Tag: Jack Exeter

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

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

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

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

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

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

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

Webley leads third term Ram-raid to tame Huskies

AN inspired third term by the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown last placed side, Canterbury Rams has continued the unthinkable dream with a come-from-behind 98-84 triumph over Auckland Huskies last night. Led by Thomas Webley who set the tone in the third term after his side had a slow start, the big man turned it on with unbelievable athleticism to drag his team back from the brink and over the line despite a remarkable 39-point effort from Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’Afa.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 26 | 16 | 20 | 22 (84)
CANTERBURY RAMS 23 | 13 | 39 | 23 (98)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The first term belonged to the two talented Tall Blacks guards with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa and Reuben Te Rangi going head-to-head on the respective scoring fronts. The Auckland Huskies guard set up Tohi Smith-Milner with the opening basket of the game with a pass through traffic, and soon the size of Aaron Bailey-Nowell on offence added a couple more. Te Rangi would sink the first three-pointer of the game after being left wide open courtesy of a screen, but Bailey-Nowell immediately responded with a couple more points. Huskies had a number of chances but were missing them early, though that began to change when Mauriohooho-Le’Afa got cooking.

Te Rangi was still causing all sorts of issues for the Rams defence, piling on seven points, all of the Rams score in the first half of the term to get his side within four, and then assisted Quintin Bailey for a two-point deficit. But as would be the case, all the Rams scoring would come as a struggle, whilst the Huskies began draining treys like there was no tomorrow – which technically was correct for the losing side. Whilst Mauriohooho-Le’Afa was getting going, it was Leon Henry with a couple of triples and then a massive three first-quarter blocks that was intimidating the young Rams defence. At quarter time, the Huskies led by three after Taylor Britt’s first basket of the game with 40 seconds left got his side back into it.

Webley was having a promising game, and started well with three points and four rebounds, something he would build on in the second term. Despite the lead, Huskies coach Kevin Braswell was not happy with the defence on Te Rangi imploring his guards to double-team the Tall Black. They managed that better in the second term as he would not add to his seven first quarter scores, also gaining a bit of a breather as Sam Smith came on and piled on the baskets to be the most influential Ram with Webley in the second term.

But it was truly the Mauriohooho-Le’Afa show in the second quarter as he drained triple after triple to race to 20 half-time points courtesy of a 13-point second term. Between his offence and Henry’s defence, the inexperienced Rams were struggling to score. At one point, the Huskies guard was outscoring the Rams as Canterbury was two from 10 from three-point range, whilst the Huskies were draining a third of their chances.

The match was summed up by a fourth Henry block with four and a half in the term, followed by a Mauriohooho-Le’Afa trey putting the Huskies out to 12-point lead. With just 29 points to the midpoint of the term, the usually calm Mick Downer told his chargers that it was “the most selfish individual display I’ve seen from us this whole campaign and this is why we have 29 points.” The Rams managed to respond from that to cut back to six points as Smith drained a couple of layups. With 46 seconds remaining, Henry bowled over Ben Carlile-Smith and won the free throws, showing confidence with a stare down over his opponent on the ground. The half-time buzzer sounded with the Huskies up by six, 42-36.

It is unsure what went on at half-time, but whatever it was, it turned the Rams offence on. Whilst the Huskies defence was worried about Te Rangi and Britt, it was Webley who came to play, draining the first six points of the term and went on to finish the term with double-figure points as the big man was dropping floaters and slamming athletic dunks. He not only dragged his team back into it, but he lead the Rams to up to a lead themselves with a 16-4 run early in the term.

Mauriohooho-Le’Afa continued his form though with four points, but he was up against a team offence that had finally clicked. If it was not Webley, then it was Bailey or Toby Gillooly who were making the Huskies hurt. The biggest issue was the Huskies’ big men were getting into four trouble with Henry (three) and both Smith-Milner and Bailey-Nowell (four each) all close to being fouled out. Henry was still being aggressive on the offensive effort to try and help Mauriohooho Le’afa out, but everything the Rams touched turned to gold. Britt dropped a couple of treys off rare Henry fumbles out of bounds and the lead went out to 11 at one point.

Everything was going wrong for the Huskies as they were desperately trying to get some baskets, but a rushed pass from Smith-Milner was intercepted by Britt who went to the basket and was fouled to put the lead out to 13 by the final term. No one could quite understand what had occurred in the third quarter following a massive 39-20 term. What was even more remarkable was the fact that Te Rangi had not scored since the first term, and Britt only had 12 points – most of which came late in the term. For the Huskies, Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa and Henry combined for 46 points and 14 rebounds but needed more support.

The Huskies had 10 minutes to try and stay in the Sal’s NBL Finals Series, but it was not going to happen with a triple from Jack Exeter to push the lead out to 14 in the first 90 seconds. Henry responded with a last second trey before the shot clock expired. The Rams were still being aggressive on offence and throwing everything at the Rams in the last term. Henry was being incredible both inside and outside, and when Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa dropped another basket, his side was back within nine.

Six minutes in the Rams called a timeout with the 11-point lead and Downer implored his players to keep up the aggression on offence without going too far. The Huskies kept trying for long-range attempts, but the treys were now not dropping. Instead, Te Rangi was fouled shooting for a triple of his own and had three free throws, making two of them for a 12-point lead with five minutes remaining. The work by Canterbury’s defence to double-team Henry on the way to the hoop forced a miss, and Te Rangi almost ended the game with a triple but it rolled in and out.

