Tag: jackson stubbins

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #3 – Vodanovich drops 43 to conclude MVP season

MANAWATU’s star forward and eventual Most Valuable Player of the NZNBL 2020 season, Thomas Vodanovich had an action packed campaign, as he led his side to a grand final appearance with multiple impressive outings.

These included a dominant 25-point and 12-rebound performance against the Rams, multiple 28-point performances (including the grand final) and a 38-point masterclass in the second game of the season against the Huskies. But his best individual performance came at the very end of the regular season against the Franklin Bulls.

The multiple-time Tall Black’s display against the Bulls in late-July was so impressive, he outperformed teammate and statistical gatherer Hyrum Harris in the plus-minus statistic by more than 10 and for this, features as number three in Draft Central’s Top 10 Moments.

For the Jets and Vodanovich’s full match report against the Bulls – Click HERE

Prior to their tipoff in the season closer, the Jets had a lot at stake, as a loss against Franklin would mean losing their qualifying final slot and a chance to gain a trip straight to the prelims. So, it was apparent to Tim McTamney’s squad that they needed to start off strong, and who better to help get that going than their first-round pick and captain.

Funnily enough, Vodanovich got the scoring going, opening up the contest with the game’s first points. But, the rest of his starting five proved pivotal in allowing Manawatu to obtain a double-digit lead heading into quarter time. Harris, Jayden Bezzant and Taane Samuel each contributed to the scoring load in the opening 10 minutes, but the main man was still yet to catch fire putting up eight points in that time (four of which came from free throws).

But all notions of Vodanovich having a quiet night were quickly dashed, as he went on a three-point tear, knocking down four consecutive threes for his side and putting up 12 of his team’s first 14 points in the second term. He hit home with a fifth triple, three minutes later finishing off a 17-point second quarter and extending his team’s advantage to 15 points at the main break.

For the majority of the third quarter, Vodanovich’s teammates held down the fort, keeping the Bulls at bay. As the combination of Dominique Kelman-Poto and Jackson Stubbins failed to cut significantly into their deficit. Four minutes in, Vodanovich found his first points of the second half making four free throws in a row, which was promptly followed by a triple as a result of Nicholas Fee rebound. The three mentioned would prompt another scoring run, as he found the target on two more attempts and brought his total from behind the arc to eight. Heading into the final break, Vodanovich had already compiled an unbelievable 37 points.

With the final term underway a minute and a half later, Vodanovich topped his season high and cracked the 40-point mark with his ninth three-pointer of the contest, thanks to a Harris assist. But feeling good and with fresh legs, the sharpshooter continued into the sixth minute of the final quarter, and after nailing his tenth triple exited the game.

Despite a late charge from the Bulls, it was nothing more than a formality, as the Jets ran away with the matchup 99-84, earning the win after a monumental effort from their leader and talisman.

Vodanovich summarised his night with 43 points (a career-high), 11 rebounds and a few assists to round out his 34 minutes of court time. Harris also had a respectable night, racking up numbers as usual with nine points, 12 rebounds and six assists. Whereas Samuel (16), Fee (12) and Bezzant (10) got into double digits.

A career night that saw Vodanovich help his side to a top-two spot to finish the season, it is no wonder why his 43-point performance finishes so high on Draft Central’s list.

Draft Central’s NZNBL Top 10 Moments: #7 – Battle of the Opposites, Airs and Bulls elimination final

THERE are only so many coincidences that can occur in any season or competition, but thankfully fans of the NZNBL were able to witness one. This came as the best offence and best defence of the league got to settle their differences in a win or go home Elimination Final. Due to this, Draft Central sees it fitting to place the Taranaki Mountain Airs’ final contest with the Franklin Bulls in the seventh slot of this season’s Top 10 Moments.

For the full match report of the Airs and Bulls Elimination Final – Click HERE

It was during the regular season that both sides displayed their playing styles and strengths. The Airs, who concluded their season with a respectable eight win and six loss record earned the moniker of best offence in the competition. Taranaki maintained a team average of 98.6 points per contest and cracked the 100-point mark on eight different occasions. For Franklin, they earned the opposite title of best defence, due to holding teams to 82.2 points each time out, 4.2 points less than the Otago Nuggets (second in points against).

Prior to their Elimination Final on July 29, the two sides had met three times with the Airs holding the series’ bragging rights two to one. But in their most recent encounter, it was Franklin that came out the clear-cut winners in a dominant 92-65 win. But with a must-win contest to begin, all prior matchups had little to no meaning in what was a seesawing affair between the two clubs with a semi-final spot up for grabs.

Following their All-Star Five presentation, Taranaki’s two leading individuals in Derone Raukawa and Marcel Jones had their confidence brewing in the opening phase, helping their side to a 26-18 lead in the initial 10 minutes of basketball. During that pivotal first term, Doug Courtney employed some defensive tactics of his own, notably setting up a 2-3 zone defence to minimise Franklin’s inside scoring threats. This in turn forced the Bulls to settle for long range shots, which proved ineffective as they made just two from 16 attempts.

