Tag: Izayah Mauriohoohoo Le’afa

Huskies’ 45-point first quarter squashes Giants with huge win

AUCKLAND Huskies produced the most efficient first quarter of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown season, sinking 17 consecutive baskets without a miss on their way to 45 points in their 96-67 victory over Nelson Giants. Despite missing Taine Murray whose season ended with a broken hand in their last outing, the Huskies’ first quarter was the difference in building a staggering 32-point quarter time lead that was never really challenged.

NELSON GIANTS 12 | 19 | 23 | 13 (67)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 45 | 17 | 23 | 11 (96)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Huskies showed no signs of missing Murray’s valuable offence in the first quarter as they exploded for an offensive barrage of 45 points. Even more staggering was their efficiency as their first missed shot came with 1:20 left on their eighteenth shot.

If the start of the game was a sign of things to come, it never looked good for the Giants as big man Josh Leger was caught sleeping on defence, before Leon Henry lobbed it in to Tohi Smith-Milner for the finish inside to open the game’s scoring.

Reuben Fitzgerald started in the place of Murray and grabbed the opportunity with both hands hitting a corner three, on his way to 12 first quarter points.

It was clear early that Henry was looking to attack the smaller Nelson outfit in the paint which opted to start without Mike Karena or the returned Mika Vukona. Once Karena was substituted in, Smith-Milner was able to stretch him to defend the perimeter, leaving Henry unleashed with the size advantage inside.

Every starter got involved for the Huskies with a deep three from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa following a Marvin Williams-Dunn triple. Nate Wilson missed the first shot of the game for Auckland, but the Huskies were even able to grab the offensive board, rubbing salt into the wound for Nelson.

A Dane Brooks air ball accurately represented the quarter for the Giants as Wilson made up for his blemish with a big transition dunk. The first quarter ended 12-45 as the Huskies shot an incredible 90 per cent, including 89 per cent from deep.

There was no real offensive determination out of the gates for Nelson as they struggled to 22 per cent shooting, recording one assist compared to Auckland’s nine. Henry led all scorers with 13.

If the Giants were any chance of making it a respectable margin, they had to respond immediately. Besides a Karena technical foul, two Brooks blocks and a Tysxun Aiolupotea three gave them that start they needed. A Jaylen Gerrand three and a Wilson and-one quickly put a stop to that as the Huskies would not let any inroads be made into their huge lead. They passed 50 points with seven minutes to go in the second quarter and managed to continue to trade baskets with Nelson having made a very comfortable lead for themselves.

Karena’s shot was not falling as it usually does while Isaac Miller-Jose was trying to match his frustrated physicality for much of the game as the match threatened to heat up at times in the second quarter.

A Zeb Lovell and-one brought the lead below 30 until Mauriohooho Le’Afa dropped a deep two, and Murray replacement and New Zealand basketball veteran Aaron Bailey-Nowell scored his first competition points.

Smith-Milner barrelled his way to the hoop to close out a dominant first half for the Huskies which saw them lead 31-62, still shooting 56 per cent from beyond the arc. Though their burning hot hand couldn’t maintain their ridiculous first quarter shooting, they still attacked the paint, scoring 18 more points inside than Nelson.

Henry and Fitzgerald did not add to their quarter time tally as Lovell and Aiolupotea led the scoring for the Giants with seven points each.

Coming out of the locker room much later than their opposition, you had to wonder what Nelson were looking to achieve in the second half. Whatever it was, Smith-Milner was not having any of it as he scored 11 points in the first three and a half minutes which included two three-pointers and an and-one.

Theo Johnson and Brooks both put up athletic finishes inside as Mauriohooho Le’Afa did what he does, knocking down a beautiful step back mid-range jumper.

Williams-Dunn and Aiolupotea went head to head down the stretch until Karena imposed himself on the game with a spin out of the post for the reverse baseline dunk, only to follow it up with another one-hand dunk not long after.

