Tag: Everard Bartlett

Sharks and Dream secure NZNBL 3X3 Cup titles

SOUTHLAND Sharks and AUCKLAND Dream have claimed their respective New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Schick 3X3 Cups over the weekend, with the Sharks winning the male title and the Dream taking out the female title.

Auckland Dream won in a nail-biting final 18-16 over Harbour Breeze to claim the title, with both sides winning all six games leading into the final. The Dream had topped Pool A and then defeated their Pool opponents NZ Select in the semi-finals, whilst Breeze topped Pool B by defeating Otago Gold Rush in the other semi. The two teams were the standout sides in the women’s draw, always looking like the teams to beat, with the Dream winning their two finals by a combined 14 points, whilst the Breeze did not quite have it like their namesake, winning with a combined eight points.

In the end, just two points separated the sides in the decider, with a two-point successful make from Casyn Buchman the difference with just six seconds left on the clock. To that point, the momentum had ebbed and flowed with the Breeze taking control early, before the Dream hit back through young star, Arielle Williams-Mackey. She helped her side to get back into it, before the experienced Amanda Wayment drew it, and Buchman finished it off.

Along with the injured Darci Finnigan who twisted her knee in the semi-final, the quartet was overcome the obstacle of limited minutes for their teammate in the decider to post the win and secure the title after being the fourth seeds heading into the tournament. For the Breeze, Ella Fotu, Brooke Blair, Ashleigh Kelman-Poto and Jazzmyne Kailahi-Fulu tried hard and almost got there after a sensational tournament, but just fell short in the end.

In the men’s competition, Southland Sharks defied the odds to topple one of the tournament favourites in Hawke’s Bay Hawks in the final. Like the women’s final, just two points separated the sides as the Sharks got up 21-19 to secure the title. Seeded fifth at the event, the Sharks won two of their four Pool games in Pool B to finish third on the overall table behind Auckland Huskies and Franklin Bulls, while the Hawks also finished third with two wins from four games, behind Tasman Suns and Otago Nuggets.

Finals are a different ball game, particularly knockout finals, with the Suns defeated by the seventh placed NZ Select Team which faced the Hawks who belted the Bulls 21-12 in their quarter final. The Hawks overcame the NZ Select Team by three points to advance to the final, whilst on the other side, the Sharks toppled the Nuggets by three points, then defeated the top of the table Huskies by four points to reach the decider.

Remarkably the match went blow-for-blow right up until 19 apiece and everything relying on the last basket. Two stars of New Zealand basketball in Derone Raukawa and Hyrum Harris were superb on either end, whilst Dom Kelman-Poto backed up his great work from the NZNBL Men’s competition with another big effort this tournament. It was Alonzo Burton who sank the game winner to end what was the most remarkable finals.

Harris, Kelman-Poto, Burton and Alex Pledger celebrated the 21-19 victory, having done it the hard way after the Pool stage of the competition. For Raukawa, Ethan Rusbatch, Everard Bartlett and Taane Samuel – who had all backed up from their NZNBL efforts – it was so close, yet so far, falling short of a title but having had a lot of fun along the way in the 3×3 tournament.

Picture: NZNBL

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

NEW Zealand basketball is set to have a big month in November with the 2020 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) 3×3 Cup taking place next weekend prior to the much anticipated 18in18 NZNBL women’s competition. There are 10 teams vying for the 3×3 title in the men’s competition, with the teams split into two pools of five sides, which will be held from November 12-14.

There are a number of differences with the 3×3 competition compared to a regular basketball match, including a court size of 15x11m and a maximum team size of four player. There are just 10 minutes per game with the first team to 21 announced the winner. The regular shot clock time of 24 seconds is also halved to 12.

The schedule sees each of the five teams play the other four teams in their pool once over November 12-13. From there, the two lowest finishers will face off against the team in the opposite group for fourth against fifth matches. The winners from there will progress to the quarter finals where the top three sides in each group will face off. The top placed teams will take on the winners from those fourth and fifth clashes, whilst second will take on third in their opposite groups. It is knockout from start to finish, with the teams advancing through until the two top teams play off in the grand final. That decider will be held at 10.11pm local time on November 14.

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

Hawke’s Bay Hawks
Manawatu Jets
Otago Nuggets
Taranaki Mountainairs
Tasman Suns

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

A number of familiar teams are competing in the shortened competition, with this year’s Sal’s NBL premiers Otago Nuggets in Pool A alongside their grand final opponents Manawatu Jets. Taranaki Mountainairs are the other side to have competed earlier this year that falls into Pool A, whilst Hawke’s Bay Hawks and Tasman Suns also join the party.