With 3:47 remaining, Bailey-Nowell was fouled out for an offensive foul and a 11-point deficit. Henry continued his unbelievable work on defence and it led to a Huskies basket up the other end with Anamata Hatu scoring his first points coming on for Bailey-Nowell. Reuben Fitzgerald was using his speed to get to the basket but split both free throw opportunities in the final term with eight points the difference. When Smith-Milner was offensively fouled by Te Rangi with 2.31 on the clock, the Huskies had possession again and Mauriohooho-Lea’Afa was fouled on the way to the hoop and made no mistake with his free throws to go up to a massive 39 points and getting his team within six points.

Unfortunately for the Huskies that was as close as it got with Te Rangi draining an important basket, Britt doubling up with two nice jumpers and with just over a minute remaining the Rams held a 12-point lead. The Rams managed to wind down the clock and when Smith sank a trey with 30 seconds remaining, he iced the game to guarantee the Rams a most magnificent victory, 98-84.

Webley finished with 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists, shooting at 69 per cent from the field, while Britt (16 points, seven rebounds and 10 assists) ended up having a prominent night after a slow start. Te Rangi quietened down after his ripping first term but finished with 13 points, and still contributed with eight rebounds and six assists, while Gillooly picked up the only double-double of the game with 12 points and 12 rebounds to his name. Smith (16 points, two rebounds and two assists) and Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were the other double-figure Rams. For the Huskies it was a two-man show with Mauriohooho-Le’Afa dominating everywhere with 39 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals, while Henry threw himself desperately at every ball to end with 18 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six blocks. Smith-Milner was the other Huskies player to pick up double-digit points with 16 but outside of the trio, the remainder of the team contributed just 11 points.

Whilst the Huskies exit the competition after some terrific basketball this season, the Rams advance to take on the top of the table Otago Nuggets tomorrow night, having to recover for the second straight night. While it is unheard of to think the last placed side could take out the title, the Rams so far have shown anything is possible.

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

CANTERBURY Rams have remained in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Finals Series following a tight four-point win over Nelson Giants, eliminating their opponents in the process. In what was a battle between the bottom two sides and the first of four sudden-death finals should one of these sides have made it to the grand final, the Rams were able to build on their last round win and record a narrow 93-89 victory thanks to strong play through the middle two quarters.

NELSON GIANTS 30 | 17 | 19 | 23 (89)
CANTERBURY RAMS 26 | 23 | 27 | 17 (93)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Despite their low finishes on the ladder, a salivating matchup always beckoned as arguably the best back court in the league of the Rams contested arguably the best front court in the league of the Giants, and that was where the game started. Mike Karena won the tip emphatically and set the tone for the Giants’ offence early as the ageless Mika Vukona drove straight to the cup for two. Up the other end, Taylor Britt opted to be the facilitator and dropped a dime to offensive leader for the first half in Quintin Bailey for two at the rim for the Rams. Britt then found Toby Gillooly on the perimeter for three who was looking to have an impact early after fouling out in their last outing. With both teams knowing it was a do-or-die match, the intensity was red hot and Giants captain Tom Ingham stepped up with the reply from deep. It was game on.

All the stars were involved early as Tall Black Reuben Te Rangi used his strength to score inside, and Dane Brooks split the Rams defenders to earn his way to the free-throw line for two. The Giants controlled the early stages of the game as seven individual scorers saw them get out to an 11-point lead. With Karena getting on the board with his trademark post-hook, Rams coach Mick Downer had seen enough and called a timeout. He was not happy with his team’s tempo offensively and some errant passes, a sign that there was a lack of cohesion and chemistry due to not having a full-strength side for much of the season, as well as their defensive effort labelling it as “garbage”.

Canterbury managed to find another gear to finish the quarter much like their game on Saturday as Sam Smith hit his first of three triples for the game, and Alex Talma got it done at both ends of the floor. The game was back to a one possession lead until the experienced front court of the Giants managed a couple of baskets late in the quarter as the scores read 30-26 at the first break.

High intensity and efficiency offensively for Nelson saw them shooting 66 per cent from the three-point line while it was Bailey, who got the starting nod for the game, and his 10 first quarter points keeping the Rams within arms-length.

Britt made his way to the free-throw line to score his first points of the game two minutes into the second quarter, but he still hadn’t made a shot from five attempts on the floor. Ingham also hit from the charity stripe to find his way to double-figure scoring, as five quick fire Te Rangi points tied the scores for the first time since the early part of the game. Britt eventually made his first shot from the floor, but it was Ingham again stealing the show with a corner three, before forcing Gillooly to roll his ankle with a vicious step-back jumper on their next possession.

Jack Exeter returned from concussion with a corner three of his own, and Talma’s tough defence on Karena led to him draining a triple from the wing up the other end. He managed to keep Karena to just six first half points as the Rams led 49-47 at the main break thanks to their resurgent defensive effort. Bailey (13 points) and Talma (7 points, five rebounds) led the way for Canterbury while Britt was restricted to just four points (1-8 shooting). Nelson’s 10 turnovers were a concern with five of them coming from Vukona, but his nine points and eight rebounds (three offensive) were also very valuable in keeping the contest tight.