Eventually shots started to fall for Franklin, as the game started to even out for both sides. Back-to-back threes from Jackson Stubbins cut the deficit to a single basket, with the Airs holding the three-point lead at the second intermission.

While an And-One from Dominique Kelman-Poto gave the Bulls a brief lead, the continuous scoring output from Jones kept Taranaki’s noses in front for the majority of the game. In addition to this, Jones was grateful to receive the aid on the boards from teammates Tai Wynyard and Shane Temara, who each finished their nights with eight and seven boards respectively. This proved a pivotal statistic in the sequences of the game, as the Airs pushed their lead back up to eight points with a quarter to go.

Good hustle from Isaac Davidson and Everard Bartlett enabled the Bulls to get within four points, but the duo of Raukawa and Jones was put on full display once more. They carried their side over the line on a night where everyone was making their free-throws. The Airs emerged triumphant in a 99-90 slugfest and set up a semi-final date with the Manawatu Jets.

It was a clinic on both ends of the floor for Raukawa (28 points, eight rebounds and eight assists) and Jones (31 points, 10 rebounds and six assists), meanwhile the team’s rebounding and free throw shooting proved to be the difference. A plus-seven on the boards (44-37) and 90 per cent accuracy from the charity strike (18 of 20) put the cherry on the cake as Taranaki fell just a single point short of another 100-point performance.

Despite the emotional loss for Franklin, the Bulls had numerous efforts worthy of praise. Kelman-Poto led the way with his 31-point, 10-rebound and three-steal night, whereas Davidson’s 24 points off of four triples was a major contribution.

On a night that saw offence prevail over defence, it was exciting to see two teams at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of playing style, go at it in a do-or-die matchup in the postseason. Thus, putting this moment at number seven in the NZNBL’s Top 10.

All-Star duo lead Airs to elimination final win over Bulls

IN a clash of completely different styles, the Taranaki Mountainairs have defeated Franklin Bulls in a nine-point thriller to advance through to the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) semi-finals last night. In a seesawing contest the Airs were able to finish stronger, defeat the Bulls 99-90 and set their sights on a final four clash with Manawatu Jets tomorrow night.

TARANAKI AIRS 26 | 22 | 24 | 27 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 27 | 19 | 26 (90)


There were not many better ways to start off finals week than to have Marcel Jones and Derone Raukawa be unveiled in the Sal’s NBL All-Star Five. That and to have the Airs – the best offence –  to face the Bulls – best defence – in a knockout elimination final.

In an attempt to control the rhythm of the game, the Airs came out with a 2-3 zone, an excellent strategy used to slow down play. So in order to combat this sluggishness, the Bulls tested their luck from deep, a lot. Safe to say the Airs’ coaching staff made the right choice as the Bulls came out cold, making just three of their first 14 shot attempts. 

A timeout was called by the Bulls, but to no avail. The more the Bulls missed open threes, the colder they got and the less the Rams were inclined to give up paint position. When the Airs did find a way to force themselves in the paint, they were swarmed with five yellow jerseys cutting off all angles, hence forcing a kick out pass to a shooter on the perimeter.  

Eventually Isaac Davidson drained a contested three – his first after three bricks – and the Airs saw their first slither of momentum. What preceded in the next 40 seconds however was truly remarkable. The Bulls stole the ball three times and snatched two offensive rebounds before they finally made a basket. That is five shots taken before the Airs could even leave half court, all resulting in a singular layup.  

The Bulls ended the first down by only eight points. Which is not too bad considering they just shot two for 16 from three. But yet, the lack of aggressiveness that so badly inhibited their offence in the first, had now transferred all the way over to their defensive efforts, as they frequently allowed Bulls’ players to drive past them for easy layups. Simply put, the more the Bulls threw up ugly shots from three, the more the lead continued to grow. Hence, the greater the hill to climb for what is statistically the least impactful offence in the league. 

This missing aggressiveness was only highlighted when the Bulls took their first free throws of the game with five and a half minutes left in the second. 

But when you throw enough up, they have to start dropping soon and that is exactly what happened for Jackson Stubbins who hit back to back threes to shrink the deficit to three points. Slow close outs, clumsy passes and a technical foul put on Jones and the Bulls had officially climbed the hill, tying the game 40 apiece. Although the Airs were responsible for reeling them back in, they never allowed them to lead, ending the first half 50-48.

The Taranaki Mountainairs lost the privilege to say that as the Bulls saw their first lead of the game, with an ‘aggressive’ and-one from Dominique Kelman-Poto. One reason the Bulls kept within a fighting chance was for their work on the glass. Poor box-outs and lack of communication on behalf of the Airs had brought this once anaemic contest to a now fiery battle.  

