Tag: dom kelman-poto

2021 NZNBL team review: Southland Sharks

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

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 3rd
Wins: 13
Losses: 6

KEY STATS:

Points: 91.3 (3rd)
Rebounds: 37.1 (4th)
Assists: 19.4 (1st)
Steals: 8.3 (3rd)
Blocks: 2.4 (7th)
Field Goal %: 48.3 (2nd)

KEY PLAYERS:

Dom Kelman-Poto

After an impressive year last season in the NZNBL, Kelman-Poto took his game to another level in 2021, making the NZNBL All-Star 5 and being a dominant player across the board. The Sharks’ big man finished with an average of 18.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.3 steals per game, topping his side in points and rebounds in what was an overall even effort. He shot at 29.6 per cent from long-range, but capitalised 65.2 per cent of the time from the charity stripe. Kelman-Poto only had two games with single-digit points, and racked up 10 or more rebounds on seven occasions. His last four games were sensational in the Sharks run to the Final Four, with an average of 26.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 3.0 assists in that time. His best effort was 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists against Canterbury Rams on July 15.

Josh Cunningham

The other big man to team up in tandem with Kelman-Poto was Cunningham, who had a consistent season to be second to his All-Star teammate in both points (14.6) and rebounds (8.2). He finished third overall for the Sharks with assists (2.6), and still managed a steal per game. His field goal percentage was better than half (53.3 per cent) and he scored 67.4 per cent from the free throw line in 2021. Cunningham was the only other player with Kelman-Poto to start in all 19 games, and he had double-figure points in 14 of them. Recording 20-plus points in six matches, Cunningham’s top performance came against the Auckland Huskies on June 26 when he put up 28 points and 10 rebounds.

Courtney Belger

Whilst Kelman-Poto and Cunningham were the rebounding machines, Belger was the facilitator, with the American import averaging a competition-high 5.5 assists per games. Not only did his pinpoint passes into the paint and around the arc, but Belger went to town himself, averaging 12.3 points and 3.7 rebounds, as well as leading his side in steals (1.8). His shooting percentage was lower (46.2 per cent from the field), but Belger was ultra-reliable from the line, making 69 of his 82 free throws at 84.1 per cent. In his 19 games, Belger had some highs and lows, with 13 games in double-digit points, and two of those were 20-plus. He picked up two double-doubles for the season, with his best dime performance coming against Manawatu Jets on June 11 (22 points, 11 assists), but his best overall performance being a 23-point, eight-rebound and five-assist effort against Canterbury Rams on July 2.

Brayden Inger

Whilst there was plenty of depth at the club, Inger was another valued member of the starting side, standing up in 18 of the 19 games – and coming off the bench in the other. He averaged 14.4 points to rank third at the club for that stat, in the same position for rebounds (4.6). Also averaging a steal per game, Inger was important on transition, and shot a team-high 56 triples at 40.3 per cent, showcasing his deadly long-range accuracy. He picked up double-digit points in all bar four games, and three of those came in the first five matches. His best performance was arguably a 27-point, six-rebound, three-assist effort against Nelson Giants on May 23, though there were plenty of solid efforts throughout 2021.

OTHERS:

Rounding out the starting five, Alonzo Burton picked up 13.1 points, 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals, with a host of bench players coming on to provide important roles. The two standouts off the pine were Toby Gillooly (8.5 points, 4.4 rebounds) and Sione Helu (6.3 points, 1.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists).

SUMMARY:

The Southland Sharks had a really impressive season, with a consistent starting five, something that was symbolic of the top three sides. Whilst not as dominant at home as the top two teams, the Sharks came agonisingly close to reaching the NZNBL final, and will be well placed for another crack at it next season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Hawks step up in final stanza to claim narrow win over Sharks

HAWKES Bay Hawks will look to dethrone the top of the table Wellington Saints in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Grand Final after an exciting victory over Southland Sharks in the second semi-final last night. The Hawks won in a seven-point thriller against Sharks, after the teams were level at the final break. Now the Saints and Hawks will do battle in the decider tonight at Te Rauparaha Arena.

In a seesawing contest all night, neither team really felt comfortable when they held a lead, as the sides momentum ebbed and flowed and never got beyond 13 points, with double-digits only arising halfway through the last term. The game started with lead changes galore and a high-scoring opening stanza, as the Hawks took the ascendancy to head into quarter time with a seven-point lead. It was never going to be all one-way traffic however, and the Sharks hit back in the second quarter with an impressive 27-16 lead and put it out to a four-point advantage at half-time, which was their largest lead of the game.

