Tag: Haize Walker

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

Huskies secure Final Four spot after hard-fought win over Airs

AUCKLAND Huskies have secured the last spot in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) Final Four after producing a tough six-point victory over the last placed Taranaki Mountainairs. The Huskies needed to win to see off challengers below them, and they did just that despite missing talented stars Chris Johnson and Dontae Nance. A strong first half from the Airs had them on top for the most part, before the Huskies hit back and ran over the top of their opponents, 93-87.

Taranaki Mountainairs led by as much as 12 points midway through the second term, having led since the midpoint of the first term. At that stage, the Huskies had held a maximum of a two-point lead, and needed some momentum to come back their way. That happened in the second half of the second term, cutting that 12-point deficit back to just one at the main break.

They hit the front early in the third, and right up until midway through the final term had the advantage, pushing it out to six points at one stage. The Mountainairs hit back to take the lead and hold a three-point advantage at one stage, and it was see-sawing right until the end. By the time the final buzzer sounded, the Huskies had taken control and got the job done by six points.

Auckland led the rebounds (40-34), assists (15-14), steals (7-5) and blocks (2-1) in fairly even areas. They had four less turnovers (9-13) and capitalised more off the turnover (11 points to eight), and had more second chance points (16-14). The Airs were far from out of the contest though, shooting at a much higher clip of 57 to 46 per cent from the field, including a really impressive 65 per cent from inside the arc. They only got to the charity stripe five times for two conversions, though in the paint converted 56 points to 48.

Justin Bibbs earned Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for the Huskies with 30 points – three of nine from long-range – six rebounds, five assists and two steals. Bibbs teamed up well with Zach Riley who had a massive game of 32 points – four of five from beyond the arc – six rebounds and four assists. Tom Vodanovich was the other player in double figures with 12 points, eight rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa six points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals) and Nicholas Barrow (six points, six rebounds and two assists) also contributed off the boards.

For the Airs, Tai Wynyard was huge early, finishing with 25 points and eight rebounds in the loss, whilst Marcel Jones went about his business without missing a second of action, putting up 22 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Scott Telfer 12 points, three steals and two assists), Haize Walker (11 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape (11 points, two rebounds) all hit double-figure points as well in defeat.

Auckland Huskies host Wellington Saints in the Huskies’ final game of the year next Sunday, whilst the Airs conclude their season with a home game against Nelson Giants on the same day.

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints, Hawks Final Four preparation continues as Rams hold off Giants in overtime

WELLINGTON Saints and Hawkes Bay Hawks have continued their strong seasons to grab wins against the bottom two sides of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), whilst Canterbury Rams kept their Final Four aspirations alive with an overtime victory over Nelson Giants. Both the Saints and Hawks had no troubles over their respective opponents, with the former defeating Manawatu Jets by 23 points, and the latter triumphing by 26 points over Taranaki Mountainairs. By far the closest contest of the night, the Rams got up over the Giants, 95-90 in overtime.

The top of the table Saints won the first three quarters against the Jets to race out to a 26-point lead. The Saints won the first quarters by nine points, and lead by 15 points at the main break, before blowing the game open with a 25-14 third term. To their credit the Jets won the last term by three, but it was too little, too late in the 103-80 result. The Saints dominated the rebounds (46-29) and assists (21-6), as well as points in the paint (52-36) and second chance points (23-5) in a one-sided contest.

Taane Samuel won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours after putting up 23 points, three rebounds and two assists in the win. It was a shared team effort however, as Kerwin Roach Jr (20 points, seven rebounds and seven assists) and Tohi Smith-Milner (20 points, seven rebounds and four assists) both impacted the scoreboard heavily. Ken Tuffin (11 points, three rebounds, four steals and two assists) and Troy McLean (11 points, two rebounds) also managed double-figure points. For the Jets, Daishon Knight (30 points, seven rebounds, four steals and three assists) and Jayden Bezzant (25 points, two rebounds) made up more than half of the team’s points.

Hawkes Bay Hawks also had no troubles dismissing their opponents, winning the first three quarters against the Taranaki Mountainairs to set up the win. They dominated the opening term 32-16, then won the next two quarters by two and eight points respectively to lead 80-54 at the final break. Both teams managed the 20 points in the last term, but the Hawks had done all the work early to take home the points. The home team dominated the rebounds (50-33) and assists (20-13), and made more of their points in the paint (54-40), second chance points (14-2) and bench points (28-9).