With four seconds left, Fitzgerald burst out of the half court inbound for the layup, but another Miller-Jose offensive foul prevented it from counting. Though they showed better signs, the Giants were unable to take a big enough chunk out of the margin as they trailed 54-85 heading into the last break.

The Huskies did not play Mauriohooho Le’Afa, Smith-Milner or Henry in the final quarter giving some bench players good minutes.

Unfortunately, the game ended with little excitement as Nelson won the quarter scoring just 13 points to Auckland’s 11. Karena showed some fight out of the post but it was too little too late with them losing 96-67, a loss they will be keen to move on from as soon as possible having not been in the game after the first quarter deficit they gave up.

With 11 out of their 12 players scoring, Smith-Milner led the way with 20 points with Fitzgerald the next best with 14. Mauriohooho Le’Afa (12 points, four rebounds, five assists) and Henry (13 points, seven rebounds, four assists) enjoyed well-rounded performances as the Huskies fired on all cylinders offensively for much of the night. Their final week of NZNBL action will start when they face the Otago Nuggets on Tuesday and if they can mirror their first quarter in any way, it will go a long way toward them winning.

A disappointing night saw Nelson shoot just 38 per cent with Karena (15 points, eight rebounds) and Aiolupotea (13 points) the only players to reach double figures. The loss sees them sit at sixth place as they will want to start fresh against the first-placed Taranaki Mountainairs on Wednesday.

Huskies claim huge upset over second placed Bulls

IT was a Battle of the North with the Franklin Bulls and Auckland Huskies going head to head in the first game of Week 4 for the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition, with the latter clenching a huge upset over the second placed Bulls (86-82). With the Bulls getting out to a strong lead in the opening term the Huskies were forced to play catch-up throughout the game but that did not seem to faze them, steadily building into the match and eventually overrunning their opponents. There was over seven lead changes throughout the course of the game testament to how even the contest was on the night.

FRANKLIN BULLS 26 | 20 | 22 | 14 (82)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 14 | 28 | 29 | 15 (86)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The Bulls got out to a flyer in the first quarter piling on a wealth of pressure and flexing their muscles on the scoreboard to hold a commanding 12-point lead. Despite Tohi Smith-Milner opening the account with a jump-shot for the Huskies, it was all one-way traffic from then on as the Bulls simply could not be denied. Dominique Kelman-Poto was on song from the first minute sinking a triple before partner-in-crime Sam Timmins chimed in. The influence of Nicholas Barrow was undeniable with the big man able to hit the scoreboard with great ease for the Bulls and cause all sorts of havoc across the court. A late burst from the Bulls saw them go on a scoring rampage with the Huskies simply unable to generate any form of rhythm in attack or defence.

Up by 12 points at the quarter break the Huskies were determined to reduce the deficit and impose themselves on the contest. Their increased intensity across the court and willingness to drive to the basket became increasingly more evident as the quarter progressed cutting the margin down to five points. But it was their three point shooting that stunned both fans and the Bulls, with the Huskies sinking four straight treys with Reuben Fitzgerald, Jaylen Gerrand and Smith-Milner dishing up the goods. Back to back threes from Smith-Milner and a huge steal from Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa  got the Huskies back within two points before Timmins answered to steady the ship.

The game was played with great speed as the ball ping ponged up and down the court with Mauriohooho Le’Afa finding his stroke and causing all sorts of havoc. With the pressure mounting on the Bulls it was up to Timmins to once again stand up, laying a huge block while Taine Murray showcased his dash with a fast break and clever assist to none other than Smith-Milner. The out of contract Melbourne United big man impressed throughout the quarter, knocking back shots from inside the paint, beyond the arc and at the charity line. With a tick over three minutes left in the term Marvin Williams-Dunn evened things up for Auckland and despite the Bulls bigs in Barrow and Timmins dominating on the scoreboard with the latter finishing the half with a double-double 14 points and 10 rebounds the Huskies seemed to have all the momentum. A triple on the buzzer to Jackson Stubbins gifted the Bulls a four-point lead after what was a see-sawing term.