Josh Bloxham tied the game again with a layup to start the second half until the Talma and Karena matchup started to fire up. Both fired shots at each other from both ends in an impressive showcase of skill and speed from the big men. Talma eventually went down with an ankle injury after landing on it awkwardly in a shot contest. He would ice up and not return for the rest of the game. Nelson tried to expose the defensive hole that was left as Karena bullied his way to two offensive rebounds and an and-one. With Vukona securing a double-double with a quarter and change left to play, a Canterbury big needed to step up, and they did. The 18-year-old Tom Webley kept the pressure on Karena at both ends and ended the game with 13 points and seven rebounds, playing a big role in many of their defensive plays. His involvement sparked another late-quarter run for the Rams as they dominated the final three minutes to take a 76-66 lead heading into the last break.

Turnovers were again a big reason the Giants found themselves down having recorded eight in the third quarter alone, something they needed to rectify if they had any chance of keeping their season alive. Despite Webley’s solid play, Karena continued to attack him with an and-one starting the Giants on the right path of a comeback. Nelson oozed full court defensive pressure and active offence as the Giants knew it was all or nothing. Despite this, they could not quite take a big enough dent out of the Canterbury lead.

With just under four minutes left, a Tysxun Aiolupotea runner sparked a seven to nothing run to be back within four points with just a minute and a half left. This was the finish the fiery first half promised fans. The Giants managed another stop and had a chance to dig into the lead again. The ball pinballed around the court as neither team could quite recover the ball cleanly, until it slipped into the hands of Britt and he wasn’t letting go. Looking to extend their lead, he took off but was stopped and fouled at half court with 37 seconds left. The referees deliberated on whether it was an unsportsmanlike foul, and with enough contact, that call was made. After making the two free throws and getting to the line on their retained possession, the lead was back to eight and it looked like game over. That was not the case.

Brooks hit a three on his second attempt in the possession and in his typical athletic fashion, he forced a turnover on the inbound pass with a huge dive. A quick Ingham three bounced off the rim and into the hands of Karena who is not known for his exploits from deep, yet he understood the situation of the game and Reggie Miller step-backed behind the line and drained it. The game was back to two points but unfortunately for Nelson, the lead only extended with the Smith free-throws the last scores of the game.

A valiant fightback fell short as the Rams won 93-89 and with them back at full strength, four wins in five days to win the championship isn’t out of the realms of possibility. Despite a quiet first half, Britt led a team-binding win with 15 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and three steals while Bailey’s 19 points and eight rebounds was important for their first half efforts. Te Rangi (11 points, five rebounds) was important, while fans wait on news on Talma’s (10 points, five rebounds) injury.

Karena (19 points, five rebounds) and Ingham (19 points) were the best for eliminated Nelson outfit, as Vukona did what Vukona does and put up 14 points and 16 rebounds in the loss. As the Giants head home from the competition, the Rams now take on Auckland Huskies for a spot in the semi-finals. If the Rams get up, they will face the red-hot Otago Nuggets in the semi-finals.

Vukona return sparks Giant win over Rams, ends four-game slide

THE Nelson Giants’ runaway fourth quarter has led to the ninth straight downfall of the Canterbury Rams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL), as the return of Mika Vukona helped spark a strong performance, despite a limited run on the floor last night.

NELSON GIANTS 13 | 29 | 22 | 16 (80)
CANTERBURY RAMS 22 | 15 | 20 | 7 (64)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

While it remains very unlikely for either the Giants or Rams to make the top four, both teams had a lot of pride on the line before squaring up last night in Saturday’s opener. The Giants, who looked at ending their four-game skid, had to knock off a Rams side that was desperate for a win, having lost eight straight contests prior to the matchup.

Good news for Nelson straight off the bat, New Zealand Hall of Famer and 162-time Tall Black in Vukona made his first appearance for the Giants, coming off the bench in his side’s bid to gain some room off the bottom of the standings. Meanwhile, the Rams’ chances looked bleak, as key guard Taylor Britt was absent due to an elbow injury.

Nevertheless, Reuben Te Rangi, Benjamin Carlisle-Smith and Alexander Talma got their squad going early, opening up a 6-0 start to the clash of the two South Island sides.

The advantageous start for the Rams would set the tone for the majority of the first term, pushing their lead to as much as nine points off the back of two free-throws from Te Rangi. The conversion rate was the ultimate factor in obtaining the 22-13 lead at quarter-time for Canterbury, as the squad shot over 40 per cent from the field compared to the Giants, who shot under 30 per cent.

After Vukona made his first basket of the season 37 seconds into the second period, it seemed as though Nelson started to gain a little bit of momentum. But, a well organised and prepared Canterbury side parried most of their runs during the first few minutes of the second.

Following an injury scare to the Rams’ Samuel Smith, Canterbury continued to outperform the Giants in all methods of scoring. Methods varied from points in the paint to second chance points to points off the bench, as Mick Downer’s squad flexed their depth late in the first half.

An unsportsmanlike foul on Te Rangi allowed Nelson back into striking range, as Nicolas Trathen’s technical free-throws and Theo Johnson’s three helped cap off an effective 13-0 run giving Nelson the lead for the first time in the game. Te Rangi’s three tied the contest up, but a Dane Brooks and-one and dunk solidified the half-time lead at the main break, giving his team the five-point edge 42-37. Thanks to his last-minute run of plays, Brooks led the way for his team in scoring and rebounding prior to the third quarter, adding 10 points and five rebounds to the cause, while Te Rangi was held responsible for his 11 individual points.

A glaring red light for Canterbury’s first half downfall was in the category of points from turnovers. Nelson’s defence led to eight points from forcing takeaways, as the Rams were yet to produce in that fashion. Despite this, the Rams contributed 15 second-chance points, compared to Nelson’s 11, highlighting one of the few good things the bottom-dwellers of the league did up until half-time. The Rams’ Jack Exeter knocked down a lead-off three to get Canterbury off on the right foot, as Canterbury quickly levelled the playing field a couple minutes into the second half with both sides sitting on 44 points apiece.