Devondrick Walker was the standout player on the court, earning MVP for his 20 points – four of nine from long-range – seven rebounds, five assists and three steals. Hyrum Harris (15 points, four rebounds and three assists), Jarrod Kenny (14 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals) and Ethan Rusbatch (14 points, four assists and three rebounds) all impressed from the starting side, while Jordan Hunt (14 points, eight rebounds) showed impact off the bench. Marcel Jones lead the Airs yet again with 24 points – four of nine from long-range – seven rebounds, three assists and three steals, while Tai Wynyard (17 points, five rebounds) and Haize Walker (12 points, three rebounds and three assists) also did well.

In the only tight game of the night, Canterbury Rams needed extra time to overcome Nelson Giants at Cowles Stadium. The Rams lead by four points at quarter time and five at the main break, before the Giants hit their straps. Piling on 26 points to 19 in the third quarter, Nelson snatched the lead by two heading into the final term. Canterbury backed up to win the final quarter by two, forcing overtime and then winning that 13-8, not conceding the lead at any stage during the extra five minutes. Canterbury had a whopping 59 rebounds to 41, as well as 58 points in the paint to 32, and 23-10 second chance points.

EJ Singler‘s work late in the game saw him earn MVP honours for 22 points, 13 rebounds and four assists. He was one of two Rams to hit double-doubles as Jack Salt (14 points, 10 rebounds and two steals) also achieved the feat. Deshon Taylor (21 points, eight assists and five rebounds) and Max Darling (20 points, nine rebounds and three assists) also had plenty of the points in the win. For the Giants, Hunter Hale was phenomenal with 32 points, seven rebounds and six assists, whilst Sam Dempster (16 points, six rebounds and three assists), Donte Ingram (15 points, nine rebounds and nine assist) and Thomas Ingram (13 points) did the bulk of the scoring.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 11 preview: Ladder defining clashes take centre stage

IT is going to be another action packed round in the New Zealand National Basketball League with a couple of sides getting to ply their trade out on court twice this round as the ladder continues to shape up heading towards the back end of the season. The Saints will be keen to retain top spot while the Mountainairs have two chances to notch up a win.

Nelson Giants vs. Franklin Bulls
Thursday, July 8 @7:30pm
Trafalgar Centre

The contest between the Giants and Bulls is set to be an enthralling one as both sides have had a chequered run in their past few encounters. The Giants are coming in off a loss while the Airs will be riding a wave of success clinching a narrow win last round. Nelson Giants will be hoping to rekindle their form and steal the win to take the ledger to two wins apiece.

Hunter Hale has been one of the most consistent players to-date for the Giants, averaging 26.9 points, 4.7 assists and 4.1 defensive rebounds each time he steps out on court. Teammate Donte Ingram is also one to watch in this clash given he averages 18.8 points making him a handy target. Ingram is also more than capable of dishing off dimes averaging 2.3 assists a game while he also leads the way with 5.6 defensive rebounds. Speaking of rebounds, Samuel Dempster is a real eye catcher thanks to his 5.4 defensive rebounds and team-high average of 2.1 offensive rebounds. The Bulls will need the likes of Joshua Selby and Denhym Brooke to fire on all cylinders and create some real scoreboard presence if they are to defeat the Giants. Selby averages 24.4 points per game while Brooke boasts an average of 11.3 points along with four rebounds.

Southland Sharks vs. Otago Nuggets
Friday, July 9 @7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

The Sharks and Nuggets will engage in their second clash of the year with the latter hoping to reverse the fortunes of their previous meeting. Both sides are coming in with similar form guides having won three of their past five games, the only difference being the Nuggets enter the clash fresh off a win.

The combination of Isaiah Moss and Samuel Timmins will be one to watch given the two are the most prolific shooters for the Nuggets. Moss averages 22.2 points per game while Timmins is not far off the pace with 20 points of his own. Timmins is also crafty with ball in hand registering 4.6 assists a game and a whopping 10.7 rebounds highlighting his overall dominance. Gerasimos McKay is another player for the Nuggets that is able to change the course of a game with his ability to contest for the rebound averaging 4.7 a game while he is also able to create attacking forays credit to his 2.5 assists. For the Sharks there is no denying that Dominique Kelman-Poto is the main man to watch. Kelman-Poto tops the table for points with an average of 16.5 per game but will need the likes of Brayden Inger and Joshua Cunningham to ply their trade to impose a commanding score. Inger averages just over 14 points per game while Cunningham can influence both on the scoreboard and off the boards with 6.4 rebounds.

