Tag: jack salt

Saints make statement as Rams claim first win

WELLINGTON Saints have cruised to a massive 32-point win to make a statement to the rest of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), proving too good for Southland Sharks in a dominant top of the table clash. In the other match, Canterbury Rams secured their first win with a hard-fought 11-point victory over Manawatu Jets on the second night of Round 2.

In the Saints’ smashing, Wellington actually started slow to be trailing by seven points at the first break. That soon changed in the second term, as the home team piled on 29 points to 15 to lead by seven themselves. Southland kept themselves in contention by conceding only two extra points heading into the final break, but it only spurred the Saints on, as they slammed home 34 points to 11 to blow out the margin to 32 points during the 105-73 victory.

Washington Saints were terrific from the field, shooting at 68 per cent from two-point range and 50 per cent from three-point range, also knocking down 13 of 14 free throws. The Sharks were solid themselves, but were still lower at 58 and 31 per cent from two and three-point range respectively. The home team won most of the statistics with a plus-five in rebounds (30-25) and assists (19-14), also winning the blocks and steals, and capitalising on the Sharks’ 19 turnovers to score 29 points. Southland marginally were ahead in the points in the paint (48-42).

Dion Prewster was yet again the man to try and stop, knocking down 22 points (66 per cent from the field) with seven rebounds and six assists. Taane Samuel (26 points, four rebounds and two assists) was also busy, as Kerwin Roach Jr (16 points, six assists, three rebounds and two steals) and Tohi Smith-Milner (14 points, two rebounds and three steals) produced big. Romaro Gill completed and even starting five with eight points, five rebounds and two steals, while Ken Tuffin hit three of five from long-range to total his nine points.

For the Sharks, there was no standout shooter, but Dom Kelman-Poto had plenty of influence with 11 points – five of six from the field – six rebounds and six assists. Brayden Inger (12 points, two rebounds), Alonzo Burton (12 points, three steals) and Courtney Belger (10 points, two rebounds and two steals) all reached double-figure points, while Sione Helu had nine points and four rebounds off the bench in 16 minutes.

Meanwhile Canterbury Rams secured their first win of the season with an 87-76 triumph over Manwatu Jets. The Rams led by six at the first break, and while they lost the second term by a point, quickly got back on top to win the second half by six and secure the 11-point win.

The Jets actually shot more accurate from the field with a 43 per cent field goal efficiency compared to the Rams’ 42 per cent, though the Rams got to the line more to score 14 of 19 from free throw range to the Jets’ five of six. Canterbury led the rebounds (46-39) assists (22-11) and steals (14-8), had less turnover (14-19) and capitalised on more second chance points (18-14) and points from turnovers (21-17), while the Jets had one less personal foul (16-17) and five more turnovers (19-14).

EJ Singler won Player of the Match for an almost triple-double of 20 points – including five of seven from long-range – eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals in the win. Deshon Taylor (16 points, seven rebounds, five assists and three steals also stood out, while Jack Salt (13 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and two blocks) was also influential. Other key scorers included Sam Smith (12 points, four assists and two steals) and Alex Talma off the bench (11 points, four rebounds).

For the Jets, Daishon Knight (24 points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) dominated and teamed up well with Jayden Bezzant (20 points, five rebounds and two steals). Shane Temara also reached double-figure points and an almost double-double of 11 points, nine rebounds and two assists, while Jake McKinay (seven points, six rebounds) was the pick of the Jets off the bench.

Manawatu Jets and Southland Sharks both have the quick turnaround, with last night’s losers up again tonight facing Otago Nuggets and Hawke’s Bay Hawks on the road respectively. The Canterbury Rams wait until May 14 to face off again, this time against Auckland Huskies, while the Wellington Saints will play the day after up against the Nelson Giants.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

Saints and Huskies get up to create early ladder separation

ALL three Round 1 winners have now made it 2-0 from the opening six games, leaving the six other sides winless in their respective opening encounters. The Wellington Saints proved too strong for Canterbury Rams, winning 95-74 last night, while Auckland Huskies had a tougher assignment on the night against Manawatu Jets but eventually got the job done by nine points, 106-97.

In the Saints game, Wellington won three of the four quarters against the Rams, starting strongly to take a three-point advantage over Canterbury at quarter time, before blowing out the margin to lead by a whopping 13 points at the main break. The 26-16 second term was a huge factor in the win, though the visitors did hit back with a high-scoring 27-23 third quarter. That cut the deficit to just six at the final break, but a dominant 23-11 final term saw off any chance of a comeback from the Rams.

The Saints who shot more effectively, hitting 55 per cent of their chances from the field, having one less shot, but six more makes as the Rams recorded a 45 per cent efficiency. Neither side was particularly good from the charity stripe (63 to 55 per cent in the Rams’ favour), whilst both teams hit nine triples. The Saints did win the rebound count (38-32), as well as the steals (6-3), blocks (3-1) and dominated the points in the paint (48-36) and from turnovers (21-8), while the Rams had more assists (16-13).