With both sides going basket-for-basket in the middle stages of the third period, Nelson could start to exploit the Rams’ holes in their defence, separating themselves from their opponents and after Johnson’s And-1 dunk, they could start to see the light at the end of the tunnel leading by as much as seven points with just over a quarter to play.

That lead would remain for the rest of the third phase as a Mac Stodart’s alley-oop layup on the buzzer gave the Rams a modicum of hope going into the final ten minutes, as they continued to search for answers to lock down the key (the Rams allowed 38 points in the paint through three quarters).

Nelson’s frontcourt started get results as the big-man duo of Mike Karena and Vukona helped extend their team’s lead into double-digits for the first time of the night, leading 72-57 with just under eight minutes remaining. Following this, everything started to fall, as Alexander McNaught added to his impressive performance with a three-pointer of his own.

Another scoring run from the Giants would put the result beyond all doubt all the way to the final whistle, as Nelson ran away with the contest by a potent 16-point deficit, 80-64. It therefore ended their four-game losing stretch and improving their record to four wins and seven losses. On the other side of the tape, the Rams move a game and a half back on the standings, losing their ninth straight after a string of close defeats over the last few weeks.

Brooks led the charge for the Giants, standing with Karena as one of the only two players to reach double digits in scoring. The shooting guard remained reliable from the field, hammering home 26 points and eight rebounds in his man of the match performance. For Karena, 11 points and five rebounds completed a modest performance off the bench, as Vukona made a substantial impact in his return to the hardwood (eight points, three rebounds and two assists).

While each basket for the Rams seemed to be a challenge, Te Rangi continued his good start to the season with a team-high 15 points and four rebounds. Meanwhile, Toby Gillooly earned his salt at the free-throw line attributing five of his ten points to the charity strike, going five from six.

Both sides encounter the Auckland huskies in their next on-court appearances, with Nelson to face the side in the next 24 hours and looking to close the gap for fifth spot in the standings. Next up for the Rams, they can look forward to some rest as the injury woes continue for the Red and Black, lining up against the Huskies on Wednesday night looking to avoid a double-digit losing streak after their ninth consecutive loss last night.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 9 night preview: Airs v Giants and Huskies v Rams

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NZNBL) Showdown matches are a Throwback to opening night of the season, when the Airs faced the Giants and the Rams took on the Huskies.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS vs NELSON GIANTS

Top spot is on the line for the Taranaki Mountainairs who will be keen to take back pole position from Franklin Bulls with an impressive win over the Nelson Giants in this game. However the Giants have plenty to play for because they can level with the Airs at a 50 per cent win-loss record if they get up in this contest, moving into the top three.

The Airs have been a high-scoring side this season, averaging a whopping 102.4 points per game, while the Giants sit fifth overall with an average of 85 per game. The Airs are also the number one rebounding side, picking up 45.4 per game to the Giants’ 37.1, whilst Taranaki leads the assists too thanks to 19.9, while the Giants have struggled, ranked sixth with just 14.1 per game. It will also be a case of the best three-point shooting outfit (39.7 per cent for the Airs) compared to the worst (29.6 per cent for the Giants), but Nelson have the capability to cause an upset.

Last night’s heavy defeat at the hands of Manawatu Jets would sting the Giants, as they dropped only their second game in five matches, though the 30-point beating will be one they want to put quickly behind them. The Airs looked to have slipped a little earlier in the week with three losses in four games, but managed to compose themselves for a really strong 14-point win over the Franklin Bulls to temporarily take top spot before the Bulls won last night.

In their earlier encounter, the Giants had a fast start to lead by a point in a high-scoring opening term (28-27), before the Airs took control. Taranaki won the next three quarters by seven, eight and two points respectively to run out 16-point victors back on opening night. In fairness to the Giants, they were without their three top draft picks in Mika Vukona – who is still injured – as well as Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Instead, it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tyxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) who stepped up to the plate, but it would not be enough.

Instead, second pick in the Sal’s NBL Player Draft, Derone Raukawa, went to town with a first game double-double of 28 points, 10 assists, six rebounds and a steal, shooting at a remarkable 66.7 per cent from the field, including draining five of six from three-point range. Francis Mulvihill (16 points, five assists, two rebounds and two steals) also impressed, but it was another double-double of Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) that caught the eye. Tai Wynyard (13 points, three rebounds) and Shane Temara (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points for the Airs on the night.

Expect the Airs to be strong favourites in this one for consistency reasons, but Wynyard will have a massive job trying to quell Karena who is in some absolute sensational form of late – though had a quieter game last night.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs CANTERBURY RAMS

No one would have thought a week ago that this could be a bottom two clash, and that an Auckland win could theoretically push the Huskies above the Rams. Canterbury started the league like a house on fire, winning the first three games, including an opening night 32-point demolition job of the Huskies. Since winning their first three games, the Rams have not been able to muster a victory, losing four on the trot and are in danger of slipping to the bottom of the Sal’s NBL table after being the front runners for the first week. The Huskies on the other hand might only have the two wins, but spectators can see they are on the rise, winning two of their past three games and arguably deserve favouritism in this game.