Hawkes Bay Hawks vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

The first Saturday game of the round will see Hawkes Bay Hawks host Taranaki Mountainairs who have had less than a desirable season. The Hawkes will be hoping continue their winnings ways and really assert themselves on the lowly Mountainairs. Taranaki sit firmly at the bottom of the ladder while the Hawks are all the way up the ladder in second and will be eager to notch up a win to create some much needed ladder separation.

Unfortunately for the Airs it is a one man show with Marcel Jones proving to be that man. Jones can light up the court with his drive to the rim and is a force to be reckoned with credit to his average of 23.2 points, 3.8 assists and 8.9 rebounds falling just short of a double-double. If the Airs are any chance of causing a major upset they will need Tai Wynyard to be at his damaging best and apply the pressure on the scoreboard. Throw in the likes of Haize Walker and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who is renowned for his presence off the boards and the Airs have a strong core. But the Hawks are not short on star power with Devondrick Walker able to dominate as shown with his average of 19.1 points while Ethan Rusbatch can chime in with his average of 15.2 points. If those two are kept quiet then look to Jordan Hunt to step up to the plate while Hyrum Harris is also an option both on the scoreboard and with ball in hand credit to his 4.1 assists a game.

Manawatu Jets vs. Wellington Saints
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Ballroom B and M Centre

It could be a blowout game if the top of the table Wellington Saints are able to bring their A-game against the lowly Manawatu Jets. The Jets only have four wins to their name while up the other end of the table the Saints have 12 to their name. The last time these two sides met it was Wellington that got the chocolates by 23 points and will be hoping to repeat those efforts in this outing to solidify their standings.

The Saints are brimming with talent as Dion Prewster, Kerwin Roach Jr and Tohi Smith-Milner are real livewires. Prewster leads the way with 21.1 points to accompany his 4.9 assists while Roach Jr is another dominant scorer credit to his 16.2 points and 4.1 assists a game. When looking at the Jets it is Daishon Knight that tops the table with is 23.3 points and will have to expect plenty of attention from the Saints to shut down his scoring ability. DeAndre Daniels is another exciting option for the Jets averaging 16.9 points per game along with 6.1 defensive rebounds. Shane Temara will need to up the ante for the Jets if they are to cause a boil-over while Jayden Bezzant has also proven to be a livewire at times.

Canterbury Rams vs. Nelson Giants
Saturday, July 10 @7:30pm
Cowles Stadium

A win here for either side will be monumental as the mid-table logjam continues to develop. The Rams will be hoping to capitalise on the Giants fatigue given they would have played only days earlier but Nelson need the victory to keep their finals hopes alive. The Giants pulled off the win the last time they played and will be keen to do it once again to generate some much needed momentum.

It will come down to the workload of Deshon Taylor and whether or not he can inspire the Rams to really get going. Taylor averages 22.1 points per game along with 4.9 assists and 3.9 defensive rebounds showcasing just how influential he is for the side. Another key cog for the Rams is Edward Singler who has proven to be handy on the scoreboard credit to his 18.5 points. It does not stop there for Singler as he also boasts 4.6 assists and 6.2 defensive rebounds. Keep an eye out for Samuel Smith to bob up every now and then for the Rams.

Auckland Huskies vs. Taranaki Mountainair
Sunday, July 11 @5:00pm
Eventafinda Stadium

The Mountainairs will be fronting up for their second game in as many days while the Huskies will be keen to take advantage of their fresh legs. Currently sitting in fourth spot on the ladder a win here could propel Auckland up the ladder and most importantly widen the gap between them and fifth place. Meanwhile for the Mountainairs, it will be a matter of pride as they look for their third win of the season.

Looking at the Huskies and they have a number of big contributors with Chris Johnson paving the way. He is the most prolific scorer for the Huskies averaging 20.1 points a game along with 2.9 assists and an impressive 8.4 rebounds. Meanwhile teammates Dontae Nance and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa are also right up there averaging 11.6 and 11.4 points respectively. Nance has also proven to be a handy contributor with ball in hand averaging 2.9 assists while Zach Riley has showcased his strength off the boards with 3.7 defensive rebounds. Throw in the services of American import Justin Bibbs and the Huskies have the makings for a big win if all of their structures fall into place. For the Mountainairs there is no denying that it is Jones that is the biggest threat. He is an imposing force across all aspects of the court and will need to have a mammoth performance if the last placed side are a chance to claim victory.

Wellington Saints vs. Otago Nuggets
Monday, July 12 @7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

The final game of the round plays host to the top of the table Wellington Saints and fifth placed Nuggets. Both sides will be entering their second game for the round meaning the level of bench-depth from sides is sure to be the game changer. The two teams have played their fair share of games this season meeting five times already with Wellington walking away with the chocolates each and every time meaning it will be a matter of pride and redemption for the Nuggets this time around.

The Nuggets have the upper hand when it comes to defensive rebounds and assists and will be eager to get that style of play up and running early to catch the Saints on the back foot. But Wellington are much cleaner with ball in hand only averaging 13.85 turnovers a game in comparison to the Nuggets’ 14.93 which means they are able to capitalise when it counts. When it comes to top performers it is hard to go past the likes of Timmins and Moss for the Nuggets while Prewster, Roach and Taane Samuel are livewires for the Saints.

Photo credit: Joe Allison/Getty images via NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Friday night

IT was an action packed Friday night of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) with three big games as Southland Sharks, Wellington Saints and Auckland Huskies took out the win in each of their respective matches.

Canterbury Rams (81) defeated by Southland Sharks (92)

The second placed Sharks imposed themselves against Canterbury Rams claiming an 11-point win. It was neck-and-neck to start the game with both sides taking a while to settle into a rhythm, going blow for blow in the opening term to sit at 21 points apiece. The battle continued into the second quarter with the Rams and Sharks unable to break away from one another as Canterbury proved they can match it with the best in the business. Skipping out to a handy lead midway through the third term, you could be forgiven for thinking that the Sharks were about to gain control and jump into the driver’s seat, but that was not the case as the Rams hit back. With the game hanging in the balance it was time for the Sharks to put the foot down and consolidate their standing on the ladder. A flurry of points midway through the quarter gifted the Sharks the lead and from there they steadily built on their buffer as a three point margin turned into a five point one, so on so forth.

Edward Singler worked in overdrive for the Rams racking up 26 points in his 40 minutes out on court while he also amassed four assists and 13 rebounds. Teammate Deshon Taylor was also influential with his 20 points at 39 per cent from the field. Taylor also collected four rebounds and three steals. Jack Salt showcased just how much damage he can do in 25 minutes pouring on 16 points and a whopping 15 rebounds. Courtney Belger was the topscorer for the Sharks registering 23 points at 64 per cent from the field while Joshua Cunningham also impressed with his 22 points and five rebounds. Alonzo Burton was amongst the thick of things dropping 19 points, seven assists and four rebounds while Dominique Kelman-Poto sunk 12 points at 38 per cent from the field.

Taranaki Mountainairs (81) defeated by Wellington Saints (89)

It was a one sided affair between the Taranaki Mountainairs and Wellington Saints as the latter recorded a handy eight-point win. It was a much closer match than many would have anticipated given it was a first verse last clash but in the end the Saints proved why they are top of the ladder, owning the court with their speed and cleanliness. The Mountainairs impressed in the opening term piling on 23 points to 17 to hold the lead and continued that hot form in the second to maintain a nine point buffer heading into the main break. The Saints ate into the deficit in the third going into the final break down by five points before shifting gears in the final quarter to steal the ascendancy and the lead piling on 27 points.

It was the Marcel Jones show the Airs with the bigman imposing himself thanks to his 29 points and ability to hit them from deep draining three of his six attempts. Jones also picked up six assists and six rebounds in the loss. There were three other players that hit double-digits as 11 proved to be the lucky number with Tai Wynyard, Haize Walker and Scott Telfer all managing 11 points each. Wynyard got busy off the boards with four rebounds as Walker registered three assists. For the winners it was the efforts of Tohi Smith-Milner and Dion Prewster that stood out. Smith-Milner topped the table credit to his 25 points in 31 minutes of action while he also proved to be a menace in defence picking up 15 rebounds, two steals and a block. Prewster was not far off the pace with 24 points, six rebounds and two steals. Taane Samuel found his groove walking away with 14 points to his name as both Kevin Roach Jr and Kenneth Tuffin slotted 10 points each in the win.