Dion Prewster backed up his enormous Round 1 effort with another huge night out, picking up 31 points, five rebounds, three steals and two assists while Kevin Roach Jr (18 points, seven assists and five rebounds) and Romaro Gill (17 points, seven rebounds and two blocks) were also strong players from the starting tip-off. Ken Tuffin nailed 13 points – including three of five from long-range – while Tohi Smith-Milner proved a problem off the boards with nine rebounds and three assists to accompany eight points.

For the Rams, Deshon Taylor started his season with a team-high 18 points and seven assists as well as two rebounds and three steals. Jack Salt finally made it onto an NZNBL court and hit up 16 points and five rebounds in 25 minutes, while Quintin Bailey (12 points, three rebounds) and Alex Talma (nine points, three rebounds) were also steadfast in defeat.

Meanwhile in the other match, the Huskies outlasted the Jets in a high-scoring thriller, coming from seven points down at the first break to post a 106-97 victory. The Huskies found themselves trailing 24-17 at quarter time, but slowly turned it around with a 27-22 second quarter to head into half-time trailing by just two points. They hit the front in the third term courtesy of a 29-22 quarter, then held on with a high-scoring 33-29 final term to win by nine points.

The Jets made the most of less chances, shooting at 51 per cent from the field to the Huskies’ 49 per cent, but that was largely due to a high two-point range efficiency, knocking down 66 per cent of their shots to the Huskies’ 53 per cent. From long-range the Huskies capitalised with 11 triples to the Jets’ five, and only missed one of 14 free throws. The Huskies led the rebounds (44-40), assists (16-15), steals (9-7) and points from turnovers (20-10), having just the eight turnovers to the Jets’ 12. Manawatu did dominate in the paint with 60 points to 52, and had 15-10 second chance points.

Two players knocked down 30 points on the night, with Jeremy Kendle again being a key contributor in the Huskies’ win. He hit 30 points – at 58 per cent efficiency from the field – as well as eight rebounds, recording four of nine three-point attempts. Dontae Nance came off the bench for 26 points and four rebounds, as Sean Murphy picked up a double-double himself of 14 points and 11 rebounds. Brooke Ruscoe-Taiaroa was the other big points scorer with 14 , as well as four assists, three rebounds and three steals.

For the Jets, Daishon Knight came off the bench for an equal game-high 30 points, as well as six assists and three steals, nailing every one of his 13 attempts from two-point range. Shane Temara (16 points, 10 rebounds) and Jayden Bezzant (15 points, three assists) were others who stood out from the starting perspective, while Deandre Daniels (12 points, five rebounds) was strong off the bench.

Manawatu Jets have he quickest turnaround of the four sides, taking on Franklin Bulls tonight, with the Canterbury Rams playing Hawkes Bay Hawks tomorrow. Wellington Saints host fellow undefeated side Southland Sharks next Friday night, while the Auckland Huskies wait until Sunday week to take on Nelson Giants at home.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Round 1b preview: Airs, Rams and Jets enter competition

AFTER three standalone matches on individual nights last weekend, Round 1 continues this weekend with the three winners from those matches coming up against the three sides yet to play – Taranaki Mountainairs, Canterbury Rams and Manawatu Jets – in a massive weekend of New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) action.

Thursday, April 29 @ 7:30pm
ILT Stadium Southland

Taranaki Mountainairs enter the 2021 NZNBL season with a Thursday night encounter against the Southland sharks. The Sharks passed the first test against Nelson Giants last week with a dominant 43-28 second half to scoot away with a 19-point victory. They will be tested here though, with a more experienced Airs outfit featuring Marcel Jones and Aaron Bailey-Nowell who showed just how much damage they could do last year, and will be keen to back it up this season. Francis Mulvihill was a rising talent and Tai Wynyard is always a player to keep an eye on, so the Sharks will need to be wary of what the opposition could do, particularly Jones who is prone to double-doubles. What was impressive about the Sharks was the evenness of scoring, with six players scoring double-figure points. Led by Josh Cunningham (10 points, 11 rebounds) and Dom Kelman-Poto (11 points, seven rebounds), the side proved too good for the Giants thanks to their accurate shooting, including 52, 38 and 93 per cent from the two-point, three-point and free throw ranges. The one area that might be a concern is the rebounding with the duo picking up 18 of the team’s 39 rebounds, though the Sharks did use the ball well, with Brayden Inger picking up four assists.

Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
TSB Bank Arena

In the second of three straight matches between sides in their first matchup for the season and teams contesting their second games, Wellington Saints host the fresh Canterbury Rams. The Saints were able to take care of business in a comprehensive win over Otago Nuggets on opening night, posting a 95-73 victory on the back of a dominant first three quarters. Dion Prewster was phenomenal in the performance of the opening weekend, racking up 31 points, seven rebounds and five assists in a huge effort, whilst Kevin Roach Jr had the 19 points, four steals, three rebounds and two assists. Otherwise the Saints had plenty of contributors with four players picking up five or more rebounds in an even performance, and the likes of Taane Samuel and Tohi Smith-Milner almost getting to double-figure points with nine apiece. The Rams will go in with their reliable set up, led by Perth Wildcats development player Taylor Britt who lit up the NZNBL last season. The likes of Alex Talma, Sam Smith and Jack Exeter will be ones to watch, though Jack Salt is the big man set to make his long-awaited return to the competition.

Friday, April 30 @ 7:30pm
Eventfinda Stadium

It might not have been deliberately orchestrated, but the Auckland Huskies are the third straight winner from the opening weekend to face a side coming into the league for the first match this weekend. The Huskies won a thriller over Franklin Bulls, coming from behind to storm to victory in the last term and get up, 99-96. The win came off the back of 32 points, six rebounds, three assists and two steals from Jeremy Kendle, as Nicholas Barrow and Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa almost picked up double-doubles thanks to 17 points piece and nine and eight rebounds respectively. Even Dontae Nance had 31 minutes off the bench for 18 points, four rebounds and three assists, in an even spread across the four players. The Jets have a bit of unknown about them, with some young players coming through, though Jayden Bezzant stood out in 2020 and will be one to watch this season, while DeAndre Daniels and Daishon Knight are others on the list. Add in the two Temara‘s in Shane and Troy, and the three-point shooting machine of Nikau McCullough, and the Jets have some nice pieces for the 2021 season.

Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Edgar Centre

The Airs enter their second match on Saturday night up against the Otago Nuggets who will be keen to bounce back from the 22-point loss to the Wellington Saints. From the Nuggets’ perspective, there was still plenty to like, with a trio of players really standing out in this game. Sam Timmins led the way with 18 points and nine rebounds, whilst both Isaiah Moss (20 points, six rebounds) and Josh Aicheson (14 points, five rebounds and three assists) put in the work. Every player on the team scored at least one point as the Nuggets showed great depth, but it would not be enough to roll the Saints. The Airs will be keen to try and quell them in this contest.

Saturday, May 1 @ 7:30pm
Franklin Pool & Leisure Centre

The Manawatu Jets will double-up over the weekend to travel to Franklin where the Jets will face a Bulls side ready for revenge. Franklin came agonisingly close to victory in the first match, going down to the Huskies with a fadeout last term to lose by three points, 96-99. Josh Selby stood out with 26 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Denhym Brooke (16 points, six rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (18 points, three rebounds) also stood tall as starts. Off the bench, Joseph Nunag hit up 14 points and three assists in 23 minutes on court to provide some valuable time in rotation.

Other double-ups for the round:

Sunday, May 2 @ 3:00pm
Pettigrew Green Arena

Picture credit: NZNBL

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Canterbury Rams

CANTERBURY RAMS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Rams finished on the bottom of the ladder at the end of the regular season but won through to a semi-final after upsetting both Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies, before going down to eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 6
Lost: 11


Points: 86.4 (4th)
Rebounds: 44.4 (3rd)
Assists: 15.4 (6th)
Steals: 7.1 (6th)
Blocks: 2.9 (5th)
FG%: 44.8 (4th)

BEST WIN: defeated Auckland Huskies by 14 points

It was a remarkable win to the Rams in the elimination final, after really struggling in the first half with just 13 points in the second quarter, and trailed by double-figure points during the second term. A remarkable third quarter saw them run away with a 39-20 term to hit the front then hold on in the final term to win 98-84. Thomas Webley had a huge third term on his way to 21 points, seven rebounds and two assists. Taylor Britt came close to a triple-double with 16 points, seven rebounds, 10 assists and two steals, while Toby Gillooly (12 points, 12 rebounds and three assists) had a double-double. Reuben Te Rangi (13 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Sam Smith (16 points) and Quintin Bailey (14 points, five rebounds) were also prominent scorers in the win.

WORST LOSS: lost to Franklin Bulls by 25 points

Unfortunately the Rams had plenty of losses to pick from with 10 straight losses during the season. The biggest was that to Franklin Bulls, going down by 25 points where the Rams lost each of the four quarters. Alex Talma was a shining light with 25 points and seven rebounds, but Dom Kelman-Poto (22 points, seven rebounds and three assists) and Isaac Davidson (20 points, three rebounds, six assists and two steals) went to town and led their side to a memorable victory.