In Pool B, a special NZ Select side will help even the numbers at 10 teams, whilst Southland Sharks also return to the competition after not competing in the shortened NZNBL format this year. The three other sides are Auckland Huskies, Canterbury Rams and Franklin Bulls who will all be looking to add some silverware to their cabinets after missing out in the NZNBl season.

Southland Sharks would be one of the favourites for the title with some serious firepower including teaming up Hyrum Harris and the much-improved Dom Kelman-Poto. The pair will make it difficult for opposition teams given their size and range, whilst Alex Pledger showed he could impress in bursts during the NZNBL season, and Alonzo Burton rounds out the four.

Franklin Bulls are also a danger team with Mr Double Double himself, Marcel Jones returning to the club for the 3×3 tournament and is joined by a trio of Bulls’ teammates. Isaac Davison was the star of the competition in the early rounds of the NZNBL season, and can shoot from range with ease. Nikau McCullough is also a known three-point shooter, as Joel Vaigangina rounds out the list.

Hawke’s Bay Hawks cannot be discounted with Derone Raukawa leading the charge after a mammoth NZNBL season. He can just about do anything, and he teams up with veteran Everard Bartlett, as well as Ethan Rubatsch and Taane Te Kira Samuel. Otago Nuggets will be keen to do the double and back up their NZNBL win with a 3×3 Cup victory, and they had a strong four. Sam Timmins is the big body close to the basket, whilst Josh Aitcheson, Kane Keil and Richie Rodger are all underrated scorers with plenty of talent.

Looking across the board, the Manawatu Jets will have the talents of Jayden Bezzant and Haize Walker, while the Taranaki Airs have gone with experience thanks to Aaron Bailey-Nowell and Tai Wynyard. Jordan Hunt is a crucial cog for Auckland Huskies this tournament, with Canterbury Rams sticking to what they know with Ben Carlile-Smith, Jack Exeter and Mason Whittaker all named in the side. NZ Select will have players to watch such as Samuel Aruwa, whilst the Tasman Suns welcome the talented Tom Ingham who will prove hard to stop.

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #7 – Battle of the Opposites, Airs and Bulls elimination final

THERE are only so many coincidences that can occur in any season or competition, but thankfully fans of the NZNBL were able to witness one. This came as the best offence and best defence of the league got to settle their differences in a win or go home Elimination Final. Due to this, Draft Central sees it fitting to place the Taranaki Mountain Airs’ final contest with the Franklin Bulls in the seventh slot of this season’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full match report of the Airs and Bulls Elimination Final – Click HERE

It was during the regular season that both sides displayed their playing styles and strengths. The Airs, who concluded their season with a respectable eight win and six loss record earned the moniker of best offence in the competition. Taranaki maintained a team average of 98.6 points per contest and cracked the 100-point mark on eight different occasions. For Franklin, they earned the opposite title of best defence, due to holding teams to 82.2 points each time out, 4.2 points less than the Otago Nuggets (second in points against).

Prior to their Elimination Final on July 29, the two sides had met three times with the Airs holding the series’ bragging rights two to one. But in their most recent encounter, it was Franklin that came out the clear-cut winners in a dominant 92-65 win. But with a must-win contest to begin, all prior matchups had little to no meaning in what was a seesawing affair between the two clubs with a semi-final spot up for grabs.

Following their All-Star Five presentation, Taranaki’s two leading individuals in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones had their confidence brewing in the opening phase, helping their side to a 26-18 lead in the initial 10 minutes of basketball. During that pivotal first term, Doug Courtney employed some defensive tactics of his own, notably setting up a 2-3 zone defence to minimise Franklin’s inside scoring threats. This in turn forced the Bulls to settle for long range shots, which proved ineffective as they made just two from 16 attempts.

Eventually shots started to fall for Franklin, as the game started to even out for both sides. Back-to-back threes from Jackson Stubbins cut the deficit to a single basket, with the Airs holding the three-point lead at the second intermission.

While an And-One from Dominique Kelman-Poto gave the Bulls a brief lead, the continuous scoring output from Jones kept Taranaki’s noses in front for the majority of the game. In addition to this, Jones was grateful to receive the aid on the boards from teammates Tai Wynyard and Shane Temara, who each finished their nights with eight and seven boards respectively. This proved a pivotal statistic in the sequences of the game, as the Airs pushed their lead back up to eight points with a quarter to go.

