denhym Brooke (11 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the defeat, with Mitch Dance contributing as well with eight points and four rebounds.

The Airs will go in as strong favourites in this game and the Rams really need to find something soon to turn their form around. If they can rekindle their first week form then they are capable of anything, but the Airs are in ripping form and will want to secure outright top spot at the end of the night.

Huskies claim first scalp of the season with impressive win

YET to register a win this season, the Auckland Huskies pulled out their bag of tricks, getting the job done against the Taranaki Mountainairs in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. With the lead getting out to as much as 20 points plus throughout the game the Huskies walked away with a 16 point victory (109-93). The Huskies were on song from the opening quarter finding their shooting stroke and making the Airs pay with their accuracy from both inside and outside the arc.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 16 | 20 | 29 (93)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 32 | 34 | 21 | 22 (109)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies struck first with Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa taking no time at all to assert himself on the game, draining a three after what was a disappointing outing the game before. Mauriohoohoo Le’afa proved to not only be a real playmaker in the opening quarter but so too scoring prospect with his ability to shoot from range or dish off to teammates. For the Airs, Derone Raukawa was solid, opening the account for his side with an important shot but his efforts were quickly quashed with Mauriohoohoo Le’afa and Taine Murray draining back-to-back threes to open up a seven point lead with just over seven and a half minutes left in the term.

Despite the best efforts of the Airs, the Huskies refused to take their foot off the pedal pressing at every opportunity and most importantly converting. Marcel Jones slowly started to build into the game, finding his rhythm to basket and knocking back a crucial three to reduce the margin to 10 points. From there on the Airs seemed to wrestle some momentum back from their opponents stringing together some strong passages of play with Raukawa and Jones having a huge influence. With the margin hovering at the 10 point mark the Huskies tried to pull away pushing out it out to 11 points but the Airs did not lie down instead a Kenneth Tuffin inspired couple of minutes saw the lead diminish to five points, after sinking a huge three pointer and proving he was here to play. The intensity lifted from both sides, with neither willing to give an inch. 

Despite getting within one point in the opening minute of the quarter thanks to a handy long bomb from Jones, the Huskies snaffled that pressure, denying the Airs any opportunity to go to the rim only managing a mere 16 points for the term. Auckland simply had a hand in everything, spearheaded by Mauriohooho Le’afa who was causing headaches for the Airs across the boards. Australian NBL Melbourne Boomers player Tohi Smith-Milner showcased his skill getting involved in the action to put some points on the board and establish a more commanding lead for the Huskies.

Moments later Leon Henry lent his hand to the points scoring tally with a jump shot while Mauriohooho Le’afa continued his merry way, finding the basket with ease. For the Airs, Raukawa and Jones plied their trade, working tirelessly to win ball back and apply offensive pressure but simply could not do enough to worry the Huskies who seemed in control. Tuffin and Tai Wynyard also impressed in the early stages of the quarter but were quickly overrun with the Huskies exploiting their opponents’ every weakness. Murray was a constant for Auckland with Nathan Wilson also contributing. Within a blink of an eye the Huskies were out to a commanding lead notching up 66 points at half time and shooting at 71 per cent in what was a complete turnaround from their outing on Sunday. 

Holding a 22-point lead the Huskies did not look like giving up any time soon and despite both sides going toe-to-toe throughout the term did not lose their cool. Wynyard landed the first blow of the second half, converting a free throw while teammate Denhym Brooke chimed in moments later with another free throw to get back within 20 points. But it did not take long for Auckland to find their range with Smith-Milner imposing himself.

The ball bubbled about with both teams almost going goal for goal throughout the team. Despite having a wealth of the play in the mid part of the quarter the Airs simply could not convert, letting the Huskies off the hook multiple times. Efforts from Henry and Murray  did not go unnoticed for Auckland with the two getting their hands to plenty of ball but a flurry from the Mountainairs in the final five minutes of the quarter provided plenty of excitement with Taranaki dwindling the margin down to the lowest of the second half to 15.