Taylor Britt 19.5 points, 6.1 rebounds, 4.6 assists, 1.3 steals
Reuben Te Rangi 12.9 points, 3.6 rebounds, 2.0 assists, 1.4 steals
Sam Smith 11.9 points, 4.1 rebounds, 3.2 assists, 0.8 steals
Thomas Webley 11.3 points, 5.5 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.2 steals
Alex Talma 10.6 points, 8.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists, 1.0 steals


The Canterbury Rams came good at the pointy end of the season which counted and strung together three consecutive wins to reach the final four. It was a deserving finish for a team that had to overcome plenty of challenges along the way, particularly when it came to injuries. They had a number of standouts and young players who stepped up and gained valuable minutes.


The 10-game losing streak and injuries galore. Unfortunately for the Rams, injuries to Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green before the first tip-off had Canterbury on the back foot. Then Gillooly had an extended stint out and even Britt and Talma missed games. It truly was a tough season for the Rams, but led by Mick Downer, they did a remarkable job to reach the semis.


Canterbury Rams started the season the same way they ended it: on fire with three wins. Unfortunately the injuries and 10 losses in between made it a game of catch-up for the side on the bottom of the table following 14 regular season games. They refused to let that stop them though, taking down the higher ranked Nelson Giants and Auckland Huskies to enjoy a remarkable run that was only cut short by a super side in eventual premiers, Otago Nuggets. Fully fit and with a good team chemistry, the Rams will be a team that could go all the way next year with very few changes likely to be needed.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Airs v Giants and Rams v Huskies

EACH 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown side only has two games left in the regular season as the finals seres has already taken shape. With the top two teams winning overnight, it all but locks up the qualifying final unless one massively stumbles, while the bottom two are also secured with Nelson Giants and Canterbury Rams set to play off in the first elimination final. Both play tonight against a couple of top four sides hoping to have a strong run in the last couple of games. The remaining matches in the competition are the third encounters between the teams.


Taranaki Mountainairs are the only side that can upset the current order of play with the top two sides in the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets. Whilst the league’s most high-powered offence can level the top two sides on eight wins after this game, the Airs have to hope they win their last game while both teams lose their final two encounters. For the Giants, they sit in the bottom two and are preparing to play the Rams in the first elimination final next Tuesday in which there will be no turning back. In saying that, claiming a huge scalp or two in the final week could do wonders for the confidence.

While the Airs dominate across the board in most statistical areas such as points (plus 19.8), rebounds (plus 9.1) and assists (plus 4.5), the biggest differential might be in the shooting efficiency from the charity stripe. The Airs are the top side at capitalising from the line, making 79.3 per cent of their free throws, while the Giants are last with just two thirds on their free throws going in. The Airs are the most efficient side in the competition which sets them up for finals, shooting at an average of 47.5, while the Giants are 43.3 per cent, ranked sixth of the seven sides.

In the first encounter between the sides back on opening night, the Airs got up 112-96 over an understrength Giants side missing Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks. Derone Raukawa (28 points, six rebounds and 10 assists) had a night out, teaming up with Marcel Jones (13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists) who both were not too far off triple-doubles. Five Airs reached double-figure points in the opening game of the season, while it was Nic Trathen (25 points, four rebounds), Tom Ingham (23 points, four rebounds and three assists) and Tysxun Aiolupotea (20 points, five rebounds) who picked up 68 of the Giants’ 96 points on the night.

The Airs doubled down on their hold over the Giants in their second match on July 9, albeit needing overtime to finish them off. Leading by a whopping 21 points at half-time, Taranaki watched its lead dissolve as the Giants stormed home. Lucky for the Airs, they won overtime 20-13 to claim a 95-88 victory. Raukawa (24 points, three rebounds and seven assists), Jones (21 points, 16 rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Ken Tuffin (10 points, 13 rebounds and three steals) all went to work in the win. For the Giants, Brooks topscored with 23 points and eight rebounds, while Zeb Lovell picked up a double-double courtesy of 10 points and 12 rebounds.


Auckland Huskies’ top two dreams might have been dashed with the loss to the top of the table Otago Nuggets last night, but third spot is still within reach if the Huskies can string together a couple of wins. They sit in fourth currently, but could still slide to fifth if they go down here and the Franklin Bulls get up. The Rams are locked into the bottom two, but have the chance to overtake the Giants with a couple of wins in the last two games and get off the bottom. In saying that, Canterbury is on a nine-game losing streak after winning its first three matches, so will need to lift in order to break that run.

Both these sides are evenly matched when it comes to the stats, with the Rams marginally ahead in points per game (86 to 85.3), while the Huskies shade them in rebounds (44.6 to 43.9). Auckland is one of the stronger assist sides, averaging 17 per game compared to the Rams’ 14.9, though Canterbury is far more accurate from the field, with a 45.5 per cent efficiency rate compared to the Huskies’ 40.3 per cent. Thought a lot of that damage was done early in the season, with the Huskies boosting their field goal numbers on the weekend having sunk the first 17 baskets against Nelson Giants. Not much separates them from a three-point shooting perspective, but the Rams are ranked second in free-throw shooting percentage.