Good hustle from Isaac Davidson and Everard Bartlett enabled the Bulls to get within four points, but the duo of Raukawa and Jones was put on full display once more. They carried their side over the line on a night where everyone was making their free-throws. The Airs emerged triumphant in a 99-90 slugfest and set up a semi-final date with the Manawatu Jets.

It was a clinic on both ends of the floor for Raukawa (28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) and Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), meanwhile the team’s rebounding and free throw shooting proved to be the difference. A plus-seven on the boards (44-37) and 90 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (18 of 20) put the cherry on the cake as Taranaki fell just a single point short of another 100-point performance.

Despite the emotional loss for Franklin, the Bulls had numerous efforts worthy of praise. Kelman-Poto led the way with his 31-point, 10-rebound and three-steal night, whereas Davidson’s 24 points off of four triples was a major contribution.

On a night that saw offence prevail over defence, it was exciting to see two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing style, go at it in a do-or-die matchup in the postseason. Thus, putting this moment at number seven in the NZNBL’s Top 10.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Taranaki Mountainairs

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Airs finished fourth on the ladder and lived up to their billing with a semi-final berth after defeating Franklin Bulls in the elimination final to finish third overall post-finals. We take a look at their season.

Played: 16
Won: 9
Lost: 7

KEY STATS:

Points: 98.6 (1st)
Rebounds: 47.1 (1st)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 6.6 (7th)
Blocks: 3.4 (1st)
FG%: 48.5 (1st)

BEST WIN: defeated Otago Nuggets by 26 points

In a really season-defining win, Taranaki Mountainairs stormed from seven points down at half-time to piled on a massive 68 points in the second half, whilst restricting the Nuggets to just 35, on the Airs’ way to a big 107-81 victory. Derone Raukawa led the way in scoring with 23 points, four rebounds, six assists and three steals, though Marcel Jones was best-on with a ridiculous 15 points, 18 rebounds, seven assists and two steals. Overshadowed by Jones’ remarkable numbers, Shane Temara still picked up a double-double with 18 points and 11 rebounds, while Francis Mulvilhill (17 points, four rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (15 points, five rebounds) also had accurate shooting nights.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 27 points

With a qualifying final spot on the line, Taranaki Mountainairs had to win their final match of the regular season to keep their top two hopes alive. They had beaten Franklin Bulls twice earlier in the season, but this night was different, blown off the court early and never able to recover, they went down in a deflating 92-65 loss and had to settle for fourth. Raukawa (19 points, four rebounds and four assists) and Jones (17 points, nine rebounds and four assists) dug deep, but the likes of Joe Reddish (18 points, five assists), Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds and five assists), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds and five assists) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) ran rampant. Luckily for the Airs, they beat the Bulls a few days later to reach the semis.

TOP PLAYERS:

Derone Raukawa 23.7 points, 3.6 rebounds, 7.4 assists, 1.4 steals
Marcel Jones 22.8 points, 13.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.2 steals
Shane Temara 12.3 points, 6.3 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 0.5 steals
Ken Tuffin 9.2 points, 4.7 rebounds, 0.9 assists, 0.8 steals
Tai Wynyard 7.6 points, 4.1 rebounds, 0.7 assists, 0.7 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Jones and Raukawa’s seasons for a start, as both were named in the All-Star Five at the conclusion of the regular season. They were phenomenal each and every night, and were hard to stop even on quieter nights. Combining for 46 points, 17 rebounds, 12 assists and three steals per game, they were the most dominant duo in the Sal’s NBL. Secondly, if the game was played on paper, the Airs had the best stats across the board of any side, finishing first in points, rebounds, blocks and field shooting percentage, as well as second in assists, which was a remarkable effort.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

When the depth stepped up, it was hard to match the Airs as you knew what you were going to get out of the two elite talents. However when the depth struggled, so did the Airs, with the heavy rotations making them unpredictable, but also not as consistent in the back-end of the season. Early in the season they looked like the premiership favourites, but were just overrun at the end by a couple of quality units.

SUMMARY

Taranaki Mountainairs were always a genuine contender with their elite talents and the dominant duo. The rare finds in Tuffin and Mulvihill proved steals in the competition, while a number of young talents stepped up to find their feet at the level. They fell a match short of the big one, but expect them to be back bigger and better next year.