In the earlier encounter between the sides, the Rams never looked like losing, blowing away the Huskies in the opening term with a 29-12 stanza to already opening up a 17-point lead. While the Huskies hit back in the second term, the Rams continued on their merry way in the second half, outscoring Auckland by 18 points to cruise to a 102-70 victory. The partnership of Taylor Britt (22 points, eight rebounds) and Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks) was damaging for the Rams, while Jack Exeter added 13 points off the bench, and Sam Smith and Thomas Webley combined for 14 points and 13 rebounds.

It was a disastrous shooting night for the Huskies, but Tohi Smith-Milner was a shining light thanks to 15 points at 62.5 per cent accuracy, while picking up four rebounds and two steals. Nate Wilson amassed 10 points at an identical clip, as well as four rebounds, two steals and two blocks off the bench. Leon Henry and Taine Murray had shaky starts to the season, sinking a combined three from 19 from the field at a lowly 15.8 per cent accuracy,. They did put together a combined 10 rebounds and five assists however.

Since that fateful night, Auckland has welcomed back top pick, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa who has averaged team-highs in points (16.5) and assists (4.3) as well as third overall in rebounds (5.0). Both Murray and Henry have also been strong since misfiring on night one, helping themselves to top five placings in points and assists, while Henry leads the way off the boards with 11.6. A lot of the load for the Rams has been placed on the shoulders of Britt who has put up team-high numbers in points (20.9) and assists (4.1), as well as second in rebounds (7.1). Alex Talma has provided good support off the boards with eight rebounds per game, while Gillooly has been a crucial omission through injury of late after having a strong start to the season.

The Huskies can really join the mid-table logjam with a win here, while the Rams are just desperate for a win. They cannot afford to lose a fifth straight game because then the only team yet to beat them is one of the title contenders in Taranaki Mountainairs, and the Rams would not be keen to go into finals knowing they had lost to the rest of the competition at least once.

Rams hold on against fast-finishing Bulls

CANTERBURY Rams have set up a tantalising clash with fellow undefeated side Taranaki Mountainairs on Saturday after the Rams held on against a gallant Franklin Bulls outfit to win by three points in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) last night. The Rams led by as much as 10 points at half-time, but had to survive a fierce Bulls charge even as late as the last 30 seconds before managing to seal the deal with a couple of made free throws in the 75-72 triumph.

FRANKLIN BULLS 14 | 16 | 22 | 20 (72)
CANTERBURY RAMS 18 | 22 | 17 | 18 (75)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

The Bulls started the stronger of the two sides with talented youngster Isaac Davidson kick-starting proceeding with an early lay-up, and when Dom Kelman-Poto got fouled on his way to the basket, the Bulls held an early advantage. Taylor Britt and Toby Gillooly were starting to show signs of being a problem and picking up where they too left off in their last match, with the pair piling on the points in the term, with 12 consecutive points helping the Rams to an eight-point lead.

When Ben Carlile-Smith slotted a floating jump shot to lead 18-10 with two and a half minutes remaining, the lead at quarter time looked assured. Kelman-Poto capped off his strong quarter with another lay up, whilst Jackson Stubbins‘ jump shot in the dying seconds meant the Bulls only trailed by four at the first change.

It was no surprise to see Britt burst out of the blocks early in the second, quickly adding four more points to his tally as the Rams extended the lead to 10. Everard Bartlett dropped a triple to throwback to the night before, but they were not having the same time and space in this match. The Bulls were constantly bringing on substitutions to throw off the Rams’ defence, with Nicholas Barrow bringing the deficit back to seven points, only for back-to-back threes from Jack Exeter, and then one from Mac Stodart to blow the game wide open to 16 points.

Gillooly continued on his merry way, and by the time he had completed a couple of free throws with two minutes remaining, the Rams were sitting pretty at 40-23. Franklin refused to fade away in red time however, as they scored the last seven points of the game, as Kelman-Poto was again busy with five of them to make it a big half for the Bulls’ first selection in the Sal’s NBL Player Draft.

The Bulls needed a response in the second half, and it was Sam Timmins who got the first points on the board through a lay up. Britt was still hanging around hough and causing a nuisance for himself wiht back-to-back baskets himself. For almost a minute and a half, neither team could score from the moment Davidson drew his side within 10 points at the seven-and-a-half minute mark. After Stodart increased the lead back out to 13 at the midpoint of the term, it was Davidson, Nikau McCullough and TImmins who worked it back, before Joel Vaiangina was fouled on a jump shot, converted the and-one, and the Bulls were within three with three minutes to play.

Once again it was Britt who stood tall with an important relieving basket, then a pair of three throws moments later to give the Rams a bit of a buffer. Neither team was able to really blow the other away heading into the final break with Kelman-Poto’s final two free throws cutting the deficit to five at the change.

Kelman-Poto and Davidson immediately had an impact in the final stanza to cut the deficit to one with eight minutes to play, before Mason Whittaker nailed a triple. Back-to-back Bulls baskets, the last from Timmins tied the game with six and a half minutes to play, and the Rams called a timeout sensing the urgency of the moment in the game. Britt was importantly substituted back in, and he immediately assisted Sam Smith off a defensive rebound to set up the next five points for the Rams.

The match still had plenty of twists and turns however, with Davidson answering Smith with another five points off his own, while McCullough put the Bulls in front for the first time since the first quarter with four and a half minutes left in the match. The pressure was building as the Rams converted some free throw opportunities wither side of a massive Timmins dunk. From Thomas Webley‘s second free throw made with 44 seconds left, the Bulls led by four.