If the Bulls wanted to remain the leaders on the scoreboard, they would have to find an answer for Jones who seemed to have the hot hand all night, as he brought back the lead for his team. The Bulls tried to answer back with a missed three, then another, then another, all while Jones had hit his last three three-pointers. Within a blink of an eye, the Bulls went from breathtaking comeback to down by nine points… again. 

The Bulls had already been on a 24-9 run, but with only 10 minutes on the clock, down by eight, the last quarter was not going to be easy. To do this, they needed to stay tight on the perimeter defensively and get a little lucky on offence. Funny enough, the Bulls started the quarter with suburb switching and smart help defence, forcing the Airs to put up an ugly shot before the Bulls splashed it in from three in transition. 

More aggressive drive plays from Kelman-Poto and the Bulls were able to cut the deficit to four. But like with every time the Bulls fought the deficit, they fell right back down the hill. The Airs won the game 99-90, and now head off to the semi-finals to take on the Manawatu Jets.

The win was only possible on the back of some special players like Raukawa who finished the contest with 28 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Clearly Jones was motivated after being named in the All-Star Five as he left the ball game with 31 points while also securing 10 rebounds, seven assists and two blocks. Tai Wynyard (11 points, nine rebounds) came close to a double-double, whilst Shane Temara finished with eight points and seven rebounds in a solid effort. Coming off the bench for 15 minutes, Mitch Dance sank a couple of baskets and nailed his free throws to go at 100 per cent efficiency for six points and five rebounds.

Although it was not the Bulls’ night, no one will hold the result against Kelman-Poto who notched up 31 points alongside 10 rebounds, four assists and three rebounds. Isaac Davidson played a handy role with 24 points, three rebounds, two assists and one steel, but struggled with accuracy, shooting just 38 per cent from the field. Stubbins (12 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one steal) was the other player to reach double-figure points. 

The Taranaki Mountainairs take on the Manawatu Jets tonight at 7.30pm local time.

Rams snap 10-game losing streak, timely win heading into finals

CANTERBURY Rams picked the perfect time to snap their double-digit losing streak, knocking off Franklin Bulls in an upset 21-point victory on the final day of regular season Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) action at Trusts Arena. Despite not winning since the second week of action a month ago, the Rams have come good on the eve of the finals series with a dominant performance against the Bulls following a quarter time deficit. The Rams enjoyed an impressive 85-64 team win, with Franklin’s inability to close out quarters costing them dearly.

CANTERBURY RAMS 17 | 24 | 23 | 21 (85)
FRANKLIN BULLS 18 | 12 | 19 | 15 (64)


Like many of the games this season, an exciting up and down first few minutes opened proceedings with Everard Bartlett laying the first basket of the game in. Fresh off recovering from illness and securing a new NBL contract with the South East Melbourne Phoenix, Reuben Te Rangi took control knocking down back-to-back threes to open the scoring account for the Rams. The big three for the Bulls got involved early with Dom Kelman-Poto making the first two of his 13 first half points, and an Isaac Davidson contested three led to a defensive stop and a Sam Timmins put back jam.

Te Rangi free throws gave him Canterbury’s first eight points while Franklin shared the offensive load early as Chris McIntosh knocked down a wide-open corner three. Canterbury’s one-man show ended with an Alex Talma three-point play and a Quintin Bailey hook out of the post after almost seven minutes of action. Kelman-Poto and Te Rangi, the two leading scorers on the night, then traded the lead as Te Rangi reached 10 first quarter points. The fourth-best scorer in the league Taylor Britt hit the scoreboard with a high finish off the glass, but Kelman-Poto saw that and raised him with a reverse layup up the other end to finish a fast-paced first quarter. The Rams trailed 17-18 at the first break shooting just three per cent better, but five more turnovers than the Bulls contributing to the narrow deficit.

Te Rangi used his strength to makes his way to a third trip to the line, his two makes from the charity stripe opening the second quarter of action. He would cause more headaches for Franklin’s defence as he was fouled on a deep three-point attempt, yet he still found a way to bank it in. Canterbury threatened to extend on their newly acquired lead as Rams big men Tom Webley and Bailey attacked the paint with Timmins on the bench. Bulls guard Jackson Stubbins hit a three-pointer and Davidson found Kelman-Poto alone inside with a pretty dime for two, a place where he would find himself unguarded on more occasions throughout the rest of the quarter.

An evenly poised first half was winding down with the Rams just one possession ahead, but Bailey and Britt capitalised on their sturdy defence and managed an eight points to nothing run to end the half, giving them a 41-30 lead at the main break. Te Rangi’s 15 points and Bailey’s perfectly shot 11 points paved the way for Canterbury’s buffer, while Kelman-Poto’s 13 points set him apart from Franklin’s six other scorers who had made just the one basket each. They needed to step up in the second half to give themselves any chance of finishing third, and they did.