Despite putting it out to six early in the third term, that was as far as it got for the Sharks, as each challenge Southland threw down to the Hawks, Hawkes Bay answered with flying colours. By the final break, the teams were as they started, completely level. That was all the Hawks needed, quickly gaining the momentum early in the fourth and blowing the lead right out to 13 points midway through the last term, and buying enough time to secure the win. To the Sharks’ credit they came back and cut the late deficit to seven by the final buzzer, but it was too little, too late and the Hawks got up with a 98-91 victory.

Hawkes Bay was the more accurate shooting team, putting up 51 to 44 per cent from the field, including 43 to 32 per cent from long-range. They also had more rebounds (42-41) and assists (15-13) in virtually even statistics, whilst also recoding five more points off their bench (17-12). The points in the paint and second chance points were dead even at 42 and seven points apiece respectively. Meanwhile the Sharks had three less turnovers (13-16) and therefore capitalised off turnovers (20-8). Southland also had more steals (9-6) and blocks (3-2) in the loss.

Devondrick Walker was the star, knocking down a game-high 33 points in the win, shooting six of 13 from long-range, and also recording five rebounds and two assists in the process. Hyrum Harris picked up a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals, while Ethan Rusbatch (14 points – four of eight from three-point range – and five rebounds) and Rhys Vague (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists and two steals) both contributed strongly from the start. Derone Raukawa shouldered the load off the bench with 13 points and three assists in 25 minutes.

Dom Kelman-Poto had 25 points, 11 rebounds and four assists was the clear standout for the Sharks in defeat, one of two players to pick up a double-double. Joshua Cunningham also had one with 13 points, 10 rebounds, three assists and two steals. Brayden Inger (18 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks), Courtney Belger (12 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals) and Sione Helu (11 points) were the other double-figure points scorers for the Sharks.

Now the Hawks will need to dig deep in order to find a way to knock he top of the table Saints off their perch in tonight’s grand final.

Photo credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks and Hawks wrap up regular season with wins

SOUTHLAND Sharks and Hawkes Bay Hawks will head into the Final Four on the back of victories, following their wins to open the final round of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action. The Sharks toppled the Canterbury Rams by 13 points in their clash, whilst the Hawks proved far too strong for the bottom two Manawatu Jets, posting a huge 28-point victory in front of home fans.

The Sharks might have recorded a comfortable win but it was far from easy, losing both the first two quarters to trail by nine points at half-time. They managed to cut the deficit to seven by the final break, but looked in real danger of dropping the home game at ILT Stadium. Luckily a dominant final term which saw them smash the Rams out of the park courtesy of a 33-13 final term, resulted in the Sharks getting up 100-87.

Southland was more accurate from the field, shooting at 55 per cent from both inside and outside the arc, nailing 15 of 27 from three-point range compared to the Rams’ nine of 26 (34 per cent). The Sharks also led the rebounds (39-34), assists (25-12), blocks 2-0) and points in the paint (40-30). There was some good news for the Rams who had less turnovers (15-18) and therefore had more points from turnovers (18-16), as well as more second chance points (15-9), bench points (25-23) and steals (11-9).

Dom Kelman-Poto was simply unstoppable on his way to the Most Valuable Player (MVP) Award courtesy of 28 points, 11 rebounds and four assists, shooting three of six from beyond the arc. Similarly, Josh Cunningham had the 21 points, seven rebounds, four assists and four steals, while Brayden Inger knocked down three triples – albeit from 10 attempts – for 11 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals. Courtney Belger (13 points, 10 assists and three rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (10 points) also reached double-figures for the Sharks.

Deshon Taylor was a one-man machine, putting up 31 points, as well as five rebounds, three assists and two steals. EJ Singler produced another memorable outing with three triples to total 16 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals. Jack Salt (nine points, 10 rebounds) came close to a double-double, whilst Joe Cook-Green (nine points, four rebounds) and Alex Talma (eight points) were steady off the bench.

Hawkes Bay Hawks did not have any issues – aside from a second quarter lapse – in posting a big 28-point win over Manawatu Jets. The Hawks dominated the first term with a 28-13 quarter before the Jets responded with a 21-14 term of their own. With the game back to eight points, the Hawks reestablished themselves as a dominant force, putting up a whopping 54 points to 34 in the second half to run away with the contest, 96-68.