Nelson Giants (96) defeated by Auckland Huskies (104)

It was a game that could have gone either way given how evenly they match up but in the end it was the Huskies that got the chocolates with a hard-fought win. The Huskies got the first points of the game to kickstart their campaign but that only signalled what was going to be a seesawing affair. The Giants held the lead at quarter time credit to a flurry of points to close out the term and continued to monopolise the play in the second forcing Auckland to play catch-up basketball. The Huskies came out with a point to prove in the third levelling the scores with a tick under five minutes to play. They started to generate some real momentum but were still down at the final change. With it all to play for in the final 10 minutes of the match the Huskies unlocked another level to attack the rim and keep the Giants guessing. They tied the scores and from there put the foot down to reign supreme with a blockbuster final quarter of action.

Donte Ingram had a night to remember producing a whopping 38 points. He had a hot hand from beyond the arc draining five of his eight attempts to convert at 63 per cent. Ingram also reeled in 10 rebounds and two steals to cap off an all-round solid performance. Next best was teammate Hunter Hale who proved to be in fine form with his 30 points, eight assists and nine rebounds to just fall short of a triple double. Thomas Ingham was the only other player to make it out of single digits recording 12 points in his 33 minutes out on court. It was a more evenly shared load for the Huskies as four players hit double-digits. But it was Justin Bibbs that did the most damage draining 31 points, five assists and four rebounds. Zach Riley was also in dominant form for the Huskies producing 25 points at 53 per cent from the field to accompany his nine rebounds and two steals. Tom Vodanovich reminded everyone what he is capable draining 20 points in his 38 minutes out on court while Chris Johnson chimed in with a handy 13 points to get his side over the line.

Photo credit: NZNBL Twitter

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

Rare Air for Wynyard’s Taranaki with upset win over Jets

A DOMINANT double-double performance from Tai Wynyard has seen the Taranaki Mountainairs claim an impressive 11-point win over Manawatu Jets in last night’s New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) clash. The Airs only had one win coming into the match, but doubled that total in last night’s bottom two battle, overcoming a Jets side missing big man Shane Temara, resulting in Wynyard racking up a whopping 31 points and 17 rebounds, whilst Marcel Jones also collected a double-double in the 104-93 victory.

The Airs took control of the game early, racing out to a six-point quarter time lead. Making sure not to let the game slip, they really put the foot down in one of their most impressive terms of the year in the second stanza, piling on 31 points to 19 to hold a whopping 18-point advantage at the main break. Both teams were fairly even in the third term, before the Jets grabbed some consolation points to win the last term 32-25, but it was not going to be enough as Taranaki enjoyed the rare win, in front of home fans.

Aside from patches during the first term when the Jets held narrow leads, once the Airs took the advantage late in the term, they never looked back. At one stage the lead got out to 22 points midway through the second quarter, and whilst eventually the Jets reduced the damage by the final buzzer, it was always going to be tough to make up the first half difference.

The Airs hit 50 per cent of their field goal attempts to the jets’ 40 per cent, and nailed 44 per cent (12 of 27) from long-range compared to their opponents’ 24 per cent (eight of 33). Whilst their free throw percentage was shocking (41 to 80 per cent), they comfortably won the rebounds (51-42) and assists (24-13), as well as smashed the Jets in the pain (56-36) and from second chance points (20-12). Both teams had 16 turnovers, but it was the Jets who capitalised more with 23 points to 18, as well as having more steals (12-8) and bench points (17-13).

Wynyard unsurprisingly won Most Valuable Player (MVP) for his 31 points and 17 rebounds – 12 offensive – as he played arguably the best game from a second chance points perspective. Jones had the 23 points – three of eight from outside the arc – 11 rebounds – all defensive – six assists and five steals in an all-round game. Haize Walker (15 points, three assists and two rebounds), Carlin Davison (11 points, eight rebounds and six assists) and Scott Telfer (11 points, two rebounds and two assists) rounded out an overall strong starting five performance.

Daishon Knight was the prominent scorer for the Jets, picking up 24 points, seven rebounds and six assists to be the losing side’s best player. Jayden Bezzant (16 points, five assists, four rebounds and four steals), Deandre Daniels (13 points, six rebounds and two blocks) and the long-range shooting of Kalib Marsich-Mullins (14 points – four of 10 from three-point range – and six assists) all stood out. Nikau McCullough had his usual impact off the bench with 13 points, three rebounds and three steals.

Manawatu Jets will need to dust themselves off before a home clash against Canterbury Rams tonight, whilst the Airs will have until Friday to prepare for their home battle with top of the table Wellington Saints.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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