Everything was coming up Franklin to start the second half as Kelman-Poto slashed inside for two, and Bartlett stripped the ball at half-court and found his way to the line after an unsportsmanlike foul. Kelman-Poto continued to be a thorn in the side of the Rams as he conjured up effort play after effort play with their 8-0 run bringing them back to within one possession of the Rams in under two minutes of play. It was suddenly game on and someone needed to step up for Canterbury. Of course, Te Rangi stopped the rot with a big time three-point play. Blocks from Timmins and Sioeli Vaiangina forced shot clock violations for the Rams and they were on the back foot despite taking all the momentum with them into the locker room. McIntosh and the returned Sam Smith traded threes as Franklin couldn’t quite command a lead despite their domination.

All good things come to an end at some point, though, and the Bulls unfortunately did not learn from the end of the last quarter that giving up a lead heading into the break was not ideal. Te Rangi and the Rams came back from squandering their lead to finish the quarter with a 12-0 run and lead 64-49. A deflating end for Franklin who used so much energy just to get back in the game, but they just could not hit their shots like the Rams had done. The blistering start they revelled in to start the previous quarter did not strike again with Canterbury making the first two baskets of the quarter. The lone hand of Kelman-Poto settled things down, but they needed to dig chunks out of the margin early, and a Britt triple did just the opposite.

Despite the 20-point margin, the game remained high-energy with both starting line ups remaining in the game. Rams coach Mick Downer clearly wanted to give his newly reacquainted team as much court time together as possible heading into their do or die matchups in next week’s finals series. With a semi-full-strength roster, Canterbury snapped a 10-game losing streak taking the win 85-64, timing their run to the finals well.

Te Rangi was Canterbury’s best with 26 points and four rebounds while Bailey’s 15 points off the bench came at important times in the game. Britt (16 points, three assists, five steals) and Talma (13 points, seven rebounds) were also solid in the win, but a solid defensive team performance led them to scoring 30 points from turnovers, something they will be looking to continue with. They will face the Nelson Giants in an elimination match on Tuesday, needing to be perfect from here on in if they want to win an unlikely championship based on their 4-10 record.

The Bulls will be playing in the tricky 4th vs 5th matchup and will demand more performers if they want any chance of advancing. Kelman-Poto’s 29 points and five rebounds finished an outstanding regular season for him, as no other Bull reached double-figures. Timmins’ 11 rebounds were the only positive, with 21 turnovers a reflection of a forgettable night and not an ideal one heading into finals. Davidson was held to just five points, and Bartlett to eight. If they are any chance of lifting the trophy in the final game of the season, they would want to bring that effort and intensity they had for most of the third quarter, not many teams will be able to stop that.

Sal’s NBL night preview July 22: Bulls v Airs and Nuggets v Jets

The penultimate night of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown regular season has a couple of tantalising clashes. The third placed Taranaki Mountainairs are fighting for a top two spot with a loss to the Franklin Bulls ruling them out of qualifying final contention. The second game is a potential qualifying final preview with the top two teams, Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets facing off.


It is now or never for Taranaki Mountainairs who must win their clash with Franklin Bulls to have a chance at cementing a top two spot. A win will not guarantee them a top two place, but they will move into second with both Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets to face off in the next game. It will be the Airs final game of the regular season, as the first team to reach 14 games and have a break until next week’s Finals Series which could be a telling factor in recovery. The Bulls on the other hand have their own individual battle with Auckland Huskies to see who finishes fourth or fifth. Realistically, it will not matter because both sides will face off in the first week of finals. The only difference will be if the Bulls win here and then win their final match to over take the Airs in third.

After looking like a top two chance a couple of weeks ago, the Bulls have stumbled in weeks four and five, dropping three of a possible four games and scoring no more than 84 points in that time. To their credit they have kept their opposition to double-digit scores, but it has not been enough to take home the win. Isaac Davidson (16.3 points) and Dom Kelman-Poto (16.0) have been the key scorers, while Sam Timmins (11.9) has contributed well from the five. Both Kelman-Poto and Timmins contribute about 15 rebounds per game, while the team’s highest playmaker is Jackson Stubbins with just 2.8 assists per game.

The Airs have maintained touch with the top sides, though back-to-back losses to Auckland Huskies and Manawatu Jets in the past week has hurt their chances. An important win over Nelson Giants last night ensure the Airs are still in with a shot to earn a qualifying final spot, but must win the clash. Derone Raukawa has been the star this season, leading the way for his side with 23.1 points and 7.9 assists, while Marcel Jones has been phenomenal off the boards with 13.8 rebounds to accompany 22.5 points and 4.5 assists. The duo have caused all sorts of headaches for the opposition. Shane Temara (12.8 points, 6.5 rebounds) and Ken Tuffin (10.3 points, 5.5 rebounds) have also been prolific across the season.