The other game on opening night was a throwback to sweeter times for the Rams as they produced what would be their best performance of the season with a 102-70 triumph over the Huskies. The Rams dominated from the first tip-off and won three of the four quarters on their way to a 32-point victory. Taylor Britt lit up the court with 22 points and eight rebounds, well aided by Toby Gillooly (25 points, six rebounds and two blocks), as the side looked to have compensated for the loss of Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green on the eve of the season. The Huskies had a dirty shooting night, sinking just 33.8 per cent of their field goals compared to the Rams’ 52.1 per cent, with Tohi Smith-Milner‘s 15 points at 62.5 per cent, and Nate Wilson‘s 10 points at the same efficiency the only proficient and efficient scorers.

The second encounter on July 9 resulted in a Huskies victory, but not without a sluggish start. Auckland trailed by six points at quarter time, then poured on 58 points to 30 in the middle two terms to race off to a 22-point final break lead. The Rams tried to storm back with a dominant 27-12 final term, but fell short going down 88-81. Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa played in this one after missing their early encounter and had a whopping eight steals to accompany 19 points. Inaccurate on opening night, Leon Henry (17 points, 14 rebounds and four steals) and Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds) both contributed at a higher rate. Britt had another impressive night with 21 points, six rebounds and four assists, while it was Thomas Webley (15 points, six rebounds) and Sam Smith (12 points, two rebounds) who stepped up in the absence of Gillooly who had joined the injured group.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 15: Rams v Jets and Giants v Bulls

JUST when it looked like fans were getting adjusted to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) and the way the ladder was shaping up, one of the red-hot teams in Franklin Bulls suffered defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies last night. Now the Bulls take on the out-of-form Nelson Giants, whilst the even more out-of-form Canterbury Rams hope to turn their six-game losing streak around against the Manawatu Jets.


If form is anything to go off, then the Manawatu Jets will start red-hot favourites in this clash. The Jets have won three of their past four games, notching up the 100 points in three of the games, and only slipping below the ton once (94) in that time. The Rams have not tasted success since week one, having gone on a two week losing streak which now has stretched over six games. Injuries have taken their toll over the journey with not only Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green out before the opening tip-off for the season, but with Toby Gillooly also missing substantial time after some great early form.

Looking at the match statistically, the Jets are unsurprisingly ahead in the main areas. They average 95.7 points to the Rams’ 88.4, while also being ahead in rebounds (45.1 to 43.6) and assists (18.3 to 15.1). They are not afraid to run the offence and score when they can, and most importantly, are right in that top four group. While the Taranaki Airs are now two wins clear on top, the Jets are in the log-jam of teams on five wins from nine games. A win here would see them leap up to second, at least temporarily. A Rams win, aside from gaining vital confidence, would move them to at least sixth on the table and give them enough time to try and move up the table.

In the earlier match between the teams, Manawatu Jets had control for the most part and won two quarters by a combined 17 points as they recorded a comfortable 108-93 victory overall. On that occasion, Jayden Bezzant scored 25 points, six rebounds and three steals, one of four players to put up big numbers. The top scorer was Taane Samuel with 27 points, as well as six rebounds, two assists, two steals and one block, while it was Tom Vodanovich who stole the show with a double-double of 25 points, 12 rebounds, three assists, two steals and three blocks. Hyrum Harris was also productive thanks to 18 points, nine rebounds, three assists, three steals and one block.

For the Rams, Taylor Britt tried all he could, recording numbers of 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists. Aiding him in the defeat were Sam Smith (16 points, eight rebounds and six assists), Thomas Webley (17 points) and Mason Whittaker (11 points, two rebounds). If the Rams are to upset the Jets here, they will want to get more support out of the depth players, and it will help with the inclusion of Reuben Te Rangi, as the Tall Blacks talent makes his debut with the Rams after his signing was announced yesterday.


Even the best teams can slip up every now and again, and the red-hot Bulls happened to do that last night when they fell to Auckland Huskies. It was only their second loss in the past seven games after winning five of the past six coming into that night. They have turned their form around since the opening game and have been up there with the best sides in the competition. Nelson Giants have shown signs at times to be a threatening team, but after seemingly turning their early poor form around with a few consecutive wins, they have sunk to three consecutive losses and will be desperate to turn it around in this game.

Statistically the Giants actually rank fairly well, with 84.7 points to the Bulls’ 82.6. They also average more rebounds (40.6 to 39.6) and assists (14.2 to 13.4), but the way the Bulls play does not always lend friendly to statistics. They get the job done in a real team effort, no-fuss approach. They have not had to engage in high-scoring battles compared to other sides, and instead defensively wear down the opposition and win in tight scraps, while still being able to deliver long-range bombs. They will be disappointed about the loss last night, but keen to atone, whilst the Giants just need a win to turn their form around.