Known as the premiership quarter, the Bulls immediately extending the lead with Everard Bartlett sinking all three shots from the charity line. Smith-Milner quickly responded with a couple of points his own but neither side was able to claim any real ascendancy as the ball bubbled about. Out to a six point lead the Huskies dug deep to stay in the contest  and claw their way back to within two points. Williams-Dunn and Mauriohooho Le’Afa upped their workload with the two looking to the rim and scoring. Barlett continued to be the go to man for the Bulls draining them from range while Nikau McCullough tried to inject himself into the contest with a couple of strong rebounds.

With five minutes on the clock, Auckland hit the front thanks to Smith-Milner. After a relatively quiet half of basketball, Isaac Davidson found his stroke with a nice three, while Timmins also got busy to create a five-point buffer once again. Unfazed by the increased pressure, Mauriohooho Le’Afa upped the ante sinking them from range. Stepping back on the three, Mauriohooho Le’Afa put his side ahead while Tohi Smith-Milner delivered once more, coming up strong with a rebound and streaming down court with Nathan Wilson the beneficiary to hold a three point lead heading into the final change.

With the game on the line the big names for each side stood up with the Huskies getting an early with a forced turnover in the opening stages of the quarter. The defensive pressure was palpable with both sides going three and a half minutes without a score. The physicality of the contest did not disturb either team with the Bulls almost enjoying the challenge and slowly working their way into the contest. Kelman-Poto was involved in everything, swinging the momentum back to the Bulls with a crucial rebound and layup to regain ascendancy on the scoreboard.

After going quiet in the middle stage of the game Gerrand found his stroke forcing the lead to once again change hands. The lead chopped and changed and was cut down to as much as two points with less than three minutes remaining. Timmins hit a timely triple to retake the lead albeit by one point and followed it up moments later spiking the ball out of play and denying the Huskies easy avenue to the basket. With Kelman-Poto fouled out of the game for the Bulls, Huskies big man Mauriohooho Le’Afa delivered once again. With a minute left on the clock Stubbins hit his second three pointer of the game to snatch the lead off the Huskies but it went all downhill from there for Franklin with Smith-Milner reeling in a rebound and Murray making them pay with a triple of his own. Mauriohooho Le’Afa all but ended the chances of a final seconds comeback coming up huge with a steal to take home their fourth win.

Timmins was the main playmaker for the Bulls finishing the game with 21 points, 15 rebounds (11 defensive) and two blocks. Teammate Kelman-Poto also managed double digits with 15 points and eight rebounds while Barrow and Stubbins also recording 10 points each. It is no surprise that Mauriohooho Le’ Afa dominated on the scoreboard amassing a whopping 25 points, seven assists and six rebounds. Smith-Milner also had a stats stuffing performance with 22 points and 13 rebounds while Murray was the only other player to make into double digits with 11 points.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 14: Bulls v. Huskies and Mountainairs v. Nuggets

A TOP four clash is set to headline Week 4 of Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) with the Taranaki Mountainairs playing the Otago Nuggets in the second game of the night while the Huskies will be hoping to continue to bridge the gap between them and the top four with a win over the second placed Franklin Bulls.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting in second spot the Bulls will have to throw everything they have at the Huskies to keep them at bay and maintain their position inside the top four. Last time they met the Bulls prevailed, albeit by four points in what was a hard fought battle, meaning this rematch could definitely follow suit given the progression of both sides throughout the season. Although Auckland are coming in off a mere five points, they have strung together a couple of strong performances, finding some continuity on court.

The Bulls will take plenty of confidence from their last performance and come into the match having won four of their last five outings. Their ability to treasure possession and make the opposition pay is what they pride themselves on averaging 11.8 turnovers a game compared to the Huskies’ 14. In terms of accuracy the Bulls also have the upper hand going at 43 per cent field goal efficiency while the Huskies only manage 39.8 per cent. However from three point range both sides don a similar percentage with the Bulls slightly ahead at 32.6 compared to Auckland’s 31.6.