The Hawks won every single statistic, with more accuracy from the field (42 to 32 per cent), rebounds (59-45) and assists (15-5) all heavily in their favour. They also had more steals (6-3) and blocks (4-3), as well as more points in the paint (42-26), second chance points (19-11), points from turnovers (12-6) and bench points (27-11).

There was little doubting the MVP in the game, as Devondrick Walker blitzed his way to 35 points – more than half the entire opposition’s score – as well as five rebounds and two steals, which included seven of 14 from beyond the arc. Rhys Vague (15 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (14 points, two rebounds) both held up well in the starting side, with Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds, two assists and two blocks) the best off the bench. Hyrum Harris (five points, 11 rebounds, four assists and two steals) contributed outside the scoreboard.

Daishon Knight led the scoring for the Jets with a hard-working double-double effort of 20 points and 12 rebounds, as well as three assists. Jayden Bezzant (15 points, four rebounds) and Nikau McCullough (14 points, two rebounds) chipped in with some solid numbers, whilst Finn Lally (six points, seven rebounds and two blocks) and Matangirei Hipango (five points, four rebounds) were the next best for the Jets.

The two winners head to the Final Four with a nice break to rest up, whilst for the Rams and Jets, they take on Otago Nuggets and Nelson Giants tomorrow and Sunday respectively.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks book Final Four spot with 24-point triumph over Nuggets

SOUTHLAND Sharks have dominated the opening half of their clash against Otago Nuggets to storm to a 24-point win and lock in a final four spot for the upcoming post-season series. The Sharks piled on 71 points in the opening half of action to the Nuggets’ 35, all but securing the victory. Whilst the Nuggets hit back in the second half, it was too little, too late, going down 117-93.

The Sharks kicked off proceedings in a big way at ILT Stadium, dominating the first term with a 32 point to 17 quarter. The second quarter was even more one-sided, as the Sharks added a further 39 points to 18 to lead 71-35 at half-time. The Nuggets did hit back in the third term, trimming the massive 36-point deficit back to 23, but an even fourth quarter resulted in the home team extending the lead by one to win, 117-93.

Aside from most of the first half of the first quarter, once the Sharks got out to a two-basket lead, there was no stopping them and they ran away with the big victory. They were far more accurate from the field (54 to 46 per cent), drained more threes (14 to 11) and were more efficient from the free throw line (68 to 55 per cent). Additionally, the Sharks had more assists (30-21), steals (10-3) and points in the paint (56-48). With 12 less turnovers (8-20), Southland also recorded plenty more points from turnovers (31-8) in the big win. The Nuggets had more rebounds (46-43), blocks (2-1), second chance points (10-8) and bench points (40-30) in the showing.

Dom Kelman-Poto won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) with a team-high 25 points and nine rebounds, as well as two assists and two steals, shooting at 57 per cent from the field. Josh Cunningham was his partner-in-crime with 21 points – including three of six from long-range – eight rebounds and nine assists in an almost triple-double performance. Brayden Inger (18 points – four of eight from three-point range – seven rebounds and two steals) and Alonzo Burton (16 points – four of nine from beyond the arc – five rebounds, two assists and two steals) also hit double-figure points.

For the Nuggets, Sam Timmins was by far the standout, amassing the most points (26) and rebounds (14) on court, as well as picking up five assists and two blocks for his troubles. Luke Aston came off the bench for 19 points – including five triples – and four rebounds, whilst Isaiah Moss (11 points, seven rebounds) and Richie Rodger (nine points, six assists and four rebounds) both tried hard.

The Sharks take on Canterbury Rams to close out their regular season next Friday night, whilst the Nuggets travel to face the Wellington Saints, before hosting the Rams in must-win contests if they are to find a way into the Final Four.

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 8 preview: Top three clash among mid-table battles to open weekend of action

IT is getting towards the pointy end of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season, and there is plenty on the line in Round 8 of the competition. Some mid-table clashes, a top three battle and some last chances for lower sides in a weekend that is sure to promise plenty of excitement.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Thursday, June 17 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

A mid-table clash between two sides with five wins takes place tonight in a standalone clash in Auckland. The Auckland Huskies (5-6) are hosting the Canterbury Rams (5-5), in what is literally a ladder-defining clash. It will be the Huskies’ only Round 8 outing this weekend, with the Rams suiting up again on Sunday evening to take on the Taranaki Mountainairs. At home the Huskies are an even 3-3 while the Rams have not been that great on the road, recording a 1-3 record to-date. Chris Johnson (21.7 points, 9.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 blocks) has been the standout player for the Huskies, but now Tom Vodanovich is back from ANBL duties, putting up 22 points, five rebounds and two assists coming off the bench last match. The Rams American duo of EJ Singler (166 points, 7.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals) and Deshon Taylor (22.0 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.8 steals) can do it all.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Friday, June 18 @ 7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