2020 Sal’s NBL team review: Franklin Bulls

FRANKLIN BULLS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Bulls finished a healthy fifth on the ladder at the end of the regular season, then suffered a narrow loss to Taranaki Mountainairs in the elimination final. We take a look at their season.

Played: 15
Won: 7
Lost: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 82.5 (7th)
Rebounds: 39.1 (7th)
Assists: 15.7 (5th)
Steals: 8.8 (3rd)
Blocks: 3.2 (5th)
FG%: 43.21 (6th)

BEST WIN: defeated Taranaki Mountainairs by 27 points

Having lost to them twice earlier in the season, the Bulls sought revenge perfectly with a big 92-65 victory over the Airs on July 23. Bursting out of the blocks in the opening half, the Bulls piled on 49 points to 27 to effectively end Taranaki’s hopes of finishing in the top two. Joe Reddish had a day out with 18 points, five rebounds and four steals, while Isaac Davidson (17 points, four rebounds), Everard Bartlett (16 points, six rebounds, five assists and three steals) and Sam Timmins (seven points, 12 rebounds, three assists and five steals) all had big days.

WORST LOSS: lost to Taranaki Mountainairs by nine points

It was hardly a disgrace as they matched them toe-for-toe throughout an epic four quarter elimination final, but it was shattering in the fact that it occurred just six days after they had toppled the Airs. It was compounded by the fact it would knocked them out of the title race despite the best efforts of Dom Kelman-Poto (31 points, 10 rebounds, four assists and three steals) and Davidson (24 points, three rebounds and two assists). Marcel Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks) and Derone Raukawa (28 points, seven rebounds, seven assists and three steals) dominated the play and got the Airs over the line.

TOP PLAYERS:

Dom Kelman-Poto 17.9 points, 7.6 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 1.5 steals
Isaac Davidson 16.1 points, 3.7 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Sam Timmins 10.9 points, 6.9 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals
Everard Bartlett 10.0 points, 2.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.3 steals
Nikau McCullough 6.9 points, 2.1 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.5 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Franklin Bulls went on an early run, winning five of six games early in the season to announce themselves as genuine contenders. Davidson was in Most Valuable Player (MVP) territory with his long-range shooting and accuracy hurting opposition teams. With Kelman-Poto and Timmins working the boards, they were a dominant unit and realistically, far better than their eventual sixth placed finish. In an even competition, they showed that right place, right time can open doors, and sometimes you just fall short.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Ultimately the Bulls were just beaten by a better team in the finals. They showed they could beat anyone on their day – they did so with five wins in six games and then collecting the last scalp of the Airs later in the season. Whilst they might have finished sixth by the end of the finals series, they can be proud of what they achieved in season 2020.

SUMMARY

Franklin Bulls were a genuine contender, and as a side that entered the league for the first time, it was great to see. They had some electric players who really excited, as well as some bigs who dominated off the boards. Hopefully the Bulls are able to keep their list together for 2021, as they have some good young talent from which they can build upon and really go places.

Sal’s NBL Finals night preview: Huskies v Rams and Airs v Bulls

ONE team is out and six remain in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) title race following the first night of finals action. Canterbury Rams won the first of four games they will need to win if they are to hold the title this year, defeating Nelson Giants and now moving on to face Auckland Huskies in another elimination final. Rounding out the elimination finals is a fourth against fifth clash between Taranaki Mountainairs and Franklin Bulls. Both sides have been ladder leaders at different stages through the season, but only one can advance to the semi-finals.

The semi-finals take place tomorrow night, with Otago Nuggets playing the lowest placing loser – which could be any of the three sides other than Auckland Huskies – while the Manawatu Jets could meet anyone bar Canterbury on the penultimate finals stage.

Auckland Huskies vs. Canterbury Rams

In the opening match of the night, the fourth placed Auckland Huskies take on the last placed Canterbury Rams who got through the first hurdle by overcoming the Nelson Giants last night. This clash will be substantially harder, but they have beaten them once, albeit in the opening week of the season.

PAST MATCHES:

Canterbury Rams 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
Auckland Huskies 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Auckland Huskies 18 | 30 | 28 | 12 (88)
Canterbury Rams 24 | 12 | 18 | 27 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies)** 19 points, 2 rebounds, 3 assists, 8 steals
Leon Henry (Huskies) 9.5 points, 10.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 2.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Tohi Smith-Milner (Huskies) 10.0 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.5 assists, 1.0 steals, 1.0 blocks
Toby Gillooly (Rams)** 25 points, 6 rebounds, 0 assists, 1 steal, 2 blocks
Taylor Britt (Rams) 21.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 0.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Thomas Webley (Rams) 11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa (Huskies) 19.2 points, 4.3 rebounds, 5.5 assists, 2.7 steals
Taylor Britt (Rams) 20.3 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.3 assists, 1.2 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Huskies have really found their form in the second half of the season and have a really well balanced team. With Leon Henry guiding the younger players with his rebounding prowess, Taine Murray on a tear when he is red hot, and Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa having a Defensive Player of the Year award type-season, they are a hard team to beat. That is before you get to the likes of Tohi Smith-Milner among a host of others off the bench who can contribute on the scoring front.

The Rams rely a lot on Taylor Britt to score, but can have cameos from others such as Toby Gillooly and more recently, Reuben Te Rangi. They have the strength off the boards with Alex Talma and Thomas Webley working hard on the inside, but will have their work cut out with Henry and Smith-Milner crashing the boards. It will need to be a clinical performance from the Rams to get up with the Huskies so strong defensively, you cannot afford to have too many loose balls.

WHO WINS?

Auckland Huskies were not too far off the top two, and deserve to head in as favourites here. While they lost to the Rams in their opening game of the season, they are in much better form of late, even with the Rams picking up back-to-back wins in the past few days. If the Huskies can play to their potential, they just have too much depth to rely on, while the Rams have some serious A-grade talent, but injuries have hurt them this season otherwise they would have finished higher up the ladder.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Franklin Bulls

The second match of the night has a huge clash between two genuine title contenders that neither the Nuggets nor Jets would particularly look forward to playing. The Airs have won both their previous encounters against the Bulls, but finals is a different ball game and this shapes up to be a beauty.

PAST MATCHES:

Franklin Bulls 31 | 21 | 18 | 25 (95)
Taranaki Airs 25 | 30 | 27 | 25 (107)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

Franklin Bulls 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
Taranaki Airs 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

TOP PERFORMERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD:

Marcel Jones (Airs) 29.0 points, 11.5 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Derone Raukawa (Airs) 19.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 8.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Ken Tuffin (Airs) 10.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.0 blocks
Isaac Davidson (Bulls) 22.0 points, 6.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists, 1.0 steals, 0.0 blocks
Nikau McCullough (Bulls) 11.0 points, 2.5 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 0.5 steals, 0.5 blocks
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 1.0 assists, 1.5 steals, 0.5 blocks

** Only played one game

TOP PERFORMERS – SEASON:

Derone Raukawa (Airs) 22.8 points, 3.1 rebounds, 7.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Dom Kelman-Poto (Bulls) 16.9 points, 7.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists, 1.4 steals

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Airs have had the edge over the Bulls in their opening two encounters thanks to the 12 and 14-point wins. Given they are relatively comfortable victories, they would head into this game with confidence, particularly given not only their All-Star duo in Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa‘s form against the Bulls, but also Ken Tuffin‘s 10-point and six-rebounds average against Franklin. They need to keep doing what they’ve been during the season, but need to put in a four quarter effort to ensure they remain alive in the competition.

The Bulls have one of the most even spread of sides in the competition. At one point they won five out of six games and looked like they were going to storm away with the minor premiership before slipping back to the pack in the second half of the season. If the Bulls can limit the influence of Jones and Raukawa then that will go a long way to winning. Obviously that is easier said than done, but perhaps the roles for Everard Bartlett and Nick Barrow could be huge, with Isaac Davidson and Nikau McCullouch trying to pile on the points, while Dom Kelman-Poto provides the inside presence.

WHO WINS?

With two wins in the bank against their opposition, the Airs will be favourites heading into this. Given they have 40 per cent of the All-Star team in their possession, they are genuinely a top four side ready to advance. The Bulls have such an even squad across the board, it is difficult to try and lockdown on one player, but Davidson might be that player whose hot hand early in the season led the Bulls to a number of victories.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Bulls charge through Taranaki as Airs fall out of top two race

TARANAKI Mountainairs’ bid to finish within the top two in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) standings is officially over, following their 92-65 drubbing by way of the Franklin Bulls, as Everard Bartlett’s perfect night from the field helped cement his side their seventh win of the campaign.

FRANKLIN BULLS 24 | 25 | 20 | 23 (92)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 13 | 14 | 20 | 18 (65)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Prior to last night’s meeting, the Bulls had fallen to the Airs in their two previous encounters. How Franklin looked at getting lucky the third time round, was to limit the effect of the Airs’ role players, which also included the much anticipated matchup between Samuel Timmins and Tai Wynyard, as each big-man looked to gain the upper hand over the other.

The Bulls kicked the contest off with Bartlett’s three free-throws, but that remained the only event of the opening couple of minutes, as each side missed their initial five attempts from the field. Three minutes in however, Timmins’s layup got the ball rolling for the Bulls. The layup was further compounded by Isaac Davidson’s first three-pointer, capping off a 9-0 start to kick off the first quarter. As a result of Franklin’s fast-paced start, Taranaki repositioned their defence to a Zone setup, but to no avail, as every stop the Bulls made triggered a loud response from their bench. After both teams gradually became more accurate over the course of the quarter, it was the Bulls that tightened their sights from beyond the arc, knocking down four from deep to round out the opening 10 minutes and putting their necks ahead by 11 at the first intermission.

Leading in to the second quarter, 26-year-old Chris McIntosh continued the barrage from three-point range and continued to separate themselves from an Airs offence that struggled to find their target. A beautiful no-look assist by Davidson with a few minutes remaining in the half to Nicholas Barrow, prolonged the Bulls’ momentum. The Airs, they could not muster a response. Franklin’s target finder was working at maximum effort, shooting over 50 per cent since the fourth minute of the first quarter. Three-pointers from each of their stars in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones, cut into the deficit with less than a minute to go. But Bartlett struck a dagger into the arm of Taranaki with his second three of the contest and the fourth for the team in the second quarter alone, putting Franklin ahead by 22 at the midpoint of the ball game, 49-27.

The Bulls killed Taranaki on the boards, winning the rebounding contest in the first half 25 to 16, which translated into 10 second chance points as a result. Furthermore, Franklin’s bench proved their mettle in the opening 20 minutes, contributing 17 points to the team’s 49 in total at half-time, compared to the Airs’ four. This left Doug Courtney with a mild headache during the break, as he scrambled for second half solutions. For the majority of the third period, both sides managed to trade baskets, until Bartlett really started to put his stamp on the game. The 34-year-old’s back-to-back threes extended their lead to 29 points, as they continued to create separation for the Airs..

To make matters worse for the Airs, Nikau McCullough decided to join in on the shooting party, converting back-to-back threes as well. However, a small scoring run by Shane Temara, Francis Mulvihill and Jones brought the scoring difference back to 22 points with the final 10 minutes yet to unfold. The main headline at three-quarter time was easily the perfect shooting from Bartlett up to this point, going four from four from the field, nailing three threes to accompany those shots. Adding three free-throws, it would accumulate to 15 points through 18 minutes of court time over three quarters, putting him in good stead for man of the match honours with a quarter to go.

Raukawa began the fourth taking matters into his own hands, scoring eight quick points to begin the phase. However, it would take more than an individual to make a substantial dent in Franklin’s defensive blockade, as another Bartlett three stunted Taranaki’s fightback. The Airs would not make any more headway for the rest of the game, as Franklin held Taranaki to just 65 points at the conclusion of play, as Franklin would knock off a side which they had not beaten in two prior meetings by 27 points.

Bartlett continued his perfect form from the field, despite a quiet fourth quarter. He finished with 18 points off of five three-point shots. Alongside Bartlett, Isaac Davidson and Dominique Kelman-Poto added to the team’s cause significantly. Davidson amassed 17 points, five assists and four rebounds, while Kelman-Poto compiled 16 points, six boards and five assists.

Looking at the Airs’ performance, their 19 turnovers deflated their offensive intentions, nevertheless Raukawa and Jones remained the side’s constant. Raukawa still managed 19 points on 50 per cent shooting, whereas Jones fell one board short of another double-double, ending his night with 17 points and nine rebounds. In their final game of the regular season, the Airs’ loss last night solidifies their position outside the top two, as Franklin gifted Taranaki its sixth loss of the campaign. On the other hand, the Bulls go above .500 and improve their record to seven wins and six losses.

The outcome for Franklin ties themselves for fourth in the standings next to the Auckland Huskies, as they compete in their final game before the finals against the Canterbury Rams in Saturday’s opener.

Vodanovich drops 43 points in sizzling long-range effort to help Jets fly over Bulls

TOM Vodanovich has broken his own season-high record of 38 points after dropping a mammoth 43 last night – including 10 triples – on his way to leading Manawatu Jets to a vital 15-point victory over Franklin Bulls. The win goes a long way to ensuring the Jets lock up a top two spot and qualifying final, and Vodanovich was unstoppable on the night.

MANAWATU JETS 31 | 24 | 26 | 18 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 20 | 20 | 18 | 26 (84)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

It was fitting that Vodanovich dropped the first points of the night, albeit a couple of free throws as Taane Samuel got warmed up from the field with five early points to counter Dom Kelman-Poto‘s opening triple within 30 seconds of the tip-off. Hyrum Harris was starting to get involved, and when Vodanovich sank his first basket from the field – a hookshot – the Jets led by six points. Kelman-Poto was having some sort of night early however, scoring nine points in the first half of the quarter, but the Jets team was able to match him as Harris and Jayden Bezzant were assisting Vodanovich on the scoring front.

Just as the Bulls got closer, the Jets would pull away leading by as much as eight points prior to a Jackson Stubbins‘ triple with four minutes left on the clock. The Jets again extended their lead via free throws as Vodanovich and Nelson Kirksey forced the opposition to foul them, and Samuel’s finish to the term helped the Jets hold an 11-point lead at the first break.

Immediately out of the break, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape heated up with a mammoth first couple of minutes, sinking nine points in that time, as he cut the deficit to seven after Vodanovich’s first triple of the night. It would be an omen for what was about to happened as he drilled four consecutive triples for his side, and then Nicholas Fee caught whatever fever the power forward had by nailing a triple of his own and the margin was back to 14 points.

Leusogi-Ape returned to the court and immediately had an impact with a driving layup, and just as it looked like the Bulls would draw closer – getting within 10 – Fee and Vodanovich sank seven more points and the latter had five treys for the match. Isaac Davidson managed to nail a jump shot in the last 20 seconds, but his side still faced a 15-point deficit.

Franklin needed a lift and it came in the form of Stubbins from long-range, and then the teams traded treys as Bezzant, Everard Bartlett and Samuel all struck gold from long range. Vodanovich continued to rack up the points as Kelman-Poto and Davidson tried to cut into the deficit, but when Vodanovich brought up his sixth triple with four minutes remaining in the term, the Jets were out to a 21-point buffer. Yet again his hot hand followed with another two triples as the Bulls led by as much as 25 points at one stage before a late Sam Timmins layup put the final break deficit back to 23.

Any chance of an unlikely comeback by the Bulls was snuffed out early in the final term as the Jets answered each challenge. Samuel put down the opening basket after a miss from Davidson, and while Bartlett’s stuck from long-range, his effort was matched by Vodanovich with a remarkable ninth triple. No matter what the Bulls threw at the Jets, they could not get within 21 points as Bartlett nailed another triple, then Vodanovich brought up number 10 from long range with four and a half minutes on the clock. He was subbed out shortly after having a well-earned rest as his teammates finished the game off.

The Bulls went on a late 10-2 run in the final couple of minutes, but it was only to cut the final deficit as the game was largely over through that third term when Vodanovich went haywire. In 34 minutes on court, the big man sank 43 points including 10 of a possible 16 triples, and 61 per cent from the field, while picking up 11 rebounds – 10 off the defensive boards – and three assists. His team shot 38 per cent from three-point range compared to the Bulls’ 25 per cent, and they averaged a greater efficiency overall from the field with 45 to 42 per cent. Their capitalisation at the charity stripe was also important (76 per cent to 36 per cent).

Aside from Vodanovich, Samuel picked up 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and one block, while Harris narrowly missed out on a double double of nine points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Fee (12 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (10 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals) also reached double figures. For the Bulls, Kelman-Poto was productive with 21 points at 56.3 per cent from the field, as well as 11 rebounds and two assists. Davidson (16 points, two rebounds) was solid, though inaccurate, while Bartlett (11 points) and Leusogi-Ape (11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals) stepped up in different moments.

The Bulls take to the court tomorrow night against Taranaki Mountainairs in their penultimate game, with the Bulls to follow later in the night against Otago Nuggets.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 21: Jets v Bulls and Huskies v Nuggets

THE final frontier is here and there is no turning back after the next five days of action with matches galore from Tuesday through until Saturday in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The first night of week five sees genuine title contenders going at it as they attempt to jostle for a top two spot.