Neither side has had perfect form leading into this clash, but there is more on the line for the Airs, so expect them to go as hard as ever to try and come away with the points.



In what could be a grand final preview, the top of the table Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets battle it out for potentially pole position heading into the finals series. If the Airs are victorious in the previous game, then winning is crucial because for the loser, it will come down to their final game of the round on Saturday. If the Airs lose, then this game is largely a warm-up for finals as neither team can slip below the Airs. However plenty is on the line for these sides with the teams set to meet again next week, and getting confidence heading into the finals will be huge.

Otago Nuggets have an even side across the board, with Jordan Ngatai a dominant performer, but one of a number of fluent scorers that has helped Otago to win its past three games. Ngatai is ranked second for all of points (18.3), assists (4.1) and rebounds (5.4), though Jordan Hunt (18.5 points, 5.8 rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (11.5 points, 2.3 assists and 4.7 rebounds) have also being really strong. Jarrod Kenny is the key facilitator, dishing out a team-high 5.3 rebounds to go with his 12.8 points per game this season.

The Jets are in similar form, winning the past four games, and scoring over 100 in three of them, and 99 in their most recent win over Franklin Bulls. Since their disaster against the Nuggets back on July 11 where they lost by 36 points, Manawatu has looked a genuine title contender, especially with all their big guns firing. Fresh off a 43-point double-double effort which featured 10 treys, Tom Vodanovich is as dangerous as they come in the offensive half. He is far from the sole shooter though, with Jayden Bezzant (20.0 points) and Taane Samuel (18.4) both recording big numbers, Hyrum Harris can do a bit of everything with 14.8 points, 12.3 rebounds and 6.8 assists per game this season.

The Nuggets found the formula to defeat the Jets last time, but the Jets are in ripping form. One thing is for sure, it will be a high scoring contest.

Vodanovich drops 43 points in sizzling long-range effort to help Jets fly over Bulls

TOM Vodanovich has broken his own season-high record of 38 points after dropping a mammoth 43 last night – including 10 triples – on his way to leading Manawatu Jets to a vital 15-point victory over Franklin Bulls. The win goes a long way to ensuring the Jets lock up a top two spot and qualifying final, and Vodanovich was unstoppable on the night.

MANAWATU JETS 31 | 24 | 26 | 18 (99)
FRANKLIN BULLS 20 | 20 | 18 | 26 (84)


It was fitting that Vodanovich dropped the first points of the night, albeit a couple of free throws as Taane Samuel got warmed up from the field with five early points to counter Dom Kelman-Poto‘s opening triple within 30 seconds of the tip-off. Hyrum Harris was starting to get involved, and when Vodanovich sank his first basket from the field – a hookshot – the Jets led by six points. Kelman-Poto was having some sort of night early however, scoring nine points in the first half of the quarter, but the Jets team was able to match him as Harris and Jayden Bezzant were assisting Vodanovich on the scoring front.

Just as the Bulls got closer, the Jets would pull away leading by as much as eight points prior to a Jackson Stubbins‘ triple with four minutes left on the clock. The Jets again extended their lead via free throws as Vodanovich and Nelson Kirksey forced the opposition to foul them, and Samuel’s finish to the term helped the Jets hold an 11-point lead at the first break.

Immediately out of the break, Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape heated up with a mammoth first couple of minutes, sinking nine points in that time, as he cut the deficit to seven after Vodanovich’s first triple of the night. It would be an omen for what was about to happened as he drilled four consecutive triples for his side, and then Nicholas Fee caught whatever fever the power forward had by nailing a triple of his own and the margin was back to 14 points.

Leusogi-Ape returned to the court and immediately had an impact with a driving layup, and just as it looked like the Bulls would draw closer – getting within 10 – Fee and Vodanovich sank seven more points and the latter had five treys for the match. Isaac Davidson managed to nail a jump shot in the last 20 seconds, but his side still faced a 15-point deficit.

Franklin needed a lift and it came in the form of Stubbins from long-range, and then the teams traded treys as Bezzant, Everard Bartlett and Samuel all struck gold from long range. Vodanovich continued to rack up the points as Kelman-Poto and Davidson tried to cut into the deficit, but when Vodanovich brought up his sixth triple with four minutes remaining in the term, the Jets were out to a 21-point buffer. Yet again his hot hand followed with another two triples as the Bulls led by as much as 25 points at one stage before a late Sam Timmins layup put the final break deficit back to 23.

Any chance of an unlikely comeback by the Bulls was snuffed out early in the final term as the Jets answered each challenge. Samuel put down the opening basket after a miss from Davidson, and while Bartlett’s stuck from long-range, his effort was matched by Vodanovich with a remarkable ninth triple. No matter what the Bulls threw at the Jets, they could not get within 21 points as Bartlett nailed another triple, then Vodanovich brought up number 10 from long range with four and a half minutes on the clock. He was subbed out shortly after having a well-earned rest as his teammates finished the game off.