Bartlett had a three-point point opportunity, missed and Britt picked up the rebound, got it to Gillooly who was forced to the charity stripe by Kelman-Poto. It proved important because the top scorer from game one missed both, and Timmins grabbed the rebound, before the ‘Ice Man’ Davidson drilled a triple and with 23 seconds left, the Bulls trailed by a point.

Bartlett immediately fouled Smith to not lose any more time, but Smith made good on both his free throw chances to put the lead out to three with 20 seconds remaining. The Bulls believed they could nail the three-pointer to tie the game, with Bartlett given the chance with four seconds remaining but his shot hit the rim and bounced off for Britt to snatch one more rebound as the buzzer sounded moments later for a important Rams win.

Britt was once again superb picking up a double-double with that last second rebound to end the match with 19 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, aided well by Rams teammate Gillooly who had the 16 points and five rebounds. Alex Talma was strong off the boards to grab nine rebounds – including five offensive – to go with his seven points, whilst Smith and Stodart both ended with nine points apiece. For the Bulls, Kelman-Poto matched Britt’s effort with a double-double of 20 points, 10 rebounds and three steals himself, whilst Davidson had 21 points and three rebounds. Timmins finished with a handy 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

2020 Sal’s NBL June 25 night preview: Nuggets v Giants and Bulls v Rams

EVERY side in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown has played now with some form behind them. For the Otago Nuggets, tonight marks their final game of the week as the only side with the two matches, whilst the three other teams – Nelson Giants, Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams – arrive for the second of three matches, and the last games before a day off.

OTAGO NUGGETS VS. NELSON GIANTS

The first game of the night pits a game one winner against a game one loser to see if one side can continue its fortunes or if the other side can reverse its opening day result. The Otago Nuggets come into the match fresh off a tight win 24 hours earlier against the Manawatu Jets, whilst the Nelson Giants went down to Taranaki Mountainairs on night one.

The Nuggets put up the third highest score of any team – Taranaki Airs had the two higher ones – with 104 points, but also conceded 100 points in a high-scoring contest. They were strong off the defensive boards, ranking second overall thus far, but are ranked sixth of the seven teams off the offensive boards. It was a shock to no one that Jarrod Kenny and Jordan Ngatai had sensational games leading Otago’s offence.

Kenny racked up 28 points and six assists, dishing off dimes with ease, whilst Ngatai had a field day across the board, recording 19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists in a huge performance himself. Kenny’s accuracy of 61.5 per cent from the field, including five of nine from outside the arc was particularly impressive. That is before you take into account the roles of Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) who showed they can step up alongside that damaging duo.

The Giants still managed to score 96 points in the 16-point loss to the Airs, and considering the names out of the side – Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks – most teams would struggle to get that close. With Vukona falling 90 minutes short of being available to join the group post-isolation, the veteran power forward will be a huge inclusion to the side, which struggled off the boards at both ends without their big men.

Without their top three draft picks, it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds and two assists) who did the bulk of the damage in a losing side. If the big three can return for the Giants, then watch out because their depth was seriously impressive in the opening game of the season despite the loss. But the big question mark will be getting the rustiness out after an extended break without a game behind them like their opponents.

This game has the potential to be huge, with the Nuggets showing their abilities off the defensive boards, whilst the Giants have the potential to do the same when at full strength. It will come down to accuracy when taking shots that could decide this game.

FRANKLIN BULLS VS. CANTERBURY RAMS

The second match of the night sees the league’s most cohesive club up against a side that is still learning how to gel over four quarters. Watching the Bulls last night, their best is capable of matching it with the best in the competition, they just were not able to do it for long enough to get the win. The Rams had everything thrown at them leading into the season with the losses of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, but found a way to win against Auckland Huskies on night one.

In the 12-point loss to the Airs, the Bulls had some huge moments, both in the first term and charging home in the fourth to draw within five points at one stage early. But the middle two terms – where they conceded an extra 18 points – is what cost them against the Airs in Taranaki’s second clash of the week. The Bulls recorded the lowest rebound average of any side, an area that Liam Simmons will no doubt look to improve on in game two. They still managed to score 95 points despite the loss, which is a positive to take out of the club’s inaugural game.

Isaac Davidson led the way with 27 points, eight rebounds, three assists and two steals in a memorable match. Dom Kelman-Poto was strong off the boards with 10 points and four rebounds, sharing the load with Nick Barrow who finished with 11 points and five rebounds off the bench. Also coming off the pine to cause headaches on the scoring front was Nikau McCulloch (17 points, two rebounds), whilst Everard Bartlett was the key distributor with five assists to accompany 13 points.

The Rams could not have been much more impressive in their huge win over Auckland Huskies, dominating most of the key areas during the 102-70 victory. The Rams had 12 more defensive rebounds and seven more blocks, being incredibly in sync with each other throughout the match. They looked like a team that has played together for some time, and that is how they performed. If they bring that sam level of intensity on the defensive end into this match, they deserve to start favourites.

In game one, it was Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks) and Taylor Britt (22 points, eight rebounds) who led the way for the Rams, whilst Jack Exeter came off the bench for 13 points. What made Canterbury’s win so impressive was the shared load, with 10 players making their way on court, and nine of them scoring at least six points. With that kind of balance, it is hard to restrict the scoring and makes them a very damaging side.

Canterbury Rams head in favourites and deservingly so. The Bulls will look to make a few changes in this match to counter some of the impressive defensive efforts of the Rams, but Franklin will need to be at their best for longer in order for the Bulls to bounce back.