The Bulls and Huskies are also quite evenly poised when it comes to scoring averaging 82.6 and 82.1 per game respectively, showcasing just how much of a tight battle this match will be. With both sides even in terms of scoreboard output it could come down to rebound ability something the Huskies are renowned for. Auckland are one of the strongest teams in the leagues when it comes to rebounds amassing an average of 45.4 each game an area of the Bulls they will be hoping to exploit given they only manage 38.4 a game, the lowest in the competition.

It has been a more consistent effort from the Huskies in recent weeks however the pressure still solely lies on Izayah Mauriohooho LeAfa to do most of the heavy lifting 18.7 points a game, 4.7 assists and 4.5 rebounds showcasing just how dominant he is across all facets of the game. Teammate Taine Murray has also enjoyed a recent run of hot form, finding the basket with ease averaging 17 points a game, while the influence of Leon Henry has not gone unnoticed for the Huskies with Henry imposing himself on the boards with a team high average of 11.7 rebounds and 11.3 points to average a double-double. Another threat for the Bulls is Tohi Smith-Milner with the bigman showcasing his range sinking 12.4 points a game.

For the Bulls they have no shortage of options when it comes to doing damage on the scoreboard but Isaac Davidson is the main points scorer sitting at an average of 18 points a game. Next in line when it comes to scoring potency is Dominique Kelman-Poto who averages 14.3 points while also being the leading rebounder in the team, collecting 7.1. Samuel Timmins is the only other player to average double figures with 12.9 points to his name and has proven to be strong off the boards with 5.6 rebounds a game.

Given just how dominant Mauriohooho Le’Afa can be when he gets going the Bulls will have to pull out all the stops if they are any chance to nullify his presence on the scoreboard. Expect a high intensity battle considering what is at stake for both teams when it comes to ladder positioning and a creating potential separation between the top four.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS v. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second game of the night will draw plenty of onlookers and attention. Locked in a battle of one versus three expect the Taranaki Airs to try and put the foot down to claim some ascendancy atop of the ladder. When they played earlier in the season the Airs got the job running out with a convincing 26 point win while the Nuggets simply struggled to generate their normal game play. Taranaki have won four of their last five games while the Nuggets have experienced a similar vein of form registering three wins from their past five matches.

Coming in on a three game winning streak Taranaki will be hoping to make the most of their momentum and rattle the Nuggets with their prolific scoring. Although no slouches themselves when it comes to scoreboard impact sitting third in the competition with an average of 93 points a game, the Airs are a class above sinking an average of 101 points a game credit to their explosiveness. Another major discrepancy between the two sides lies in the rebound column with the Airs strong off the backboard with 8.7 more than the Nuggets 48.9 compared to 40.1.

Not only do the Airs have the upper hand when it comes to scoring prowess but so too blocks with the competition ladder leaders recording 3.1 blocks a game, while the Nuggets manage 2.8 a game. However when it comes to turnovers the Airs can be quite costly often throwing ball away in transition with 15.1 per game. Conversely the Nuggets are cautious with ball in hand, looking to flick the ball around and not push the ball until something opens as shown through the side averaging the second lowest turnover rate in the competition with 13.6.

There is no denying that Derone Raukawa is the go to man for the Airs, able to find the basket with ease and ply his trade up and down the court averaging a team high 22.9 points. While his efforts on the scoreboard impress he is also crafty with ball in hand dishing off yet another team high 7.3 rebounds a game. Teammate Marcel Jones is just as influential for the Airs able to light up the scoreboard with an average of 20.3 points while his presence at the rim is just as impressive recording 15 rebounds a game to average a double-double. Shane Temara is another key figure for the Airs sinking 11.6 points a game while reeling in 5.4 rebounds. Kenneth Tuffin has been known to hit the scoreboard while Francis Mulvihill is an excitement machine with the youngster able to find the basket and dish off dimes left right and centre.