Next up in one of two Friday night clashes is another mid-table showdown between the fourth placed Otago Nuggets (6-5) and sixth placed Nelson Giants (5-6). Much like the previous match, it is certainly a ladder-defining match with the reigning premier Nuggets able to create some separation on the mid-table logjam, whilst the Giants can keep in touch with those top sides by bringing home the points. At home the Nuggets are 2-3, whilst the Giants are 2-4 on the road. Nelson is playing its only game for Round 8, while Otago will host Franklin Bulls on Sunday. Sam Timmins is in ripping form this season, racking up a triple-double last week and now averaging 18.6 points, 12.4 rebounds, 4.1 assists, 1.4 blocks and 1.3 steals. He has teamed up well with Isaiah Moss (18.9 points, 5.5 rebounds) and Geremy McKay (12.5 points, 6.1 rebounds) this season for the Nuggets. Speaking of red hot form, Hunter Hale continues to shoot the lights out with an average of 27.3 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.7 steals. Donte Ingram (18.4 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.7 steals) has been the other key scorer for Nelson.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. WELLINGTON SAINTS
Friday, June 18 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The match of the round is likely to be between two top three sides as the Hawkes Bay Hawks (7-3) host the Wellington Saints (8-1). The third placed Hawks are yet to lose at home, and have strung together three straight wins to be sitting comfortably, while Wellington Saints have won their past two since dropping their first game to Southland Sharks a couple of weeks again. Wellington has only hit the road three times for a 2-1 record, but have proven hard to beat this season. Dion Prewster (21.1 points, 5.6 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals), Kerwin Roach Jr (17.3 points. 6.7 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.9 steals), Tohi Smith-Milner (11.7 points, 6.7 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Taane Samuel (14.4 points, 4.8 rebounds and 2.2 assists) have all been outstanding and contributed to the Saints’ phenomenal season. The Hawks have had their huge depth for support as well, with Ethan Rusbatch (20.2 points, 5.1 rebounds, 1.4 assists and 1.3 steals), Devondrick Walker (17.6 points, 5.1 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.7 steals), Hyrum Harris (13.2 points, 7.1 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.4 steals) and Jonathan Janssen (13.1 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.0 blocks) set to lock horns with those Saints talents.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Saturday, June 19 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium

Tipping off the weekend for one of two Saturday night clashes, the Southland Sharks (9-3) host the Franklin Bulls (4-7). After looking in serious trouble the past couple of weeks due to the injury toll starting to mount, the Bulls finally broke through for a win last start, and will be hoping to back that up with consecutive victories. They are 2-3 when on the road in season 2021, whilst the Sharks are yet to lose at home from four games and are on a seven-game hot streak since losing three consecutive games what seems an eternity ago. Dom Kelman-Poto has been outstanding with 17.8 points, 9.1 rebounds, 3.4 assists and 1.2 steals per game, while Courtney Belger (13.1 points, 3.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.8 steals) and Josh Cunningham (11.5 points, 8.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists) have also been impressive. For the Bulls, injuries to Josh Selby and Zane Waterman have really hurt them in particular, as the two key scorers have been replaced by Kyrin Galloway (23.5 points, 14.5 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.0 steals and 1.5 blocks) in the past two games, and Manel Ayol (19 points, 11 rebounds and three assists) last match, with Denhym Brooke (11.7 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.1 blocks) one of the few key features all season.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Saturday, June 19 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

Bottom of the table Taranaki Mountainairs have a mammoth task when entering Round 8, having to topple the second placed Wellington Saints on the road. The Airs (1-9) have sunk to six consecutive losses, and are yet to win away (0-4), whilst the Saints have a perfect 6-0 record when at home. The main hope for the Airs will be the fatigue for the Saints having played the night before. Marcel Jones has been the shining light this season, averaging 23.0 points, 10.2 rebounds, 4.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.3 blocks, whilst Carlin Davison (8.0 points. 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists and 1.3 steals) has impacted off the bench, and Haize Walker (9.9 points, 3.4 rebounds and 3.7 assists) steadfast in all 10 matches.