The last time these teams played, the Bulls got up in a six-point thriller on June 30. Racing out of the blocks, Franklin built a seven-point quarter time lead, only for Nelson to cut the deficit back to one by half-time. The Bulls extended the lead out to three by the final break, and while the Giants kept coming in the last term, could not quite finish off, and the Bulls held them off to record a memorable 75-69 win. Mike Karena was a lone hand for the Giants, putting up 26 of his side’s 69 points, as well as seven rebounds. Whilst Tom Ingham was the next highest scorer with eight points, he collected nine rebounds in the game. Zeb Lovell (six points, six rebounds) was also prominent off the boards.

Franklin dominated the assists category in the game with 15 to eight, and Everard Bartlett and Dom Kelman-Poto combining for seven themselves. They also combined for 16 points and 10 rebounds in the match, while Isaac Davidson was the top scorer with 15 points, four rebounds and two steal. Jackson Stubbins picked up a match-high 10 rebounds, while Nikau McCullough (11 points) and Sam Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double-figure points. The Bulls go in as favourites to bounce back from last night’s loss, but you can never discount the Giants.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 8 night preview: Jets v Giants and Rams v Bulls

TONIGHT’S 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action is sure to help break up the mid-table logjam of teams in some form at the midpoint of the season as sides hope to either continue or turnaround their form. The two matches see Manawatu Jets up against Nelson Giants, and Franklin Bulls going head-to-head with Canterbury Rams.


The opening game of the night sees two teams who could be regarded as danger sides still looking to regain top stars. The Jets are missing Hyrum Harris, whilst the Giants remain without Mika Vukona, but both sides have been able to remain just one win off the pace in an even competition. The Jets have a higher percentage in terms of both for and against points, but dropping games to the Giants and Otago Nuggets earlier in the season sees them sit fifth on a head-to-head basis.

In the Jets and Giants’ earlier clash back on June 28, the Jets flew out of the blocks to lead by eight at half-time but were begged back by the Giants. Nelson only trailed by a point at the final break before scoring 26-20 in the last term to run over the top of Manawatu and win by five points, 88-83. In what was Mike Karena‘s first game of the season, he broke the Giants’ two-game losing streak to start the 2020 Sal’s NBL season, putting up 17 points, six rebounds, two assists and one block.

Theo Johnson scored a game-high 20 points for the Giants, as well as three rebounds, whilst Nic Trathen finished with 11 points, six rebounds and two assists. For the Jets, Harris top scored with 18, as well as 13 rebounds, six assists, two blocks and one steal, as partner-in-crime Tom Vodanovich recorded a double-double too, thanks to 16 points, 16 rebounds and two assists. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Taane Samuel (15 points, five rebounds and two assists) also had big numbers.

In that game, the Jets dominated the boards with six more in total, as well as three more steals and a higher shooting percentage. However Manawatu also had six more turnovers which is something they would want to change in this encounter with the Giants. Nelson comes in as the more in-form team, winning three of the past four and narrowly dropping the other game to Franklin Bulls by four points in between. It was the victory against the Jets that started the roll on for Giants’ success, with Karena a huge part of that. All season the Jets have maintained a yo-yo win-loss record and have a chance to go back-to-back wins for the first time in 2020 if they can get up here.



In terms of seasons, these two sides could not have had more opposite entries in the first six games facing each of the other teams in the competition. Canterbury Rams, missing two of their stars for the season on the edge of the first tip-off in Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green, stunned the competition to win the first three games. They then slumped to three consecutive losses and have fallen to sixth on the table, only a win ahead of Auckland. Franklin Bulls on the other hand, dropped their first two games, then strung four consecutive wins together prior to last night’s loss to Taranaki Mountainairs.

The defeat to the Airs meant the Bulls surrendered top spot, but still sit second a win ahead of the logjam of four teams. The only problem if they lose this game is that the Rams will overtake them on the table having also beaten them in their earlier encounter. In what was effectively the Bulls prior defeat to last night, the Rams took control from the onset to score 40 points to 30 in the opening half. Franklin hit back with 42 to 35 in the second half, but fell three points short despite the best efforts of a number of players.

Taylor Britt was unbelievable in the win for Canterbury, recording a double-double of 19 points, 10 rebounds, two assists and a block, while Toby Gillooly acted as a strong supporting act thanks to 16 points, five rebounds and a steal. Alex Talma was strong off the boards with nine rebounds to accompany his seven points, while Sam Smith had nine points, four rebounds, three assists and one steal. The Bulls had their own stars on the night, with Dom Kelman-Poto also notching up a double-double with 20 points, 10 rebounds, three steals, one assist and one block, while Isaac Davidson dropped 21 points, three rebounds and a steal. Sam Timmins was productive in center with 13 points, six rebounds and two blocks.

Coming into this this match the Bulls are in the much better form and will be keen to bounce back from the disappointing 14-point loss to the Airs last night. Taranaki flew out of the blocks in the first half to pile on 56 points to 29 to all but end the contest. Franklin was strong in the second half, but it was too little, too late by that stage, and they will be keen to make a statement early in the match tonight. Similarly, the Rams will be desperate to turn their form around and break a three-game losing streak.