It will be up to bigman Jordan Ngatai to lead the way for the Nuggets once again with his influential presence often causing headaches for opposition teams. He leads the team in points and rebounds with 20.5 and 6.3 respectively.  While Ngatai is the most prolific the Nuggets have a wealth of other options such as Jarrod Kenny who has proven he can burst out of the blocks and dominate, sinking them from range with no problem at all. Kenny averages 11.1 points a game and is number one in the team for assists with 4.9. Jordan Hunt is a key play maker for the Nuggets with his drive to the basket sitting at 16.8 points a game and 6.3 rebounds while Josh Aitcheson registers in the top five for points scored, assists and rebounds with 10.1, 2.1 and 4.5 respectively showcasing just how well rounded he is.

Both sides possess very similar attributes however it will come down to whether or not the Nuggets can shut down the ease and freedom with which the Airs can hit the scoreboard that will be the true test. Looking to protect their spot on top of the ladder expect Taranaki to leave no stone unturned and make it two from two against Otago.

Huskies claim upset win over second placed Nuggets

THE Auckland Huskies stunned the second place Otago Nuggets in a full four quarter performance to run out 12-point victors (81-69) in the Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) last night. The Huskies led throughout the game, stopping the normally free scoring Nuggets in their tracks and controlling the tempo of the game with their attacking prowess.

OTAGO NUGGETS 18 | 20 | 13 | 18 (69)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 23 | 21 | 17 | 20 (81)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Jordan Ngatai struck first for the Nuggets with the big man converting the first layup of the game before Marvin Williams-Dunn delivered for the Huskies with a triple. From there on in the play seemed to lie with the Huskies as Leon Henry chimed in with a three-pointer to push his side out to a solid lead. The ball ebbed and flowed across the court with neither side able to capitalise on their chances with Taine Murray and Otago Nuggets star, Jarrod Kenny missing a couple of shots. Ngatai seemed to be the only one able to apply any sort of scoreboard pressure for the Nuggets, while Auckland shared the load around with the likes of Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Tohi Smith-Milner asserting themselves on the contest. It was not until the six-and-a-half-minute mark that someone other than Ngatai hit the scoreboard for the Nuggets with Jordan Hunt stepping up to the plate to cut the deficit to one point. With the Nuggets pushing hard, Smith-Milner upped the ante in attack dropping back-to-back points to re-establish a four-point lead. The insertion of Darcy Knox into the game worked wonders for Otago with the Nuggets attacking the basket and using his frame to have an influence across the boards. With just over three minutes left in the quarter Kane Keil converted from a free-throw, keeping his side within striking distance of the Huskies, before a big final couple of minutes saw Auckland blow the lead back out to five points mainly thanks to Nathan Wilson.

The second quarter delivered very similar results for the Nuggets, who were unable to implement their signature style of play instead succumbing to the pressure of the Huskies. In the opening minutes of the quarter Richie Roger showcased his ability to shoot from range, sinking a triple with teammate Josh Aitcheson quickly following up on his good work to also slot a triple and reduce the margin to one point once again. Steadily drawing closer, Wilson held his nerve laying an impressive dunk and the converting again moments later for the Huskies. Despite the best efforts of Kenny, Auckland seemed unfazed, going about their business until Akiva McBirney-Griffin slammed one home for Otago to level the scores with just under seven minutes remaining in the term. The increased intensity saw the ball bubble around with both teams struggling to hit the scoreboard but it was Murray to break the stalemate first and send his side somewhat into a scoring spree. Murray was involved in everything, while Henry also chimed in, pushing the Huskies out to an 11-point lead but the Nuggets refused to give in stringing together a solid couple of minutes to dwindle the lead back down to six at half-time.