MANAWATU JETS vs. HAWKES BAY HAWKS
Sunday, June 20 @ 3:00pm
Fly Palmy Arena

The third placed Hawks come in for their second game of the round, as the last match featuring a team playing its first game in the Manawatu Jets. Hosting the Hawks at Fly Palmy Arena, the ninth placed Jets must win to keep their finals hopes alive, sitting near the bottom with a 3-8 record, and only 2-2 at home. The Hawks are 2-3 on the road, which could give the Jets confidence of causing an upset. The American trio of Daishon Knight (23.1 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 1.9 steals), DeAndre Daniels (16.7 points. 9.1 rebounds and 2.1 blocks) and Shane Temara (15.7 points, 9.3 rebounds and 1.9 assists) have all been superb despite the Jets’ disappointing season thus far.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Sunday, June 20 @ 5:00pm
Edgar Centre

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Sunday, June 20 @ 5:00pm
Cowles Stadium

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks circle late to grab win against Jets

SOUTHLAND Sharks have taken home the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) victory in their clash against Manawatu Jets at ILT Stadium last night, needing the full four quarters to take home the points. The home team had a see-sawing night which featured different leaders at different breaks, being level at the last change before an impressive final stanza which created separation on the opposition. Three players picked up double-doubles for the Sharks, and five starters hit double-digit points in a real team effort during the 104-97 win.

The Sharks raced out of the blocks in front of their home fans to put on a clinic of 31 points to 17 in the opening term, showing why they are one of the serious title contenders this year. Unexpected was the fact the Jets then took that momentum and completely reversed it to score a massive 35 points to 20 in the second term and hit the front by a point at the main break.

Manawatu managed to hold the lead for the majority of the third term, getting out to as much as a six-point lead early in the quarter, but could not build upon it as the Sharks stuck around. That proved vital for the home team’s chances, as the Jets lead early in he fourth by four points, but once the Sharks hit the front with seven minutes left on the clock, they never looked back, scoring 21 points to 15 from that moment. It was far from a one-sided finish though, with the Jets drawing to within one point with 1:44 on the clock at 96-95, but then the Sharks put up eight of the next 10 points to grab the seven-point victory.

Southland Sharks lead the field goal shooting percentage 52 to 48 per cent, as well as draining 12 triples to 10 in an effective effort from range. Manawatu Jets were better from inside the arc (61 o 55 per cent) and had more steals (5-3), less turnovers (6-7), less personal fouls and more points from turnovers (10-9), as well as more points in the paint (48-46). The Sharks lead the rebounds (42-36) and assists (23-22), as well as second chance points (8-5) and bench points (14-5) in what was a really even game across the board, but there could only be one winner.

Courtney Belger won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the night with 22 points and 11 assists in a double-double effort, one of three Sharks to reach the feat in the victory. Belger also hit an impressive four of five from long-range to showcase his accuracy from beyond the arc. Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) was big once again, as was Josh Cunningham (19 points, 13 rebounds, three assists and two blocks). Brayden Inger (14 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Alonzo Burton (13 points, two rebounds) both nailed three triples, whilst Sione Helu contributed 11 points in eight minutes off the bench.

Deandre Daniels was the star for the Jets, dropping a game-high five triples from seven attempts on his way to a huge 34 points in 40 minutes, also collecting 11 rebounds – nine defensive – four blocks and two assists. Daishon Knight knocked down 28 points and nine assists, while Shane Temara was also busy with 20 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Jayden Bezzant (10 points, six assists and three rebounds) and Nikau McCullough (five points, two assists) were the other scorers for the Jets in defeat.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 7 preview: Rams and Nuggets open round as Giants rest up

SIX games played out across four days will provide New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) fans with nine of the 10 teams running out on court this weekend, with Nelson Giants the only side putting their feet up this round. Otago Nuggets, Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets will all play a second match over Round 7 as the mid-table logjam is set to get a shake-up.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS
Thursday, June 10 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

First up in a standalone clash tonight at Cowles Stadium, Canterbury Rams host Otago Nuggets to try and bounce back from their disappointing loss to Wellington Saints last week. They had won three out of four coming into the clash, and will be keen to notch up an important win. For the Nuggets, they went down to Southland Sharks after impressive wins over Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies, but will gain some serious breathing space if they can take down the Rams in the match. Deshon Taylor (22.4 points, 5.4 rebounds, 5.3 assists) has been the leading player for the Rams, with Jack Salt (17.0 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals) and EJ Singler (13.6 points, 7.5 rebounds, 5.1 assists and 2.1 steals) other key players. Sam Timmins (21.9 points, 14.0 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.4 steals) will have a huge battle with Salt throughout the night, while Isaiah Moss (21.8 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Gerasimos McKay (12.4 points, 6.2 rebounds) have both been productive off the boards.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, June 11 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium

The standalone Friday night clash between top of the table Southland Sharks hosting the eighth placed Manawatu Jets at ILT Stadium. Undefeated at home from three matches, the Sharks go in as strong favourites with an overall 8-3 record from 11 matches and a six-game winning streak. The Jets on the other hand had a 3-6 record, but have won three of their past five to be a big improver, though their loss in that time was 12 points to the Sharks at home. The evenness of the Sharks’ team is evident to see in their results, with Dom Kelman-Poto (17.5 points, 8.9 rebounds and 3.4 assists), Brayden Inger (14.4 points, 3.8 rebounds), Alonzo Burton (12.7 points, 2.2 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.9 steals) and Courtney Belger (12.3 points, 3.8 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 1.9 steals) all putting up good numbers to start the season. Daishon Knight (22.3 points, 4.3 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 1.8 steals) has been influential for the Jets, while Jayden Bezzant (18.3 points, 4.0 rebounds and 3.4 assists), Shane Temara (16.8 points, 10.4 rebounds and 2.1 assists) and DeAndre Daniels (15.1 points, 9.4 rebounds) have all impressed.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS
Saturday, June 12 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The Nuggets will come in for a 48-hour turnaround for their clash against Hawkes Bay Hawks, with the top four battle having plenty on the line for both teams. The Nuggets have been good on the road with a 3-1 record, while the Hawks are unbeaten at Pettigrew Green Arena, winning all four clashes that have taken place there. Hawkes Bay grabbed back-to-back wins last round to head into the Round 7 contest with form, and they will hope to grab another victory here. Devondrick Walker (19.8 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 1.7 steals), Hyrum Harris (14.2 points, 7.0 rebounds, 3.2 assists and 1.6 steals) and Derone Raukawa (13.4 points, 4.3 assists, 3.4 rebounds and 1.3 steals) are among seven players to average double-figure points for the Hawks this season.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Saturday, June 12 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

Action also takes place at Eventfinda Stadium on Saturday night, with the ninth placed and wounded Franklin Bulls trying to find something to upset a fifth placed Auckland Huskies. The Huskies head into the game with an even win-loss record of 5-5, and have a better-than-average 3-2 record at home. The Bulls are 1-3 on the road, and their last three matches have been 21, 37 and 32-point losses with the depth really tested, whilst the Huskies’ form has been up and down. Chris Johnson (21.5 points, 9.6 rebounds and 2.5 assists), Brooke Ruscoe-Taiaroa (14.1 rebounds, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.7 steals) and Dontae Nance (13.4 points, 2.9 rebounds, 2.6 assists and 1.2 steals) have been impressive for the Huskies in 2021. Nicolas Fee (6.2 points, 2.6 rebounds and 2.7 assists) and Denhym Brooke (11.5 points, 4.3 rebounds) have been the only two players to have started in all 10 games for the Bulls.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Sunday, June 13 @ 3:00pm
TSB Stadium

The Taranaki Mountainairs enter Round 7 with a clash against Canterbury Rams who played on Thursday night, as the Airs hope to double their win tally after grabbing just one victory in the first nine matches. That did come at home, but with 42, 22 and 14-point losses in the past three matches, the Airs will need to bounce back in a strong way to topple the Rams in front of home fans. Marcel Jones (23.9 points, 10.1 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 steals) has carried the Airs throughout the season, whilst Tai Wynyard (13.7 points, 5.8 rebounds) has been an able support in that time.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Sunday, June 13 @ 5:00pm
TSB Bank Arena

The second placed Wellington Saints will be looking to notch up another win at home, this time against the Manawatu Jets on Sunday evening. After losing their first match to the Southland Sharks last week, the Saints bounced back to defeat Canterbury Rams by 25 points the game after. No shortage of stars this season, Dion Prewster (22.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 4.3 assists and 1.8 steals), Kerwin Roach Jr (17.8 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.9 assists and 2.0 steals), Taane Samuel (14.9 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Tohi Smith-Milner (13.9 points, 6.4 rebounds, 2.9 assists and 1.3 steals) have all stood up and had some big numbers this year across multiple facets.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL