Tag: Francis Mulvihill

2021 NZNBL team review: Taranaki Mountainairs

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 begins with Taranaki Mountainairs.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 10th
Wins: 2
Losses: 15

KEY STATS:

Points: 76.9 (10th)
Rebounds: 31.0 (9th)
Assists: 16.8 (eq. 5th)
Steals: 7.5 (6th)
Blocks: 2.7 (5th)
Field Goal %: 47.5 (3rd)

KEY PLAYERS:

Marcel Jones

The dominant big man had another outstanding season, averaging almost a double-double of 23.2 points and 9.7 rebounds. Not only was he prominent off the boards, but he shared the rock around to lead his team in assists with 3.8 per game. Averaging 46.7 per cent from the field, Jones hit 2.7 three-pointers per game at 36.8 per cent, whilst managing an impressive 53 per cent clip from inside the arc. Predominantly a defensive rebounder, Jones was huge off the boards with almost all his rebounds coming off the defensive boards. Impressively, Jones still averaged the 1.7 steals per game to complete the sweep of leading his side in every key statistic.

In terms of consistency, Jones spent more than 30 minutes on court in every single match, and he only dipped below 20 points five times. Jones’ start to the season was simply ridiculous, recording six straight double-doubles where he had 10 or more rebounds to go with his double-digit points. His 30 points, 14 rebounds, six assists and three blocks against Hawkes Bay Hawks was ultra-impressive, whilst his top-score came late in the season against Franklin Bulls with 39 points, as well as an equal season-high 15 rebounds.

Tai Wynyard

Providing Jones with support, Wynyard was not far behind in most key areas. He averaged the 15.9 points and 6.4 rebounds per game, the only other Airs player to average more than 10 and five in those respective categories. Not so much a threat from long-range, Wynyard was the player who could provide teammates with second chance opportunities, averaging a team-high 2.5 offensive rebounds per game. Coupled with his reliable 62.1 per cent from inside the arc – and a lot of the time the paint – and Wynyard was a player who could be relied upon to put up a solid score each game.

Not spending as much time on court as Jones – having just the four games of 30 or more minutes, he hit double-figure points in all bar one match this season. His season-high came against the Manawatu Jets which was by far his best out, racking up 31 points and a whopping 17 rebounds. Of those 17 rebounds, 12 came off the offensive boards, whilst he also picked up two more double-doubles against the Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets earlier in the season. He only had more than two assists in two matches, with a season-high five coming against the Canterbury Rams in the side’s second clash.

OTHERS:

Haize Walker averaged the 9.7 points, 3.4 assists and 3.0 rebounds to be third, second and fourth in those respective areas. Carlin Davison (8.1 points, 4.4 rebounds and 2.5 assists) was the other to feature in all three top fives, whilst Francis Mulvihill (6.6 points, 2.4 assists) played a supporting role.

SUMMARY:

Taranaki Mountainairs did not have a season they would have liked, finishing on the bottom of the NZNBL ladder with just two wins from 17 matches. They were able to compete well in a number of areas of the game, but ultimately lacked depth in the side, with Jones and to a lesser extent Wynyard taking the bulk of the load.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 10 preview: Top four battles headline the round

ROUND 10 of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) commences tonight with some ladder defining clashes headlining the round. With the finals inching closer and closer now is the time for the sides to hit their stride and start to rally some much needed momentum.

Canterbury Rams vs. Southland Sharks
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

Both sides are coming in off a loss and will be eager to get back to their winning ways in this contest. Canterbury Rams have won three of their past five encounters while Southland Sharks have won four of their past five making for an enthralling battle. In terms of ladder positioning the Sharks well and truly have the upper hand currently locked in at second spot while the Rams are stuck in the mid-table logjam at sixth so a win here could be a huge upset for Canterbury. However, the Rams do have two dominant scorers in Deshon Taylor and Edward Singler. Taylor averages 22.3 points a game along with five assists while Singler is not too far behind with 18 points. The scoring load is a lot more shared for the Sharks with the likes of Dominique Kelman-Poto, Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham all viable options. Kelman-Poto leads the pack for the Sharks with his average of 16.1 points while Inger averages 15. Cunningham is pretty well rounded thanks to his 13.4 points, 2.1 assists and 6.7 rebound average making him a key cog in the Sharks outfit and one the Rams will need to stop if they are to topple the second placed side.

Taranaki Mountainairs vs. Wellington Saints
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
TSB Stadium

It is going to be a battle between first and last when the Mountainairs and Saints go head-to-head. The Saints are in blistering form up in top spot on the ladder with 11 wins to their name while Taranaki have struggled to find their mojo all season, glued to the bottom of the table. The last time these two sides met the Saints walked away with the chocolates in a one-sided affair and will be keen to replicate that output once again given they average a higher number of points, assists, rebounds and blocks than their opponents. Looking at key contributors, it is hard to go past the likes of Marcel Jones for the Airs with the bigman leading the way with his average of 21.5 points, 3.9 assists and nine rebounds to fall just short of a double-double. He will need a helping hand from the likes of Tai Wynyard and Haize Walker if the home side are any chance of upsetting the apple cart. For the Saints they have no shortage of scoring options with Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Taane Samuel all influential figures. Prewster averages 20.9 points along with 5.1 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds. Roach Jr is also explosive thanks to his 16.7 points, 4.4 assists and 5.2 rebounds while Tohi Smith-Milner is also a force to be reckoned with off the boards.

Nelson Giants vs. Auckland Huskies
Friday, July 2 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The Giants and Huskies are both looking for ways to weasel their way out of that mid-table logjam and this is the perfect opportunity. A win here for the Huskies could boost them into fourth spot while if the Giants get the win they will close the gap between them and sixth on the ladder. The Huskies have won two of their three encounters so far this season against the Giants and will be wanting to make it three from four by taking advantage of their winning momentum. Both teams are relatively well-matched up with the only main difference coming in the blocks category with Auckland impressing down in defence. Hunter Hale is the main facilitator for the Giants with his ability to attack the rim thanks to his 26.6 point average plus his 4.5 assists and 3.8 defensive rebounds. He will need the likes of Donte Ingram to step up to the plate if the Giants are to keep their hopes alive. Meanwhile the Huskies have a couple of key points scorers with Chris Johnson topping the table thanks to his 20.3 points. He is also handy on the assists front with an average of three to his name along with 7.3 defensive rebounds. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa and Dontae Nance are also known for their ability to chime in and hit the scoreboard which the visitors will need in this contest.

Otago Nuggets vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Edgar Centre

It is going to be an enthralling top four battle as Otago Nuggets host Hawkes Bay Hawks in hope to solidify their standings on the ladder. The Hawks currently sit two games ahead of the Nuggets but a win here could shift things and give the home side some real confidence heading into the backend of the season. But Otago will have to pull out the big guns having gone down to Hawkes Bay by 30 points last time the two sides met. Both teams are coming in off a loss and will be looking to put their foot down with a strong showing here. Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins have been the most dominant scorers for the Nuggets with the pair averaging 21.6 and 20.6 points respectively with the latter also racking up 4.9 assists and 11.1 rebounds. The Hawks have a number of players capable of causing some scoreboard trouble with Ethan Rusbatch boasting an average of 19.4 points, Devondrick Walker averaging 18.9 and Hyrum Harris with 13.3. Harris is no slouch when it comes to assists picking up 3.6 per game while also imposing himself off the boards with a team-high 5.4 rebounds making him one to watch.

Franklin Bulls vs. Taranaki Mountainairs
Saturday, July 3 @7:30pm
Franklin Pool and Leisure Centre

The Mountainairs will be gearing up for their second game in as many days while the Bulls will be hoping their added break will give them the legs to overrun the struggling side. Not much separates the two teams with the Bulls sitting second last on the ladder but two wins ahead while Taranaki will be yearning for a win and this is probably their best opportunity. It was a blowout the last time they met with the Bulls claiming a 16-point victory but when looking at form it is the Mountainairs that hold the upper hand registering a win last round while the Bulls are on a four-game losing streak. Keep an eye out for Joshua Selby given he averages 24.4 points, 3.8 assists and 4.9 rebounds for the Bulls and expect Jones to do the heavy-lifting for the Airs. Denhym Brooke is also a crucial cog for the Bulls recording an average of 10.9 points as Francis Mulvihill will hope to be crafty with ball in hand.

Manawatu Jets vs. Auckland Huskies
Sunday, July 4 @3:00pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

Manawatu Jets are set to take on the Huskies as they look to bounce back from a shock loss last week. The Huskies got over the line by nine points back in April when the two sides locked horns and will be hoping to repeat that feat once again to continue their way up the ladder. Manawatu have been guilty of turning ball over and will need to treasure possession in this clash if they are to roll the Huskies. The Jets will need big efforts from Shane Temara, DeAndre Daniels, Daishon Knight and Jayden Bezzant if they are to post a competitive total and generate some real momentum. Knight tops the table with an average of 23.4 points while Daniels is also prolific thanks to his 16.5 points. Temara and Bezzant average 15.7 and 15.6 points apiece with the former also able to dish off dimes with ease thanks to his average of 3.2 assists.

Southland Sharks vs. Hawkes Bay Hawks
Sunday, July 4 @5:00pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The final game of the round is between Southland Sharks and Hawkes Bay Hawks – another top four battle. Sitting on 10 wins apiece heading into the clash, this one could prove to be ladder defining so expect both sides to leave nothing to chance. The two sides have played off three times this year and the Hawks have come out on top each time giving them a wealth of confidence and belief heading into this clash. Expect a high quality game with the likes of Kelman-Poto and Rusbatch renowned for their ability to hit the scoreboard with ease for their respective sides.

Photo credit: Shane Wenzlick/Photosport via NZNBL

Title contenders claim big wins in one-sided night of action

TITLE contenders Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints have established their top two positions on the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) ladder, with big wins in their respective matches overnight. The top placed Sharks won the first three quarters to take complete control over Franklin Bulls on their way to a 101-69 triumph, whilst the Saints bounced back from a loss to Hawke’s Bay Hawks last start, to win 89-63 in their home clash and retake the second spot Hawke’s Bay had snatched from them.

Southland Sharks did all the damage early, piling on 32 points to 15, leaving the visiting Bulls on the back foot from the start, then added 21-15 in the second term to lead by 23 points at the main break. Needing a spark in the second half, the Bulls could not find it until the final term – which they won by two points – as the Sharks added another 29 points to 18 in the third, leading to the eventual 32-point victory, 101-69.

The Sharks won every statistic in the book, from field goal shooting percentage (47 to 36 per cent), rebounds (52-41), assists (20-17) and steals (13-6). They had seven less turnovers (15-22) and therefore more points from turnovers (25-18), and also had more points in the paint (46-32), second chance points (22-7) and bench points (33-22).

Josh Cunningham piled on 22 points, seven rebounds, three assists and two steals in the win, as he grabbed the Most Valuable Player (MVP) from the match. Not far behind him was Courtney Belger (13 points, six assists and four steals) who also impressed, while Brayden Inger had the 18 points – four of eight from long-range – and six rebounds. Alonzo Burton (11 points, four rebounds) and Sione Helu (10 points, three assists and two rebounds) also hit double-figure points, while Toby Gillooly came close to a double-double of nine points and nine rebounds.

For the Bulls, Manel Ayol was the star with 17 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, with a couple of fellow recent additions since the completion of the ANBL season also holding their own. Isaac Davidson (11 points, five rebounds and three assists) and Kyrin Galloway (eight points, 12 rebounds and two steals) both tried hard, whilst the Bulls’ old firm – being there since the start of the season – in Denhym Brooke (nine points, five rebounds and three blocks) also worked well in tandem.

Wellington Saints had an equally comprehensive win over Taranaki Mountainairs in a top-against-bottom clash at TSB Bank Arena. The Saints won every quarter in the match, starting off strongly to race to a 47-28 lead at the main break, then won the second half by seven points to claim a 26-point victory, 89-63.

The Saints were the more accurate of the sides (45 to 40 per cent field goal accuracy), also knocking down 11 three-pointers to six. They had more rebounds (48-28), assists (15-10) and steals (12-6), with the Airs winning the blocks (4-1). Wellington finished with more points in the paint (44-28), second chance points (14-7), points from turnovers (24-15) and bench points (34-20) in a real dominant effort.

It was incredibly difficult for judges to select an MVP from the match with seven players earning between six and three votes. In the end, captain Dion Prewster got the nod in the Saints’ winning performance, finishing with 10 points, four rebounds and four assists. Tohi Smith-Milner (15 points, four rebounds, three steals and two assists), Kerwin Roach Jr (13 points, five assists and three rebounds), Leon Henry (13 points, 11 rebounds and two steals) and Ezrah Vaigafa (11 points, six rebounds) all picked up votes in an even team performance. Ken Tuffin was another one who contributed strongly with 13 points and six rebounds.

Tai Wynyard tried his hardest for the Airs with 15 points, four rebounds and two steals, grabbing MVP votes in the heavy loss with Baxter Fenwick (10 points, two rebound) Marcel Jones had a quieter night, only shooting two of nine from the field on his way to 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and two blocks. Francis Mulvihill (seven points, four rebounds, two assists and two steals) was the other player who did his best in the loss.

Both the losers will have to regroup themselves for matches today as Franklin Bulls and Taranaki Mountainairs both hit the road to take on Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams respectively. The Wellington Saints take on Nelson Giants next Friday night, with Southland Sharks hosting Auckland Huskies on the Saturday night.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Rams deflate Airs early as Saints produce record-breaking third term

TWO separate stunning single quarter efforts from Canterbury Rams and Wellington Saints proved to be the difference in their respective New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) clashes overnight. The Rams deflated the Taranaki Mountainairs in the opening term with a 37-point quarter to all but suck the life out of the contest on the road on their way to an 18-point win, whilst the Saints blew the Manawatu Jets away in the third quarter with a dominant 43-point term to win by 23 points.

Canterbury Rams powered to an 18-point advantage at quarter time courtesy of a stunning 37-point first term, which ultimately proved the difference between the sides. The Rams pushed it out to 20 points at the half, and whilst the Airs did win the third term, the visitors settled in the last to run out 103-85 winners, not losing control of the lead from the midpoint of the first term, and almost getting out to a 30-point advantage.

The Rams shot at an impressive 55 per cent from the field, ahead of the Airs’ 47 per cent, shooting a massive 12 triples from 26 attempts, as the home team struggled from long-range, converting just three of 19. Taranaki also won the assists (23-18) and steals (17-13) in a high turnover game as the teams combined for 53 turnovers (27-26 towards the Rams). The Rams had 28 points from turnovers compared to the Airs’ 25, whilst also winning the bench points (22-18). Taranaki won the rebounds (36-33), blocks (4-2), points in the paint (56-42) and second chance points (17-8).

EJ Singler produced arguably the best performances of the season for the Rams, not missing a single shot from 16 field goals attempts for a massive 41 points – six triples – as well as nine assists, seven rebounds, three steals and no turnovers in a stunning effort. Deshon Taylor (20 points, five rebounds and five steals) chipped in, but by contrast had 10 turnovers. Alex Talma (12 points, five rebounds) and Mason Whittaker (10 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals) also hit double-figure points.

For the Airs, Tai Wynyard topped the scoring with 16 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Marcel Jones notched up another double-double of 15 points, 11 rebounds, six assists and three steals. Haize Walker (13 points, three rebounds), Carlin Davison (12 points, five rebounds and two assists), Francis Mulvihill (11 points, three steals and two assists) and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (11 points, three rebounds and three steals) all had double-figure points.

In the other match, the impressive Wellington Saints were well matched by the plucky Manawatu Jets for a half, before putting the foot down in the third term. Leading by just four points at half-time, the Saints stepped up the intensity for a stunning 43 points to 13 in the third term to blow it out to a game-high 34-point final break lead. The Jets to their credit did reel it in a little with a 30-19 term, but despite their strong finish could not cut the deficit back enough and the Saints won, 100-77.

The Saints were deadly from three-point range which was the difference, shooting at 41 per cent – 18 of 43 – to the Jets’ 28 per cent – eight of 28 – for a total efficiency of 47 to 45 per cent. They also lead the rebounds (45-32), assists (21-9), second chance points (16-14) and points from turnovers (19-13), and had three less turnovers (10-13). Manawatu won the steals (6-5), blocks (4-1) and bench points (32-23) and were at least impressive from inside the arc (20 of 34 for a 58 per cent efficiency).

Tohi Smith-Milner won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) award for the night with 21 points – four of seven from long-range – nine rebounds and two assists. Kerwin Roach Jr also picked up a double-double of 14 points, 11 rebounds and four assists. Dion Prewster (16 points, eight assists and six assists), Ken Tuffin (15 points, two assists) and Taane Samuel (11 points, eight rebounds) also stood out in a really strong starting five performance for the Saints.

Daishon Knight was the clear best for the Jets, putting up 25 points, six rebounds, four assists and three steals in an all-round effort. Deandre Daniels hit 14 points, five rebounds and two assists, whilst coming off the bench, Nikau McCullough produced four of 10 from long-range for 16 points from 22 minutes, as well as four rebounds. Kalib Marsich-Mullins (10 points, two rebounds) also held his own in 20 minutes on court.

Canterbury Rams have a Thursday night road trip in a few days up against Auckland Huskies, whilst Wellington Saints take on Hawkes Bay Hawks on Friday night. In other matches, Taranaki Mountainairs then face the Saints on Saturday, before Manawatu Jets front up against the Hawks on Sunday.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Giants deflate Airs with big win on Queen’s Birthday

NELSON Giants have produced a commanding performance to defeat Taranaki Mountainairs by 14 points on a Queens Birthday afternoon clash in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) competition. After going down to Manawatu Jets by one point in their last encounter, the Giants started strongly and never looked back, dominating the Airs to run out 100-86 winners at the Trafalgar Centre.