Continuing their hot start to the game, it did not take long for Mauriohooho Le’Afa to convert and extend the lead for Auckland. Having somewhat of a quieter quarter, Smith-Milner quickly got back into the thick of things while the Nuggets struggled to maintain possession with a couple of sloppy passes and missed shots at goal. Murray found his stroke from beyond the arc, sinking a nice three while for the Nuggets, Ngatai and Aitcheson stood up under the pressure to draw back the lead. The combination of Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Murray was proving too hard to handle for Otago, with the duo running rings around their opposition. Much like the patch in the second quarter, both sides were at a standstill unable to knock back points and feeling each other out. But it was the Nuggets that blinked first, gifting the Huskies with a chance to stream down court and convert for the first time in over two minutes. With the lead out at 13 points, the Nuggets looked to the bench to provide some fresh legs but it was Rogers that delivered sinking a much needed triple before Ngatai got his side back within seven points. But a big shot from Reuben Fitzgerald, stopped the Nuggets in their tracks heading into the final change.

Kenny upped the ante in defence with a clever block finished off by Ngatai who gobbled up the rebound but simply could not convert. With a sense of urgency in their play and desperation to win ball back and score the Nuggets line-up contested everything that came their way but were plagued by inaccuracy, while the Huskies withstood that rush of momentum as Smith-Milner continued his merry way nailing back-to-back threes. Extending the lead to 14 points at the half way mark of the final term, Ngatai and Aitcheson took control for the Nuggets but it was simply not enough to offset the Huskies who could sense their second win. Despite a strong couple of minutes from Otago to reduce the margin to a mere eight points the closest they had been in the second half, Williams-Dunn crushed any hopes nailing the next four points.

Ngatai dominated for the Nuggets, sinking a team high 19 points along with eight rebounds and three assists. The next closest for the Nuggets was Hunt with 12 points and seven rebounds while Aitcheson managed a double-double with 10 points and 10 rebounds. For the Huskies, Murray showcased his scoring prowess with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists to his name. Teammate Smith-Milner was hot on his tail when it came to scoreboard contribution with 17 while his 10 defensive rebounds capped off a stellar performance. Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Henry also managed double digits for their side with 12 and 11 points respectively but it was Henry’s rebounding ability that really shone recording 14 for the night, in what was a team effort from the bottom of the table Huskies.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 7 night preview: Nuggets v. Huskies and Bulls v. Airs

WEEK 3 of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action kickstarts with the top two sides in the Franklin Bulls and Otago Nuggets taking on the bottom two teams in the competition, Taranaki Mountainairs and Auckland Huskies. Each team has shown throughout the season that they have the ability to burst out the blocks and wow the opposition making for an exciting night of action.

OTAGO NUGGETS v. AUCKLAND HUSKIES

Currently sitting second on the ladder it could be argued that the Otago Nuggets have the upper hand heading into the clash, but the Huskies have proven that they can score quickly and easily when on song despite only winning one game for the season so far. The Nuggets are a formidable unit, with a wealth of players able to pop up and ply their trade across the boards while the Huskies tend to rely upon the services of one key player.

When it comes to scoring the Nuggets sit third while their opponents take out last place, often unable to generate scoring opportunities.  The Nuggets average 91.6 points per game showcasing their attacking mindset and freedom in which they can score at. On the other hand the Huskies only manage an average of 77.6 points per game, meaning they will have their work cut out for them against Otago considering the 13 point differential between the two sides.

In terms of rebounding the Huskies have the upper hand with Auckland averaging 41.4 a game, a clear testament to their skill around the rim and desperation to win the ball back whether it be offensively or defensively. The Huskies will be hoping to exploit the Nuggets weakness in this area with Otago only registering an average of 37 per game the lowest of any team in the competition.

It will be up to Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa to stand up for the Huskies with the guard leading the charge when it comes to scoring with an average of 18 points a game. His efforts don’t stop there, with Mauriohooho Le’Afa contributing on the rebound front with 4.7 and leads the assist column with an average of 4.7 per game. Teammate, Taine Murray has also been solid on the scoreboard with an average of 13.2 while Leon Henry has stamped his authority averaging a double-double thanks to his 10.5 points and 10.8 rebounds a game.