The Bulls went on a late 10-2 run in the final couple of minutes, but it was only to cut the final deficit as the game was largely over through that third term when Vodanovich went haywire. In 34 minutes on court, the big man sank 43 points including 10 of a possible 16 triples, and 61 per cent from the field, while picking up 11 rebounds – 10 off the defensive boards – and three assists. His team shot 38 per cent from three-point range compared to the Bulls’ 25 per cent, and they averaged a greater efficiency overall from the field with 45 to 42 per cent. Their capitalisation at the charity stripe was also important (76 per cent to 36 per cent).

Aside from Vodanovich, Samuel picked up 16 points, four rebounds, two assists and one block, while Harris narrowly missed out on a double double of nine points, 12 rebounds and five assists. Fee (12 points, five rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (10 points, two rebounds, three assists and two steals) also reached double figures. For the Bulls, Kelman-Poto was productive with 21 points at 56.3 per cent from the field, as well as 11 rebounds and two assists. Davidson (16 points, two rebounds) was solid, though inaccurate, while Bartlett (11 points) and Leusogi-Ape (11 points, four rebounds, three assists and two steals) stepped up in different moments.

The Bulls take to the court tomorrow night against Taranaki Mountainairs in their penultimate game, with the Bulls to follow later in the night against Otago Nuggets.

Nuggets keep Bulls at bay, move to top of NZNBL standings

OTAGO Nuggets have posted back-to-back wins, following their six-point 89-83 win against a valorous Franklin Bulls cohort that stuck around for 40 minutes of play. The Bulls were unable to overtake Jordan Hunt and company and as a result, the Nuggets join the Taranaki Mountain Airs at the top of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) standings with records of seven wins and four losses.

OTAGO NUGGETS 20 | 15 | 26 | 28 (89)
FRANKLIN BULLS 19 | 12 | 21 | 31 (83)


With a win for either side meaning an equal-first seed next to the Airs, both teams needed to stick to their strengths if they were to come out victorious. For Otago, it would mean creating space for their number one draft pick in Jordan Ngatai, who put on a strong performance on Thursday against a wily Canterbury Rams outfit.

Prior to Saturday’s closer, the Bulls have relied heavily on their defence to this point in the campaign, being touted as the best defensive side in the league. But it was their offence that got them out of the starting blocks first, after two made attempts from deep by swingman Isaac Davidson and two-man Everard Bartlett.

The tides quickly changed towards Otago, thanks to two threes from Joshua Aitcheson, giving the Nuggets the 10-9 lead halfway through the first and preventing an ideal start for the fast-running Bulls.

Small scoring runs would ensue for both sides on numerous occasions in the first stanza of play, but the last laugh would sit with a driving layup from Ngatai, gifting Otago a 20-19 lead to conclude the first.

Driving and dishing seemed to be a successful tactic early on in the second quarter for the Nuggets, as the Jarrod Kenny and Hunt combination often had Franklin’s defence in disarray. While these buckets were all well and good, their hard work was undone when they failed to contain the Bulls’ man in the middle, Samuel Timmins, who had himself seven points and six rebounds in 15 minutes of play.

For the majority of the second, however, Otago struggled to extend their lead to anything considerable. But, a reverse layup from Ngatai bolstered his side’s confidence before half time as they now led by four points (35-31) with 20 minutes still to play.

While the lead was small at half-time, Otago looked big in terms of their accuracy on the court, hitting 44 per cent of their shots up to the midway point of the game. They also stayed true to their aggressive style of play, going to the free-throw line on nine different occasions, six of which they converted.

Franklin faced different challenges, as they did a good job shooting the long ball, nailing six threes in the first half. They also did good forcing mistakes from the Nuggets’ ball-handlers, as Otago would give up 11 turnovers resulting in the Bulls leading by 10 points.

Commencing play in the second half, Ngatai again created problems for the Bulls by tallying his first three of the contest. This set his team off to a good start to the third quarter, successfully making four of their first five attempts, putting the Bulls on the back foot instantly coming out of the half-time huddle.

Back-to-back threes from the same spot for Jackson Stubbins helped place the Bulls back into the conversation, as the side continued to linger behind Otago on the scoreboard.

The three-ball became a prominent part of both teams’ offence in the third quarter, but the Nuggets did a better job of adding two-pointers wherever the three could not. This encapsulated a strong few minutes of play for Brent Matahere’s side, leading by as much as 11, with the score being 61-50 late in the championship quarter.

Two free-throws from Nicholas Barrow trimmed the deficit to single digits to conclude the third, but Franklin needed to find motivation if they were to navigate their way through a nine-point disadvantage with 10 minutes to go. The Bulls also needed to find a way to slow down a rampaging Hunt, who accumulated 18 points through three quarters.