Anamata Haku delivered the settler for the Huskies sparking his side back into attack while Wilson also got busy with less than two minutes left on the clock. Heading into the final change the Huskies held a 23-point buffer with Mauriohooho Le’afa wreaking havoc. 

With their first win in sight the Huskies put pedal to the medal but it was not without pressure as the Airs worked to reduce the margin. Strong performances from the likes of Tuffin and Jones the Mountainairs seemed to find their groove in offence able to hit the scoreboard while Mitchell Dance provided a much needed spark sinking them from inside the post with confidence.

After somewhat of a quiet game Francis Mulvihill also found his stroke delivering a crucial three-pointer to get his side back within 18 points. Following in Mulvihill’s footsteps, Raukawa knocked one back from down town with the deficit standing at 15 points with five minutes to go. With the Airs coming hard, Mauriohooho Le’afa stood up to push the margin back out before Shane Temara sunk back-to-back threes to give his side a fighting chance with the deficit standing at 10 points but it was little too late with the Huskies doing enough earlier in the game to secure their inaugural win. 

The scoring was shared for the Airs with Raukawa and Tuffin finishing with 19 points apiece while Raukawa dished off nine dimes for the game. Recording a double-double for his efforts Jones collected 13 rebounds to go with his 14 points with teammate Mulvihill the only other to reach double figures with 11. For the Huskies it is no surprise that Mauriohooho Le’afa took out the number top scorer with 20 points, five rebounds and seven assists.

Next best was Henry who like Jones collected a double-double finishing with 18 points and 14 rebounds but his performance was marred by an incident with Raukawa. Henry was charged with “unduly rough play” and offered a two game suspension for his actions. Three other players also hit double points with Smith-Milner registering 16 while Murray and Wilson sunk 15 apiece in a strong outing by the Huskies. 

2020 Sal’s NBL Team-by-team lists

THE 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown is ready and raring to go with all seven teams not having completed their lists for the upcoming season. The Player Draft was completed last Thursday, and while three days of Trade Period did not not see a move made, a couple of players had to change sides due to college restrictions. Now that is done and dusted, teams are all set for the first tip-off in eight days. The teams all arrive in Auckland on Friday, June 19 with the opening round to run from Tuesday, June 23 through until Sunday, June 28.

Check out the full team lists below.

Auckland Huskies

Izayah Mauriahoohoo Leafa
Tohi Smith Milner
Leon Henry
Taine Murray
Rasheed Al-Kaleem
Tinashe Matambanadzo
Ana Haku
Johnny Fesolai
Marvin Williams-Dunn
Jaylen Gerrand
Nick Brophy
Nathan Wilson

Manawatu Jets

Tom Vodanovich
Hyrum Harris
Jayden Bezzant
Taane Samuel
Nick Fee
Haize Walker
Tia Temata-Frost
Ashton McQueen
Matangirei Hipango
Josiah Laracy
Nelson Kirksey
Kalib Mullins

Taranaki Mountainairs 

Derone Raukawa
Marcel Jones
Shane Temara
Tai Wynyard
Mitch Dance
Francis Mulvihill
Kenneth Tuffin
Denhym Brooke
Zac Easthope
Oscar Robertson
Carlin Davison
Baxter Fenwick

Canterbury Rams

Jack Salt
Taylor Britt
Joe Cook-Green
Alex Talma
Sam Smith
Toby Gilloly
Jack Exeter
Tom Cowie
Thomas Webley
Mac Stodart
Ben Carlile-Smith
Mason Whittaker

Nelson Giants

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

Franklin Bulls

Dominique Kelman-Poto
Sam Timmins
Everard Bartlett
Jackson Stubbins
Isaac Davidson
Nick Barrow
Joel Vaiangina
Nikau McCullough
Connor Woodbridge
Joe Reddish
Chris McIntosh
Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Otago Nuggets

Jordan Ngatai
Jarrod Kenny
Jordan Hunt
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Benoit Hayman
Darcy Knox
Richie Rodger
Sam Aruwa
Akiva McBirnie-Griffin
Jack Andrew
Matthew Bardsley