For the Nuggets the load has been relatively evenly spread despite Jordan Ngatai dominating for his side. The big man is a commanding presence across the court able to have an influence both in offence and defence averaging a whopping 19.6 points and also gobbling up 5.6 rebounds each time he steps out on court. Excitement machine Jarrod Kenny can turn a game on its head in the blink of an eye with the 34-year-old able to shoot the lights out and dish off dimes willy nilly. Kenny averages 12.4 points and 4.8 assists a game proving to be a real playmaker for Otago while the efforts of Jordan Hunt (14.8 points) and Joshua Aitcheson (10 points) do not go unnoticed, making them a very hard team to overcome.

Ngatai will definitely be one to watch for the Huskies if they are any chance to register another win for the season, while expect the Nuggets to put a lot of time into shutting down the influence of Mauriohooho Le Afa. Coming off a loss the Huskies will be desperate to notch up their second victory of the season and really try to get some respectability back on the scoreboard. But with their fourth win in sight and the potential to leapfrog the Bulls into top spot expect the Nuggets to throw everything they have at Auckland to get the job well and truly done.

FRANKLIN BULLS v. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

 In the second game of the night, the top placed Franklin Bulls take on the Taranaki Mountainairs who have had an up and down campaign so far but are only one game off the top team. With three wins under their belt the Mountainairs will have plenty of belief that they can knock off the top of the table Bulls and jump up the ladder. However the Bulls are coming off a strong showing and on a four game winning spree, a feat they will be hoping to continue tonight.

When it comes to scoreboard impact that is where the Mountainairs can well and truly flex their muscles averaging a whopping 102.5 points per game while their opponents sit second last with 78.5 points, something the Airs will be hoping to take advantage of. Their ability to score with haste and accuracy makes them a real threat to the Bulls able to burst out of the blocks and pile on the pressure.

Another strength for the Mountainairs is their rebounding ability, averaging the highest in the league with 49.7 displaying their ability to impose themselves around the rim and limit their opposition’s chance of regaining possession. The Bulls however are not as proficient in this area sitting fifth in the competition for rebounds with an average of 41.2 which is still impressive.

Although the Airs are a strong attacking team the Bulls have proven to be a tricky team to score against, given their defensive work. The Bulls are cautious with ball in hand, treasuring each possession and only averaging 12.5 turnovers each game, the least amount of any team but the Airs can be sloppy with ball in hand averaging 14.5.

The Bulls have a wealth of options that can hit the scoreboard none more prominent than Isaac Davidson with 17.5 points per game. The youngster has been a focal point in the Bulls line-up able to apply scoreboard pressure, take the court for an average of 30 plus minutes and dish off a dime every now and then. Teammate, Dominique Kelman-Poto has also been influential for the Bulls and will be eager to continue his run of hot form, currently averaging 12.3 points and 6.7 rebounds. Samuel Timmins (12.2 points) and Nikau McCullough (10.2 points) are also valuable avenues to the basket for the Bulls showcasing the plethora of options they have when it comes to posting a commanding tally.

Taranaki have five players averaging over double digits in the points scoring column with Derone Raukawa leading the charge. Raukawa has proven to be a scoring machine for the Airs constantly delivering at the basket and rising up to the challenge time and time again, averaging a whopping 22.5 points per game while also registering 7.3 assists. Averaging a double-double, Marcel Jones will be one to watch for the Bulls with Jones able to explode out of the blocks securing an average of 17.7 points and 15.5 rebounds. Shane Temara and Kenneth Tuffin are other key members of the Airs side with the duo able to knock back shots while youngster Francis Mulvihill is exciting to watch with his drive to the basket  and vision to pass off to teammates.

It will be an enthralling battle with both sides boasting stacked line ups. Despite sitting at vastly different ends of the table expect this match to go down to the wire with the Airs able to fight back from commanding deficits credit to their scoring prowess.

Huskies claim first scalp of the season with impressive win

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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