Canterbury overcomes setbacks to Ram home win against Huskies

TWO of your first three draft selections ruled out for the season in the week leading up the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition? No worries for Canterbury Rams who stepped up last night to post an eye-opening 32-point win over Auckland Huskies. The Rams had to rejig the look of their side in the wake of season-ending injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, but the most cohesive team – having played together more than any other side – looked in-sync and like a title threat this year. Aside from a second term fightback from the Huskies, the Rams were in control for the majority of the game, enjoying a 102-70 victory to kick-start their year.

CANTERBURY RAMS 29 | 17 | 24 | 32 (102)
AUCKLAND HUSKIES 12 | 20 | 16 | 22 (70)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

The match started with experienced veteran and Huskies captain, Leon Henry reading an Alex Talma pass then giving it off to Marvin Williams-Dunn for the first score on the board. After missing a three-point attempt, Toby Gillooly produced a neat lay-up to register the Rams’ first score of 2020. Henry and Perth Wildcats development player, Taylor Britt both traded two-points, as Canterbury used its first substitution to bring on Thomas Webley. That decision paid dividends as he picked up a rebound almost immediately then sank a turnaround jump shot, whilst Britt ran the court and put up another layup.

The Rams were starting to take control as the Huskies could not manage to find their range with accuracy. When Gillooly drained a three-point jumper in the seventh minute of the term, the Rams’ lead was out to 12. In the last 90 seconds, Canterbury showed they were not content with a minor lead as they piled on nine points to two to head into the first break with a 29-12 lead.

The second term started as it had finished with Britt sinking two baskets, whilst veteran Rashid Al Kaleem scored either side of the break for the Huskies. Johnny Fesolai managed to get the Huskies back a little with a two-point layup and the and-one basket from the line, but again the Rams raced away to extend the lead by out to 22 points four minutes into the term.

Young gun Taine Murray started to make his presence felt with four consecutive points to drag it back to 18, but then Gillooly returned serve and the Rams were away to the largest lead of the game – 23 points. Back-to-back triples from Tohi Smith-Milner reminded the crowd the game was far from over as the Huskies clawed to within 14 at the main break, but Canterbury was still in control.

All the work the Huskies had done was threatened to be undone early as Sam Smith and Mac Stodart were the first two on the board in the second half. Smith-Milner came back with another converted and-one opportunity, before Gillooly’s superb game continued as he applied pressure to the opposition with an important layup, drilling seven points in the term. Each time the Huskies threw down a challenge, the Rams responded with some class of their own, and the 24-16 term resulted in Canterbury extending the lead out to 22 by the final break and needing a special effort from Auckland to get back into the contest.

Nathan Wilson and Jaylen Gerrand tried their best early with the first four points of the term to cut the deficit back to 18, but the star of the show in Britt stepped up again, and settled the team. The sides traded blows midway through the term, with 21 points in the fourth minute as close as the Huskies got from then on. Talma, Britt, Jack Exeter, Mason Whittaker and Webley scored 14 straight points for the Rams to put the final nail in the Huskies’ coffin.

Murray, Anamata Haku and Wilson managed to cut the margin back a little, with Gerrand’s trey with three seconds remaining – matching that of Whittaker’s triple four seconds earlier – ending the match with the Huskies going down by 32 points in the second game of the competition.

Britt was simply outstanding in a best on court effort, sinking 22 points at a 55 per cent efficiency, whilst also picking up eight rebounds and an assist. Gillooly was equally strong, adding a match-high 25 points, along with six rebounds, two blocks and a steal in the win. Exeter (13 points, two rebounds and two steals) was strong off the bench, whilst Webley had seven points and seven rebounds, and Smith with the seven points, six rebounds and four assists.

For the Huskies, they were missing their top selection in Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa, but still struggled with connection compared to their rivals, understandable considering the minimal time the team has had together. Smith-Milner scored 15 points, four rebounds, two steals and one assist in the clear standout for Auckland, whilst Wilson finished strong with 10 points, four rebounds, two steals and two blocks. Both Murray (seven points at 20 per cent efficiency) and Henry (two points at 11 per cent efficiency) will be keen to sharpen up their shooting for the next game, though the pair still managed a combined 10 rebounds and five assists.

Canterbury have a night off today before fronting up against a Franklin Bulls outfit tomorrow night, whilst the Huskies have back-to-back matches on the weekend, starting with Manawatu Jets on Saturday.

2020 Sal’s NBL Team-by-team lists

THE 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown is ready and raring to go with all seven teams not having completed their lists for the upcoming season. The Player Draft was completed last Thursday, and while three days of Trade Period did not not see a move made, a couple of players had to change sides due to college restrictions. Now that is done and dusted, teams are all set for the first tip-off in eight days. The teams all arrive in Auckland on Friday, June 19 with the opening round to run from Tuesday, June 23 through until Sunday, June 28.

Check out the full team lists below.