2020 Sal’s NBL July 4 night preview: Bulls v Jets and Rams v Nuggets

TWO in-form sides and two out-of-form sides take to the court in a couple of expected thrillers tonight when the Franklin Bulls and Manawatu Jets hope to continue their runs of late, while the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets hope to bounce back after a couple of losses.


In a top four battle that is set to be a fantastic clash of two sides on the up, Franklin Bulls take on Manawatu Jets to ensure they remain in the top four after the round is up. The Bulls have played the extra game, and after dropping their first two matches, have picked up and won three on the trot to be the most in-form team of the competition. The Jets have been fairly handy as well, though will be keen to string a couple of wins together with their 2-2 record also looking like LWLW.

The Jets sit as the second highest scoring team in the competition after another big night on Thursday, and now averaged 96.5 points per game. They are well ahead of the Bulls at 77.6, but Franklin continues to get the job done defensively. The Jets are also ahead on rebounds per game, averaging 44.5 to the Bulls’ 39.4, while the Jets are also well ahead in the assists stakes. Where the Bulls do well is their discipline with the second lowest foul count per game of any side (16.8) whilst the Jets sit second most with 20.3. Where this game could be interesting is the defensive aspects where these sides are ranked first and second in blocks per game. They have some big boys going at it and spectators could be in for some big defensive moves.

Taking a look at the Bulls, after dropping their first game to Taranaki Airs, they almost toppled Canterbury Rams and then won three on the trot from that point on. They have done that whilst keeping their opponents to just 70.5 points per game after allowing the Airs to sink 107 in the opening game. Whilst the Bulls’ scoring might have lowered too (73.3 from 95), their defensive aspects have helped them pick up the wins. Focusing on those aspects, Isaac Davidson is not only leading the points for the team with 19, but also the steals with 1.6, whilst Everard Bartlett is not far behind with 1.4. The duo are responsible for draining 44 per cent of their long-range attempts, whilst Dom Kelman-Poto has been a shining light in the rebounding department with a team-high 6.4 per game, but crucially 2.4 off the offensive boards giving his side best chance at second chance opportunities.

The Jets are not afraid to score big, and they have reached the ton twice, winning one of those games. They play better when they produce open scoring, and with four players averaging more than 14 points per game – Thomas Vodanovich, Jayden Bezzant, Taane Samuels and Hyrum Harris – Manawatu has some serious firepower. Harris also leads the team in rebounds (13) and assists (6.5) with Vodanovich completing a double-double too thanks to 11.5 rebounds, while Bezzant is the other faciiltator with Harris, racking up 4.5 assists per match. The only problem? Harris will miss the game with a hip flexor injury. However if the Jets can continue the work they did in their last start against the Rams – where multiple starters were dangerous scoring threats – it will stretch the Bulls defence that has operated so well thus far.

This game could be the match of the season, with one of the best offensive teams up against one of the best defensive ones, and fans get to see which style will win.


In an evenly matched contest, the start of the week both the Canterbury Rams and Otago Nuggets were undefeated with 3-0 and 2-0 records respectively. Since then, both teams have suffered back-to-back defeats, and for one outfit, it means they will sink to a three-game losing streak, while the other will bounce back and steer their season back on the up.

In terms of scoring these teams are evenly matched with 94.4 and 92.8 points per game. From a rebounding perspective, the Rams are ranked second overall, whilst the Nuggets sit at equal fifth in the competition, though when it comes to assists, Otago is far superior with 19.3 to 15.4 per game and the Nuggets love to share the rock around. The Nuggets field goal percentage could be higher, with 46 per cent accuracy, ranked fourth overall, while the Rams are ranked equal first in that regard. The interesting aspect to watch is shooting from outside the arc. The Rams are ranked second with a 38.8 per cent accuracy, but only drop six triples per game on average. The Nuggets are a little bit lower at 35 per cent, but manage to sink 12.5 triples per game, which is straight away 37.5 points to 18.6 points.

The Rams had a really strong start to the season with three consecutive wins, but have lost the past two after three consecutive forgettable quarters. The Jets piled on 68 points in the second half against the Rams on Wednesday, before Nelson Giants scored 39 points in the opening term against the Rams on Thursday. This is no doubt an area the team will focus on heading into the clash, especially wiht a four-day break until the next match against a Franklin Bulls outfit that pushed them in the second match. Taylor Britt has been the star for the Rams, racking up 23.0 points, 8.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists, while Sam smith (13.4 points, 5.0 rebounds and 4.4 assists) has stepped up in the absence of a number of injured stars. The Rams lost Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green prior to the season, but also have missed Toby Gillooly the past two games after he had been the second highest scorer behind Britt. His presence is vital to the Rams success.