MANAWATU JETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

Manwatu Jets can go a long way to securing a top two spot and a qualifying final if they can get up over Franklin Bulls in what is anticipated to be a thrilling contest. In a battle between the second best offensive side and the best defensive one, it is sure to be a thrilling battle. While the Jets are in pole position to maintain a spot inside the top two, the Bulls can snatch it with a win in the game and put pressure on the top sides in the final round. With the second match of the night also paramount in determining the make up of the finals series, every win counts starting with this game.

The Jets average 98.2 points per game compared to the Bulls’ 82.6 which ranks the latter sixth overall in the competition for offensive scoring. The Bulls are by far the top defensive side, conceding just 80.5 points per game to the Jets’ 93.7. In other words, the Bulls like a low-scoring encounter, whilst the Jets back themselves to win in a high-octane shooting frenzy. The Jets are fresh off just that, outscoring the previous top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs 118-103 in a big win, after just escaping with a three-point triumph over Canterbury Rams. The Bulls notched up an 82-70 victory over the Nelson Giants, before falling to the Nuggets, 89-83. If the Jets can score more than 90 points, it is likely they will win, while if Franklin can keep their usually high-scoring opponents to sub-80 then the Bulls will go a long way to victory.

The last time these sides met, Franklin Bulls got up by 11 points courtesy of a strong start and equally impressive third term. In what was a seesawing contest, the Bulls won 83-72 keeping the Jets big scorers to 20 points or less, with Hyrum Harris still out of the Jets’ side. Tom Vodanovich managed just seven points in an off night for the power forward, but he still racked up 12 rebounds to have an impact off the boards. Jayden Bezzant was the top scorer for the Jets with 20, while also having three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Taane Samuel (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) was busy, while Ashton McQueen stepped up to contribute 13 points, three rebounds and two assists.

For the Bulls, Sam Timmins top scored with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Dom Kelman-Poto was also solid with 15 points and seven rebounds. Everard Bartlett showed his experience and accuracy to shoot 57.1 per cent from the field, the highest on his side to collect 13 points – including 3/4 from long range – as well as six rebounds. Isaac Davidson (10 points, five rebounds and two steals) was not quite as accurate from the field, though Nikau McCullough (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) was strong off the bench in the win. If the Bulls can repeat the dose in this match, then they should go well, but the Jets are in ripping form of late.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second match is just as crucial as the first with the hunted in Otago Nuggets – sitting top of the table where everyone wants to be – going up against the most improved team in the competition in recent weeks in Auckland Huskies. While the Nuggets control the top spot, they are still only a win ahead of the Huskies and Bulls in fourth and fifth respectively, so the top five can change drastically in the lead up to the finals. If the Nuggets win, they realistically need one win in their final two games to secure a qualifying final spot, whilst if the Huskies win, they will likely still need to win both, though depending on results.

The Huskies are coming off a huge win over Nelson Giants, 96-67 which saw the Huskies sink the first 17 baskets without a miss on their way to a 45-point opening term. If they have a hot start like that they will be hard to beat, though their opponents Otago Nuggets are coming off a couple of hard-fought wins over Franklin Bulls (six points) and Canterbury Rams (one point). Prior to that the Nuggets lost to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, so no doubt the fingernails of Nuggets fans are wearing thin. Prior to the win against the Giants, the Huskies upset the Airs by three points in a thrilling 102-99 victory, whilst overcoming Franklin Bulls a couple of days earlier by four points.

It was not that long ago that the Huskies and Nuggets faced off, with Auckland topping the favourites in a memorable 81-69 triumph. The Huskies had a strong start to lead by five points at the first break, and then had one of those rare games to win all four quarters and emerge victorious by 12 points. Young gun, Taine Murray had a day out with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, sinking three of six from long-range. He was well aided by Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry who both recorded double doubles in huge performances. They combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds, shooting 5/12 from three-point range, whilst dishing off six assists. The other player to reach double figures was Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who pick-pocketed his opponent a remarkable six times and added to his all-round game of 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Jordan Ngatai unsurprisingly led the way for the Nuggets in defeat, picking up 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, but shot at only 22.7 per cent from the field. Josh Aitcheson played a memorable game with a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and five steals to be his side’s best overall, while Jordan Hunt was busy with 12 points and seven rebounds. It was a disappointing night from the Nuggets who shot at just 32.4 per cent from the field as the Huskies defence forced them into errors with Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny having an uncharacteristic 13 combined turnovers for the match. Auckland will want to do much of the same in this encounter tonight, though the Nuggets will no doubt put up a better show than their previous game, and it shapes as a blockbuster.