Auckland Huskies

Izayah Mauriahoohoo Leafa
Tohi Smith Milner
Leon Henry
Taine Murray
Rasheed Al-Kaleem
Tinashe Matambanadzo
Ana Haku
Johnny Fesolai
Marvin Williams-Dunn
Jaylen Gerrand
Nick Brophy
Nathan Wilson

Manawatu Jets

Tom Vodanovich
Hyrum Harris
Jayden Bezzant
Taane Samuel
Nick Fee
Haize Walker
Tia Temata-Frost
Ashton McQueen
Matangirei Hipango
Josiah Laracy
Nelson Kirksey
Kalib Mullins

Taranaki Mountainairs 

Derone Raukawa
Marcel Jones
Shane Temara
Tai Wynyard
Mitch Dance
Francis Mulvihill
Kenneth Tuffin
Denhym Brooke
Zac Easthope
Oscar Robertson
Carlin Davison
Baxter Fenwick

Canterbury Rams

Jack Salt
Taylor Britt
Joe Cook-Green
Alex Talma
Sam Smith
Toby Gilloly
Jack Exeter
Tom Cowie
Thomas Webley
Mac Stodart
Ben Carlile-Smith
Mason Whittaker

Nelson Giants

Mika Vukona
Mike Karena
Dane Brooks
Tom Ingham
Josh Bloxham
Nick Trathen
Riley Bensemann
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Zeb Lovell
Thane O’Leary
Theo Johnson
Tommy Garguilo

Franklin Bulls

Dominique Kelman-Poto
Sam Timmins
Everard Bartlett
Jackson Stubbins
Isaac Davidson
Nick Barrow
Joel Vaiangina
Nikau McCullough
Connor Woodbridge
Joe Reddish
Chris McIntosh
Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Otago Nuggets

Jordan Ngatai
Jarrod Kenny
Jordan Hunt
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Benoit Hayman
Darcy Knox
Richie Rodger
Sam Aruwa
Akiva McBirnie-Griffin
Jack Andrew
Matthew Bardsley

NZNBL Player Draft: Team-by-Team picks

YESTERDAY the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft was run and done with the 84 players who will take part in this year’s New Zealand NBL selected. Otago Nuggets made history being the first team to read out a drafted selection, taking Jordan Ngatai. The first five rounds were completed within an hour and the rest completed a couple of hours later.

With the lists set, now teams could go to the Trade Table over the next few days, concluding on Sunday. Given the high volume of pre-selections that could have taken place – only clubs are aware of the pre-selected players – there is a chance that some clubs were able to bid higher to gain another talent that an opposition player might have wanted. A couple of examples of players to switch allegiances from last season was Mike Karena joining Mika Vukona at the Nelson Giants after being picked up in the second round. The Rams could have picked up Karena after he was a scoring machine for them last year, but had to prioritise Jack Salt and Taylor Britt, allowing the Giants to swoop in and take Vukona. Another example is Manawatu Jets’ co-captain Jackson Stubbins landing at the Franklin Bulls. The Sky Sports coverage at the draft selection mentioned some uncertainty around Stubbins’ availability and work commitments so the Jets chose not to pre-select him. However he could be another the Jets try and get back in the green, black and white.

Following the three-day trade period, teams will finalise their team lists by Sunday night, before players converge on Auckland next Friday, August 19 for the competition to begin the following Tuesday, June 23.

TEAM-BY-TEAM:

Auckland Huskies:

7. Izayah Mauriohooho-Le’afa
8. Tohi Smith-Milner
21. Leon Henry
22. Taine Murray
35. Rashid Al Kareem
36. Tinashe Matambanadzo
49. Ana Haku
50. Johnny Fesolai
63. Marvin Williams-Dunn
64. Jaylen Gerrand
77. Nick Brophy
78. Nathan Wilson

Canterbury Rams:

5. Jack Salt
10. Taylor Britt
19. Joe Cook-Green
24. Alex Talma
33. Sam Smith
38. Toby Gillooly
47. Jack Exeter
52. Tom Cowie
61. Tom Webley
66. Mac Stodart
75. Ben Carlisle-Smith
80. Mason Whittaker

Franklin Bulls: 

6. Dom Kelman-Poto
9. Sam Timmins
20. Everard Bartlett
23. Jackson Stubbins
34. Isaac Davidson
37. Nick Barrow
48. Joel Vaiangina
51. Nikau McCullough
62. Connor Woodbridge
65. Joe Reddish
76. Chris McIntosh
79. Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape

Manawatu Jets:

3. Tom Vodanovich
12. Hyrum Harris
17. Jayden Bezzant
26. Taane Samuel
31. Nick Fee
40. Haize Walker
45. Tia Tamata-Frost
54. Ashton McQueen
59. Matangirei Hipango
68. Josiah Laracy
73. Tom Power
82. Caleb Mullins

Nelson Giants:

4. Mika Vukona
11. Mike Karena
18. Dane Brooks
25. Tom Ingham
32. Josh Bloxham
39. Nic Trathan
46. Riley Bensemann
53. Tysxun Aiolupotea
60. Zeb Lovell
67. Thane O’Leary
74. Theo Johnson
81. Tommy Gargiulo

Otago Nuggets:

1. Jordan Ngatai
14. Jarrod Kenny
15. Jordan Hunt
28. Kane Keil
29. Josh Aitcheson
42. Benoit Hayman
43. Darcy Knox
56. Richard Roger
57. Sam Aruwa
70. Akiva McBirney-Griffin
71. Jack Andrews
84. Matthew Bardsley

Taranaki Mountainairs:

2. Derone Raukawa (PG/SG, 181/80)
13. Marcel Jones (SF/PF, 203/99)
16. Shane Temara (PF, 206/102)
27. Tai Wynyard (PF/C, 208/116)
30. Mitchell Dance (SF, 193/)
41. Francis Mulvihill
44. Kenneth Tuffin
55. Denhym Brooke
58. Will Heather
69. Oscar Robertson
72. Carlin Davidson
83. Baxter Fenwick