The Nuggets have just as much capability of putting up big scores, though the second week they have averaged 80 points from their two games after 105.5 from their two last week. Jordan Ngatai has been a prominent figure and worthy of the top selection from this year’s Player Draft, averaging almost 20 points per game to go with 5.8 rebounds and 2.8 assists. Whilst the last couple of matches have seem some player numbers drop, Jarrod Kenny (14.8 points, 4.5 assists) and Jordan Hunt (16.8 points, 5.3 rebounds) are always strong competitors. Josh Aitcheson is the fourth player to average double-digit points per game, putting up 10.3 points, as well as 4.3 rebounds and 2.5 assists per game.

Both of these teams might have lost a touch of form this week, but expect both to try and bounce back and go hard in this one.

2020 Sal’s NBL Showdown Week 2 preview: Who will back up the best?

A WEEK of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) competition is in the books and the top sides have started to emerge, while others improved across the week to show the competition will be incredibly even over the next month. With another 10 games set for this week, it will be a huge round of action.

Auckland Huskies:

  • Gradually improved over their first three games, particularly in the narrow loss to the Bulls, so starting to gel
  • With Izayah Mauriahooho Le’afa back for the Huskies, they will have the full side they expected heading into the competition
  • A tough couple of games this week against the in-form Airs and building Giants (who will surely have Mika Vukona back), but only the two games this week

vs. Taranaki Mountainairs – Tuesday, 5.30pm
vs. Nelson Giants – Sunday, 5.30pm

Canterbury Rams:

  • After a favourable draw in terms of rest in week one (two days between games) the undefeated Rams have to face the Jets and Giants back-to-back midweek
  • A potential unbeaten clash with the Nuggets awaits on Sunday
  • Have had a perfect start to the season despite losing two key players prior to the season in Jack Salt and Joe Cook-Green

vs. Manawatu Jets – Wednesday, 7.30pm
vs. Nelson Giants – Thursday, 7.30pm
vs. Otago Nuggets – Saturday, 7.30pm

Franklin Bulls:

  • Three games this week with the two days break between them, starting with the Giants on Tuesday as both teams recorded their first wins on the weekend
  • A tough few games this round, against three sides that could well be title contenders
  • Broke the drought in their third game for an important win against the Huskies to have the belief to carry it over

vs. Nelson Giants – Tuesday, 7.30pm
vs. Otago Nuggets – Thursday, 5.30pm
vs. Manawatu Jets – Saturday, 5.30pm

Manawatu Jets

  • Tough encounter up against the undefeated Rams, but have been building the last couple of games
  • Tom Vodanovich is unstoppable when “on” and Hyrum Harris is not too far behind
  • Ideally would love the three wins, but the two from this patch would be great considering the one-day turnaround on the weekend

vs. Canterbury Rams – Wednesday, 7.30pm
vs. Franklin Bulls – Saturday, 5.30pm
vs. Taranaki Mountainairs – Sunday, 7.30pm

Nelson Giants

  • Showed why they could do with Mike Karena and Dane Brooks back in the side, looking a completely different outfit
  • Playing two of the other bottom three teams this round which the Giants would back themselves in
  • Surely Vukona returns after touted to return the last couple of games

vs. Franklin Bulls – Tuesday, 7.30pm
vs. Canterbury Rams – Thursday, 7.30pm
vs. Auckland Huskies – Sunday, 5.30pm

Otago Nuggets

  • After the two games in week one, the Nuggets have a tough three games in four days which will really test the team
  • Jordan Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny are in ripping form and hard to stop
  • Two of the other top three sides in this round will give the Nuggets a huge idea of where they stand

vs. Taranaki Airs – Wednesday, 5.30pm
vs. Franklin Bulls – Thursday, 5.30pm
vs. Canterbury Rams – Saturday, 7.30pm

Taranaki Mountainairs

  • Had a good first week and showed they are a title contender after pushing the Rams all the way
  • Have gelled well and will hope to continue that form against the Huskies and Nuggets – the latter of whom have had almost a week’s break
  • A four-day gap between their second and third games will have the Airs cherry ripe for the Jets in the final game of the week

vs. Auckland Huskies – Tuesday, 5.30pm
vs. Otago Nuggets – Wednesday, 5.30pm
vs. Manawatu Jets – Sunday, 7.30pm


Tuesday June 30

Airs vs Huskies – 5:30pm
Giants vs Bulls – 7:30pm

Wednesday July 1

Airs vs Nuggets – 5:30pm
Jets vs Rams – 7:30pm

Thursday July 2

Nuggets vs Bulls – 5:30pm
Rams vs Giants – 7:30pm

Saturday July 4

Bulls vs Jets – 5:30pm
Rams vs Nuggets – 7:30pm

Sunday July 5

Huskies vs Giants – 5:30pm
Jets vs Airs – 7:30pm

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.


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.


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.