Nelson took control from the first tip-off, putting on 29 points to 16 in the opening term, before going out to a 22-point half-time lead. With a commanding 57-35 advantage heading into the third term, the Giants found the going a little tougher after getting out to as much as a 34-point lead. Taranaki Mountainairs roared to life to outscore the Giants by 20 points in the run home, being competitive in a high-scoring third term, before winning the last quarter 27-14. It was a case of too little, too late however, as Nelson got the win.

The Giants nailed 16 triples to 11 in the match, and whilst their shooting efficiency was lower (46 to 50 per cent) from the field, they made up for it with a high volume of shot, putting up 38 of 81 compared to 34 of 67. They also won the rebounds (44-34), assists (24-20) and steals (12-8). With less turnovers (12-19), they capitalised on points from turnovers (33-22), and also had more second chance points (18-12) and bench points (40-16). The Airs had an extra two blocks (4-2), more points in the paint (42-36) and less personal fouls (15-17).

Donte Ingram (22 points, 11 rebounds, four steals and three assists) lead the way, teaming up well with Hunter Hale who had 20 points, seven assists, four rebounds and two steals. Ingram dropped five of six from long-range in a three-point scoring clinic, as Tyler Marsh had four from four off the bench for eight points and two assists, whilst Riley Bensemann hit both his three-point attempts for six points and two rebounds. Sam Dempster (five points, seven rebounds), Anzac Risetto (eight points, three rebounds and two assists) and Nic Trathen (10 points, two rebounds) all contributed in an even team performance across the board.

For Taranaki Mountainairs, Marcel Jones again carried the team, putting up 32 points – including four of nine from long-range – as well as six rebounds, three steals and two assists. Tai Wynyard played a support role with 17 points, four rebounds and three assists, whilst Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape had 10 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals. Carlin Davison (nine points, eight rebounds and five assists) was the other lively player, with support from Haize Walker (six points, four assists and three rebounds) and Francis Mulvihill (six points, two rebounds and two assists).

Taranaki Mountainairs next play on Sunday against Canterbury Rams, as the Nelson Giants wait until June 18 in an 11-day break before hosting the Otago Nuggets.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Sharks hand Saints first loss as Hawks and Huskies claim wins

IT was a triple treat of action in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night, as Southland Sharks became the first side to reach seven wins, downing the previously undefeated Wellington Saints to temporarily take top spot, while Hawkes Bay Hawks and Auckland Huskies both collected wins to remain in the top five. While the Sharks knocked off the Saints by 14 points, Hawkes Bay Hawks smashed Franklin Bulls by 37, and Auckland Huskies easily accounted for Taranaki Mountainairs by 22.

The Sharks came to play at ILT Stadium in front of home fans, proving themselves a title contender by racing out to a four-point lead at quarter time, which grew to 11 points by the main break. Wellington hit back in the third term to cut the deficit back to six with a quarter to play, before a dominant final term in favour of the Sharks (20-12) saw them run away with the 14-point victory, 84-70.

Dom Kelman-Poto racked up a massive double-double of 17 points and 11 rebounds, as well as six assists on the night. Courtney Belger top-scored with 19 points, and had the seven assists, four rebounds and two steals in an all-round effort. Fellow starters, Alonzo Burton (15 points, five assists and five steals), Josh Cunningham (13 points, nine rebounds) and Brayden Inger (14 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals) all clocked in some serious minutes in the Sharks’ win.

Kerwin Roach Jr had a team-high 17 points for the visitors, also notching up seven rebounds and six assists, while Dion Prewster (11 points, eight rebounds and four assists) also came close to a double-double. Taane Samuel (13 points, three assists and two rebounds) was the other player to record double-digit points, while Tohi Smith-Milner (seven points, nine rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (eight points, four rebounds) were also solid despite the defeat.

In the biggest win of the night, Hawkes Bay Hawks easily accounted for Franklin Bulls, winning by 37 points on the road, 110-73. The Hawks put the foot down early with a dominant 33-10 first quarter, and whilst the Bulls managed to win the second term by four, were no match for the dominant Hawks, who went on to score 56 points to 38 in the second half, and consolidate a top three spot with a big win.

Ethan Rusbatch was sensational with a whopping eight of 13 from long-range to help him accumulate 27 points, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocks in the victory. Derone Raukawa finished with 14 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals, and Jonathan Janssen came off the bench for 18 points and eight rebounds. Others who had no trouble scoring were Rhys Vague (15 points, five rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (15 points, six rebounds), while Devondrick Walker came agonisingly close to a triple-double of nine points, eight rebounds, eight assists and two steals.

In a disappointing night for the Bulls, Denhym Brooke still stood up with 17 points – five of 17 from three-point range – eight rebounds and three assists. Jett Thompson (12 points) and Dylan Wilkie (11) had their fair share of points, whilst Joseph Nunag (nine points, seven rebounds and two assists) and Zachary Easthope (nine points, five rebounds) were both solid in the loss.

In the third game of the night, Auckland Huskies posted a 22-point triumph over Taranaki Mountainairs. The Huskies won the first half by 11 points, to head into the main break with a 53-42 lead. The third term was even, but the visitors stepped it up a gear in the last quarter, pouring on 28 points to 17 to double their lead and win, 106-84.

Chris Johnson had a night out with 26 points – nailing all four three-point attempts – 11 rebounds – nine defensive – and five assists in a double-double effort. He was far from alone however, with two more players recording 19 points, and two more reaching 18. Coming off the bench, teenager Dontae Nance helped himself to 19 points, five rebounds and five assists, levelling with Takiula Fahrensohn (19 points, three rebounds). Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (18 points, five assists, three rebounds and three steals) and Zach Riley (18 points, five assists and three steals) also notched up big numbers.

For the Airs, Marcel Jones did his usual thing with 20 points, seven rebounds, five assists and two steals in a workman-like effort. Carlin Davison had 16 points, four rebounds and two assists in the loss, while Haize Walker (14 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Francis Mulvihill (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) also had busy nights on the stats sheet.

The quickest turnarounds belong to the Southland Sharks and Wellington Saints who both hit the road to face Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams respectively tonight. The Auckland Huskies travel to lock horns with Hawkes Bay Hawks tomorrow, whilst the Franklin Bulls tackle the Manawatu Jets, and the Taranaki Mountainairs face the Nelson Giants on Monday.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 4 preview: Giants to play triple treat in huge round of action

NELSON Giants will play three matches in four days as part of Round 4 of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) competition this weekend. There is plenty on the line for all 10 teams as they look to grab some crucial wins at this stage of the season.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS
Thursday, May 20 @ 7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

Opening up the round of action as part of three concurrent matches, two sides with opposite trajectories go head-to-head. The Canterbury Rams have strung together back-to-back wins since dropping their first two games, whilst the Nelson Giants have lost three on the trot and now sit in the perilous position of 1-4 and ninth of the NZNBL table. They will be keen to get the win here in front of home fans before hitting the road to take on the Otago Nuggets. The Rams also have a second game, up against Franklin Bulls at home. Deshon Taylor has been a shining light for the Rams, putting up 20.0 points, 5.8 assists, 4.8 rebounds and 2.3 steals, teaming up well with EJ Singler (12.0 points, 6.8 rebounds, 5.5 assists and 1.3 steals). Jack Salt is one of the most crucial big men in the competition, almost averaging a double-double of 17.0 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.7 steals. Hunter Hale has been lighting it up for the Giants, racking up 23.2 points, 5.4 rebounds, 4.2 assists and 2.4 steals per match, with Donte Ingram (18.4 points, 6.6 rebounds and 2.2 assists) and Tom Ingham (10.6 points, 2.4 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.0 steals) the other players averaging double-figure points this season.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS
Thursday, May 20 @ 7:30pm
TSB Stadium

Yet to lose a game, Hawke’s Bay Hawks will hit the road for the first time this season after three straight wins at home to tip-off the season. They are keeping touch with the Wellington Saints at the top of the table, but have a couple of games this round against Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies. The Airs sit at 1-3 for the season, but won their last start at home, and will be keen to build some momentum given they only have the minus-16 points differential at this stage. Marcel Jones is the man the Hawks must try to contain, with the dominant big man averaging 23.3 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.3 blocks. Haize Walker (9.5 points, 4.8 rebounds and 4.5 assists) and Francis Mulvihill (8.5 points, 3.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 steals) are the next highest points-scorers. For the Hawks, Hyrum Harris has returned to the fold perfectly, putting up 16.7 points, 8,3 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 steals, whilst Jonathan Janssen (15.3 points, 10.7 rebounds and 2.0 assists) is averaging a double-double, and Devondrick Walker top-scoring off two games with 21.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Thursday, May 20 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

The third game of the night over at TSB Bank Arena is the Wellington Saints up against Franklin Bulls. The Saints have been the benchmark team all season, winning by an average margin of 25, whilst the Bulls have won three out of five and sit third thanks to their plus-10 points differential. As the match will be the Saints’ only game, they get a rest for the remainder of the week, whilst the Bulls travel to Cowles Stadium 48 hours later to lock horns with the Rams. Dion Prewster has been the key player for the Saints, knocking down 24.5 points, 5.0 rebounds, 4.8 assists and 1.5 steals, whilst the likes of Kerwin Roach (16.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.5 steals) and Taane Samuel (15.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists) have been terrific. Josh Selby will have a chance to go head-to-head with fellow MVP contender Prewster, with the Bulls’ talent averaging 26.0 points, 6.2 rebounds, 4.6 assists and 2.4 steals. He and Zane Waterman (25.8 points, 13.3 rebounds and 1.8 assists) have lead the way, while Joseph Nunag‘s contribution off the bench (14.8 points, 2.0 assists and 1.2 steals) has been solid.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES* vs. HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS
Friday, May 21 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

Auckland Huskies will come into Friday’s night’s clash fresh up against a Hawks outfit that will have played the night before. The Huskies have dropped their past two games after winning their first three, and have replaced Jeremy Kendle (28.3 points, 6.0 assists and 4.3 rebounds) with American import Justin Bibbs. Chris Johnson (21.7 points, 9.3 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.7 blocks and 1.0 steals) has done it all for the Huskies, whilst Brooke Ruscoe (16.6 points, 4.2 rebounds, 3.6 assists and 1.4 steals) has also been prolific. Expect them to want to make a statement at home against a Hawks side potentially tired from the game the night before.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Saturday, May 22 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

Both these teams will be playing their second game of the round in what will be a testing time for list management over the weekend.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Saturday, May 22 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

Nelson Giants return to the court after 48 hours to travel to the Edgar Centre for a clash with reigning premiers Otago Nuggets. The Nuggets are 3-2 for the season, and will be hoping to leapfrog Franklin Bulls with a win and a Bulls’ loss or two over the weekend. Sam Timmins has been enormous at the five for the Nuggets, averaging 17.5 points, 11.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Isaiah Moss (16.8 points, 5.0 rebounds) and Geremy McKay (7.8 points, 4.2 rebounds) are others who have impressed thus far for the Nuggets.

MANAWATU JETS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS
Sunday, May 23 @ 3:00pm
The Ballroom

As the Airs try and win their second game from two chances this weekend, the last placed Manawatu Jets hope to get off the bottom with a maiden victory. Sitting at 0-5, though rather unluckily with an average losing margin of eight points, the Jets will be every chance in this contest at The Ballroom. American duo Daishon Knight (24.8 points, 4.0 assists, 3.6 assists and 2.8 steals) and Shane Temara (14.2 points, 11.6 rebounds and 1.8 assists) have been among the top Jets this season, while Jayden Bezzant (18.6 points, 4.2 rebounds and 3.0 assists) has been a potent scorer for the cellar dwellers.

SOUTHLAND SHARKS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Sunday, May 23 @ 5:00pm
ILT Stadium

The last team to enter Round 4 of the NZNBL is the Southland Sharks who host the Nelson Giants on Sunday evening. The Giants will be playing their third game of the round in a hefty weekend for them, and will only have less than 24 hours to turnaround for the third match. The Sharks come in fresh with a 3-3 record, having bounced back from the three consecutive losses with a win last start, and are unbeaten at home so far, which they will be hoping to continue here. Dom Kelman-Poto (15.5 points, 9.5 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1,0 steals) has been superb, teaming up well with Josh Cunningham (13.3 points, 7.8 rebounds) and Alonzo Burton (12.3 points, 2.2 assists and 2.2 steals) in a real show of homegrown talent at the Sharks.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 3 preview: Contenders likely to form after ladder-defining round

THE mid-table logjam of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) is likely to be broken up after Round 3 of competition, with some ladder-defining clashes having the potential to separate the contenders from the pretenders.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Friday, May 14 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

Opening up Round 3 of NZNBL action is the undefeated Auckland Huskies looking for their fourth straight win, this time on the road against a Canterbury Rams outfit starting to gel. The Rams won their last encounter after back-to-back losses, and will look to make it two on the trot in what will be their only game of the weekend. The Huskies will need to back up just under 48 hours later when they take on the Southland Sharks, so will look to grab some momentum in this match. The undefeated Huskies have been led sensationally by Jeremy Kendle who is averaging 28.3 points, 6.0 assists, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals to be among the best players in the competition. Throw in a debut from Chris Johnson (30 points, 12 rebounds, two assists and one block) and teenage star Dontae Nance (15.3 points, 3.0 rebounds) and the Huskies have quite the formidable line-up. The Rams have had an even spread across the board led by EJ Singler (14.0 points, 7.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 1.0 steals), while Daishon Taylor (16.3 points, 3.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists and 2.3 steals) and Jack Salt (14.5 points. 7.0 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.5 steals and 1.0 blocks) have been consistent across multiple aspects on court.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Friday, May 14 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Turning the attention to the other Friday night clash two mid-table teams go head-to-head in the Franklin Bulls and Southland Sharks. Both sides are poised at 2-2 from four games this season, with the Bulls coming off a loss and the Sharks having dropped their past two games after winning their first two. They will look to arrest that mini-slide in this one, playing their fourth away game out of five for the season, whilst the Bulls are playing their fourth home game. Josh Selby is leading the Most Valuable Player (MVP) voting having put up 30.8 points, 6.3 rebounds, 4.5 assists and 2.5 steals in season 2021. He has worked well in tandem with Zane Waterman (24.0 points, 14.7 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.0 blocks), while Joseph Nunag has come off the bench to contribute 14.3 points per game. The Sharks have a well-balanced unit, with Josh Cunningham (13.8 points, 8.0 rebounds and 1.3 steals) and Dom Kelman-Poto (11.8 points, 7.0 rebound, 3.0 assists and 1.3 steals) teaming up well off the boards while Alonzo Burton has managed the 12.0 points and 2.3 steals per game in the front court.

MANAWATU JETS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS
Saturday, May 15 @ 7:30pm
Fly Palmy Arena

After four straight losses, Manawatu Jets will be hoping something has to give against the Otago Nuggets, having been relatively competitive in most of their clashes. The Jets are 0-4, but are playing their first home game of the season which might spark a revival, especially considering the Nuggets are yet to hit the road in season 2021. The reigning premiers lost their opening game of the season to the Wellington Saints, but have since strung together a couple of victories and will be going for win number three here. Despite the winless start, the Jets have had some shining lights, with back court players Daishon Knight (26.5 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists and 3.0 steals) and Jayden Bezzant (21.8 points, 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists) having impressive shooting starts, while forward Shane Temara is averaging a double-double of 14.8 points and 12.0 rebounds. For the Nuggets, Isaiah Moss (17.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.3 steals) has been an impressive import, whilst Sam Timmins (13.7 points, 6.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists) has shouldered the rebounding load, for Josh Aitcheson to assist (8.0 points, 2.0 rebounds) in the scoring.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Saturday, May 15 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

Much like Auckland Huskies, the Wellington Saints will be eyeing off a fourth straight win, and appear to be the team to beat. Much like most of the past decade, the Saints have set a ripping pace to start the season, whilst the Nelson Giants have begun a bit up and down, with one win from two games. At home, the Saints have won both their clashes and all up have a points differential of plus-75, whilst the Giants have been relatively even with minus-nine and are 1-1 on the road. The Saints do not have to worry about another game, whilst the Giants play the next day so will look to manage the roster. Dion Prewster is in MVP contention with a roaring start to the season putting up 28.0 points, 5.7 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 1.7 steals per game. He is one of five players to average double-figure points, with Kerwin Roach (17.7 points, 5.0 assists, 3.7 rebounds and 2.3 steals) and Romaro Gill (10.3 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.0 steals and 1.3 blocks) among the other top performers in the top of the table side. Two Americans in Hunter Hale (22.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 4.7 assists and 2.3 steals) and Donte Ingram (20.7 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.0 assists) have lit up the NZNBL to-date, whilst Sam Dempster has provide good support off the boards with 6.7 points and 7.3 rebounds.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Sunday, May 16 @ 3:00pm
Trusts Arena

Having both played previously, Huskies and Sharks will be rotating players heavily in this one. The Huskies have had some fights along the way to their three victories, and the Sharks will be expecting to provide another one here, while the visitors will hope to end the round with a 4-2 record, and right back up with the top contenders in the league.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Sunday, May 16 @ 5:00pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

Coming in for their first game of Round 3, Hawke’s Bay Hawks will have been well prepared to take on a Nelson Giants outfit that played the night before. Fully rested from the week, the Hawks will be favoured to extend their win-loss record to 3-0, whilst the Giants have the tough ask of trying to knock off two unbeaten sides back-to-back or else slip to the unwanted record of 1-4 early in the season. In previewing the Hawks line-up, Jonathan Janssen has been the versatile power forward with 11.5 points, 12.0 rebounds, 2.5 assists and 1.0 steals per game, whilst players with ANBL experience, Hyrum Harris (13.5 points, 7.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists) and Devondrick Walker (21.0 points, 3.5 rebounds, 3.0 assists and 1.5 steals) have certainly started strongly.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. OTAGO NUGGETS
Sunday, May 16 @ 5:00pm
TSB Stadium

The Nuggets will have no fears of the road after this round, playing a second consecutive away game for Round 3. After taking on the Manawatu Jets away, the reigning premiers head to TSB Stadium to face the Taranaki Mountainairs, of whom are in the bottom two like the Jets. The Airs will be desperate to get a win on the board before slipping to 0-4, whilst the Nuggets can really assert themselves as a chance to go back-to-back with victories over the bottom two sides. Marcel Jones has been a lone hand for the Airs this season, averaging a double-double of 22.7 points, 10.0 rebounds, 3.3 assists and 1.3 blocks. Francis Mulvihill (9.7 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.7 assists and 1.3 steals) and Haize Walker (9.3 points, 4.7 rebounds and 3.7 assists) have been the other two players to start every game and contribute to the Airs’ cause.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 2 preview: Top two sides do battle in Friday night blockbuster

THE top two sides will lock horns in a massive Friday night blockbuster clash in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), with a number of undefeated matches, as well as winless head-to-heads set to shake up the ladder at the conclusion of Round 2.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS
Thursday, May 6 @ 7:30pm
TSB Stadium

In their first home game of the season, Taranaki Mountainairs will be hoping to break their back-to-back losses from Round 1 against the 1-1 Franklin Bulls. After dropping their opening game, the Bulls bounced back to win their second encounter, and sit in sixth with an almost identical points for and points against column, and will be keen to win for Aaron Bailey-Nowell‘s 300th NZNBL game. Marcel Jones has started off as one would expect for the Airs, averaging 17.5 points, 10.0 rebounds and 4.0 assists per game, teaming up well with shooter Francis Mulvihill (10.5 points, 4.5 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.5 steals). The pair are the only players to average double-figure points after two matches, with Franklin Bulls by comparison having five. Josh Selby has proven to be one of the most prolific shooters in the competition, dropping 26.5 points, 7.0 rebounds, 5.0 assists and 3.0 steals, whilst in his only match in Round 1, Zan Waterman managed 25 points and 14 rebounds. Joseph Nunag (17.0 points, 2.5 assists) and Denhym Brooks (12 points, four rebounds) are the other key scorers for the Bulls, and they will be favourites to win this clash.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

A top of the table clash between two undefeated sides is set to light up TSB Bank Arena on Friday night, with the Wellington Saints and Southland Sharks making the perfect starts to their 2021 campaigns after missing the 2020 season. The Saints are the most successful team in the competition’s history, and they have started off on fire, with a points differential of 43. The Sharks are the next best side with a lower scoring output, but also conceding less to be plus-21 from their Round 1 clashes. Dion Prewster has been the top player in the NZNBL to start the season, earning two Player of the Match awards for his 31 points, five rebounds, 4.5 assists and two steals per game. Kerwin Roach (18.5 points, 4.5 assists, 4.0 rebounds and 2.5 steals) and Romaro Gill (11.5 points, 6.5 rebounds and 1.5 blocks) have also started the season in strong form. For the Sharks, they have a trio of dominant players off the boards who can also shoot, with Josh Cunningham (14.0 points, 9.5 rebounds), Dom Kelman-Poto (11.0 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (12.5 points, 7.0 rebounds) likely to stretch the Saints close to the basket.

CANTERBURY RAMS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Friday, May 7 @ 7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A battle between two winless sides is the opposite Friday night clash, as the seventh placed Jets take on the last placed Rams. The Jets have come close and are only minus 10 for the points differential thus far, whilst the Rams have started off the season like they did last season – before charging up in finals – with a minus-35 points differential and sitting on the bottom. Quintin Bailey (16.5 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.5 assists) has shared the top points-scorer nod with import Deshon Taylor (16.5 points, 5.5 assists, 2.0 rebounds and 2.0 steals). The other two players to have impacted the scoreboard across both games are Ben Constable (11.0 points, 5.5 rebounds) and EJ Singler (11.0 points, 6.5 rebounds and 3.5 assists). The Jets have had some prominent scorers, but not a lot from their depth, as Daishon Knight (26.5 points, 3.5 assists, 3.0 steals and 2.0 rebounds) has been impressive, shooting at 69.7 per cent from the field. Jayden Bezzant has been a deadeye himself with 22.0 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.5 assists with a 66.7 per cent clip, while Shane Temara (17.0 points, 12.0 points) and DeAndre Daniels (13.5 points, 10.0 rebounds) are averaging double-doubles. The Jets have the top-end talent to be favourites in this encounter.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. NELSON GIANTS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

Coming back for their second game of the weekend, the Franklin Bulls could build some momentum in Round 2 if they can string back-to-back victories against winless sides. The Bulls’ second match comes on Saturday night at home up against Nelson Giants, with the Giants relying a lot on import Donte Ingram in game one. The Giants suffered a 19-point loss last week, and Ingram was the only scorer in double-digits with 20 points, six rebounds and three assists. Sam Dempster (seven points, nine rebounds) helped off the boards, while Hunter Hale (eight points, six rebounds and three assists) did a bit of everything. It will be a tough ask for the Giants, but it was only one game, so they will be looking for a better effort here.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

Having clashed with the Rams on Friday night, the Jets then face reigning premiers Otago Nuggets on Saturday night. The 2020 NZNBL Grand Final rematch will see the sides come in with no more than two wins between them, though the Nuggets looked impressive in their second game out. As mentioned above, the Jets have some serious top-end talent, but the Nuggets can match them in that department. They have only has three players score more than three points per game in the opening two matches, as Isaiah Moss (10 points, three rebounds), Sam Timmins (nine points, 4.5 rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (seven points, 2.5 rebounds) the main focal points. They will need to share the load against a high-scoring Jets outfit.

HAWKE’S BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Saturday, May 8 @ 7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

It will be Southland Shark’s turn to do the double-up in what is a tough weekend for them against two other undefeated sides. With the premiership favourites Wellington Saints the Friday night clash, the Sharks then turn their attention to the fourth placed Hawke’s Bay Hawks on Saturday night. The Hawks have only played the one game, but their start power certainly fired, with Devondrick Walker having a night out with 26 points, five rebounds and five assists, while Hyrum Harris marked his return to the Hawks in style with 18 points, seven rebounds and three assists. Jonathan Janssen (12 points, nine rebounds) and Ethan Rusbatch (10 points, six rebounds) were also prolific off the boards, and the Hawks will really worry the Sharks in this Round 2 contest.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. NELSON GIANTS
Sunday, May 9 @ 5:00pm
Eventfinda Stadium

The last undefeated side in Auckland Huskies host the final game of the NZNBL Round 2 up against the Nelson Giants who will be coming off a clash against Franklin Bulls the night before. The standalone Sunday evening game will be favoured for the Huskies who have ticked off both challenges in Round 1, and will be looking to take down the Giants in this one. Jeremy Kendle has been running hot in the league, putting up 31 points, 5.5 assists and five rebounds per game as one of the most dominant shooters thus far. Teenage star Dontae Nance made a statement in Round 1 with 22 points and four rebounds, while Brooke Ruscoe (15.5 points, 5.5 rebounds and 3.0 assists) and Nick Barrow (11.5 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.0 assists) also impressive in the opening round of action.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Cunningham’s jumper saves Sharks in thriller with Airs

A TWO-point jump shot from Josh Cunningham in the dying seconds has saved Southland Sharks from surrendering a 13-point half-time lead, just getting past a determined Taranaki Mountainairs by that exact jump shot, 78-76. The Sharks dominated the opening term to race out to a 12-point lead, and held the 13-point advantage at the main break, before the Airs hit back. Over the next two quarters, the visitors piled on 42 points to 31 to race back into contention, even levelling the scores with 12 seconds on the clock, before Cunningham hit the winning shot with seven seconds to go.

The Sharks took control from the first tip-off, scoring the first five points through Dom Kelman-Poto (two) and Courtney Belger (three), while the Airs missed their first three long-range attempts before Tai Wynyard struck true from inside the arc. It was not long before Brayden Inger made his presence felt, worrying the Airs’ defence and getting to the line. His two successful free throws in the final few minutes put the lead out to 19-9, and whilst Marcel Jones did get a basket back, the Sharks secured the last four points for a 23-11 first term lead.

The game was much more even after quarter time, as the Sharks got out to a 15-point lead, but Jones continued to be a problem, and for each of the home team’s baskets, the Airs responded with five different players scoring midway through the term. Jones and Francis Mulvihill added five consecutive points to drag the deficit back to within 10, but Toby Gillooly and Kelman-Poto quickly stretched that out again, with only a Jones triple in the final seven seconds making it a 13-point half-time deficit.

Southland started the third like they had the first half, scoring the first seven points of the match to race out to a game-high 20-point lead. It looked like it might end up a blowout, but a timeout when the Airs were down by 18 points with five minutes on the clock changed things. Led by Haize Walker, and cameos from Wynyard and Nelson Kirksey, the Airs scored 13 consecutive points and with a 61-54 scoreline at the final break, it was well and truly game on.

The Airs got within five when Walker nailed back-to-back free throws, but a run of five consecutive points for the Sharks pushed the lead back out to 10. The largest margin of the final term was 12, when Alonzo Burton nailed a triple with 6:15 on the clock and the score read 71-59. Six straight points saw that lead halved until Cunningham stepped up. He delivered with the layup as well as the And-One chance, and the Sharks were out to a nine-point lead with 3:41 on the clock.

Then came the Airs. Wynyard quickly responded with a turnaround jump shot, and when Jones nailed a triple with 89 seconds on the clock, the deficit was just five points. Belger (twice) and Burton both missed chances in the final minute, and when Calin Davison successfully delivered off the alley-oop, it was three points the difference and all of a sudden, the tension in the building was sky high. Gillooly stretched it out to a two-play game with only one of two free throws with 17 seconds on the clock, and Jones returned to the action to hit a jump shot with 13 seconds left. He unluckily missed the And-One chance off the foul, but when Wynyard scooped up the offensive rebounds and hit the jumper, scores were level with 12 seconds on the clock.

In a change up, Jones was subbed out with Walker subbed back in, only for Cunningham to be the hero with seven seconds on the clock. His jumper handed the Sharks the lead, and whilst Jones was quickly brought back on for Kirksey and chosen as the man to try and win the game from long-range, his shot missed and the buzzer sounded with the Sharks victorious, 78-76.

In the end, the Sharks were not as accurate as they could have been – shooting at 34 to 43 per cent from the field, but their work in winning the ball back – 14 steals to two – was phenomenal, whilst the Airs wasted possession with 18 turnovers to eight. The Sharks also punished the Airs for their turnovers, delivering 24 points to 10, though the visitors won the rebounds (51-47) and had six more points in the paint (44-38).

Cunningham was named man of the match thanks to his game-winner and the highest points for the Sharks, picking up 18, as well as eight rebounds and two steals. He was well supported by Burton (15 points – three of seven from long-range – four rebounds, three assists and two steals), Gillooly (13 points, 11 rebounds and two assists) and Kelman-Poto (11 points, eight rebounds, four steals, three assists and two blocks).

For the Airs, Jones lived up to his double-double ability with 23 points and 10 rebounds, as well as six assists and a block. Walker finished with 15 points, five rebounds and four assists, hitting four of eight from three-point range, while Wynyard (11 points, nine rebounds and two assists) and Mulvihill (10 points, six rebounds and five assists). Kirksey was also prominent off the bench with seven points and seven rebounds in 17 minutes on court.

The Airs take on Otago Nuggets tomorrow night in a quick turnaround, while the Sharks will have a break until May 7 when they lock horns with the Wellington Saints.

Picture credit: NZNBL