Despite every basket the Bulls made, the Nuggets answered back with two of their own throughout the majority of the final period. Moving ahead to seven minutes into the fourth, and Otago had put together an almost insurmountable 14-point lead.

But in true NZNBL fashion, the game did not end in such a linear way, following a 6-0 run by the Bulls, cutting the deficit to eight and then to four. Unfortunately for Franklin, Kenny’s four free-throws were a formality in securing the Nuggets’ seventh win of the season and placing them on top of the Sal’s NBL Showdown standings with a week remaining in the season.

Following his strong first three quarters, Hunt would save his best for last, adding 13 fourth quarter points to his game-high 31 points in total. Kenny showcased his diligence with 13 points, 12 rebounds and seven assists in a complete performance, while Ngatai finished his night one assist short of a double-double off of 18 points and nine assists.

Even though four of Franklin’s starting five accumulated 10 points or more, collectively it was not enough to overtake Otago in their sprint to the finish. However, a strong 19-point performance for Bartlett was the focus point of the Bulls’ offence. Additionally, 16 points and eight rebounds for Dominique Kelman-Poto, as well as 10 points and nine rebounds for Timmins summed up a rather productive night for the Bulls’ frontcourt.

The Bulls return to action on Tuesday as they attempt to undo last night’s blip in their record against the Manawatu Jets, a team that could leap-frog them given that they win tomorrow against the Airs. Meanwhile, the Nuggets face an in-form Auckland Huskies in the game to follow, potentially looking at sliding into the top seed with another win.

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.

Jones and the Airs emphatically end Bulls’ winning streak

TARANKI Mountainairs have leapt to the top of the 2020 Sal’s NBL (National Basketball League) ladder after winning their fourth match, and halting Franklin Bulls’ four-game winning streak in the provess. The Airs welcomed the return of big man Tai Wynyard who was going to have his hands full with in-form Sam Timmins, as Taranaki ran out 102-88 winners to move into first place on the ladder.

FRANKLIN BULLS 17 | 12 | 31 | 28 (88)
TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 31 | 25 | 24 | 22 (102)


Taranaki started tall on the court as Wynyard immediately posed a problem for Timmins and the Bulls, making the first three shots inside for the Airs to start the game. Having beaten smaller opponents in previous games, Timmins had to find other ways to impact the game.

Young gun and red-hot Isaac Davidson put the Airs on notice early with a clean triple to display his confidence, but it would be his only score for the first half. After a quiet outing last game, Kenneth Tuffin opened his scoring account with a layup off the glass, with big contributor in Franklin’s winning streak Dom Kelman-Poto doing the same soon after. From there, it was all Taranaki.

Mr. Double-Double Marcel Jones would knock down three triples in the first quarter as the lead stretched out to 16. A Kelman-Poto layup would bring the margin back to 14 as the Airs took a 17-31 lead at the first break.

Taranaki were doing it on both ends of the court with seven individual scorers shooting an incredible 81 per cent from the floor, as they forced the Bulls into low quality shots on their way to 33 per cent shooting. Static offence and defence for the Bulls contrasted the Airs’ swift ball movement, as they recorded 10 assists to the Bulls’ 3 in the first term alone.

As the Bulls were looking to move on and get into their stride, Jones hit his fourth three of the game to start the second, on his way to a big night. With Wynyard continuing to lock down Timmins, the Bulls were outclassed in every capacity to give up a 13 points to nothing run, which included a silky dime from Jones for a Shane Temara no-dribble reverse layup.

The Bulls’ first points of the quarter would come four minutes in from Nicholas Barrow, as Jones dribbled it off his foot and out of bounds soon after. This sparked a mini run from the Bulls, until a Dirk Nowitzki-like one leg fadeaway from Mitchell Dance kicked off a huge finish to the half for the Airs. Derone Raukawa and Francis Mulvihill got involved as the lead blew out to a game-high 30, an offensive clinic from the Airs. A Jackson Stubbins triple would end the half, as the Airs would go into the main break leading 29-56.

Quality of shots were still an issue for Franklin as they shot 32 per cent for the half, compared to Taranaki’s 71 per cent, which included 58 per cent from deep. The Airs also recorded 14 more points in the paint, 16 more bench points and nine more assists, as Davidson was held to just three points for the half.

It seemed the Bulls would only be playing for pride in the second half, however, a scrappy loose ball recovery from Timmins would ignite a 23-10 run, bringing the lead back to 14. With a quarter and change to play and plenty of hard work done, the lead no longer seemed insurmountable.

Unfortunately for the Bulls, the third quarter was a tale of two halves: their half, and Taranaki’s half. A technical foul called on coach Liam Simmons would bring the Airs back into the game with a four-point play on the back of a Raukawa free-throw and Jones three-ball.

Undoing all their hard work, the Bulls still trailed 60-80 heading into the last break as the potent one-two punch of Jones (25 points, eight rebounds) and Raukawa (15 points, nine assists) were on fire for Taranaki.

With Kelman-Poto (14 points, six rebounds) leading the charge for Franklin, and Davidson fresh from a big third quarter, a mammoth comeback was set for the Bulls. A strong start saw the lead cut back down to 14 with six and a half minutes left and as Kelman-Poto and the bulls started getting to the line, a comeback win wasn’t out of the question.

Coach Simmons went small with Kelman-Poto at the five position and instructed his team to take it on down the stretch. Unfortunately for Franklin, Taranaki would hold firm as they would trade baskets in what ended up being an anti-climatic finish to the game.

Despite being outscored 13 points in the second half, the Airs would win 102-88 on the back of their two stars Jones (29 points, nine rebounds, six assists) and Raukawa (21 points, 10 assists). Tuffin (10 points, eight rebounds) enjoyed a better outing than his last as Temara (12 points, four rebounds) and Wynyard (10 points, four rebounds, three assists) rounded out a great team display. They will face the Nelson Giants on Thursday sitting in first place, hoping they can replicate this shooting performance.

Kelman-Poto (18 points, 10 rebounds) was Franklin’s best as Davidson’s second half saw him finish the game with 17 points, five rebounds and three assists. Timmins (12 points, three rebounds) and Stubbins (11 points, six assists) were serviceable as they will be looking for more performers in Wednesday’s matchup with the Canterbury Rams.

Bulls continue rodeo against Jets, extend winning streak to four

FRANKLIN Bulls have cemented themselves as the hottest team in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) right now after earning their fourth straight win, with another convincing victory over a physical and scrappy Manawatu Jets side without Hyrum Harris.

FRANKLIN BULLS 25 | 16 | 29 | 13 (83)
MANAWATU JETS 17 | 20 | 18 | 17 (72)


The Jets, who were in-form at the opening tip following their rout of the Canterbury Rams on Wednesday night, had to figure out how to handle the Bulls on the boards and around the basket, as they were without their rebounding machine, Harris. It was announced that Harris would be out for the next one to two weeks due to a hip flexor injury sustained in their clash against the Rams.

However, thanks to the quick start from 202cm tall forward in Taane Samuel, the Jets took the early lead with their noses in front 9-5, with Samuel taking credit for five points in swift fashion. As the Bulls quickly un-did Manawatu’s early start out of the blocks with an 11-0 run of their own, Franklin found themselves with a seven-point lead at the midway point of the first.

With Franklin shooting well in the first quarter, nailing 50 per cent of their opening 20 attempts, the Bulls were threatening a double-digit lead heading into the first break. A Jayden Bezzant jumper from the elbow would keep the opening period rather level-headed, as the Bulls boasted an eight-point buffer for themselves, 25-17.

It was evident early on in the second quarter that Manawatu focused in on Sam Timmins, crashing the boards hard and giving him extra contact where possible in and around the key. Timmins would work for his eight first half points, but Manawatu’s Ashton McQueen would help his side bite into the deficit that the Bulls created by putting up eight of the Jets’ points in a row. As a result, Manawatu were now forcing a two-possession game towards the end of the first half. A Bezzant dribble jump-shot with a few seconds remaining capped off a stellar second quarter for the Jets, allowing them to sit just four points behind an ever-growing confident Bulls side.

McQueen’s accuracy carried over the 20-minute break between halves, evident in him hitting his third three-pointer to open the second half. But Timmins’ ability to flip the switch was once again a prominent aspect of his performance, as a hook shot and a three-point play from the center would give his team some breathing room.

With further back-and-forths occurring frequently on the offensive and defensive ends for both teams, a testy and hard-nose brand of basketball would take place at Trusts Arena. But, this did not deter the hottest team in the League, as the Bulls would string together an awesome 17-2 run, which included a run of 10 consecutive points putting Franklin in the driver’s seat up 70-55 with a quarter still to play.

Despite two quick baskets for the Jets in their bid of a comeback, a put back-jam from Timmins all but deflated Manawatu a couple of minutes into the concluding quarter. A couple threes from Jets Guard Nicholas Fee made his team’s last breath a gallant one, but an early ejection for Thomas Vodanovich hindered any ability to make a serious attempt at a late charge. A beautiful no look assist by Jackson Stubbins to Dominique Kelman-Poto concluded the contest nicely, with the Bulls running away with their fourth win in a row, 83-72 being the final score line.

The Bulls could look reliably on their ability to score from the free-throw line, as they pummelled the Jets inside and around the rim, converting 15 of the 19 attempts they earned at the line compared to Manawatu’s seven of nine. The Bulls also stockpiled 46 points in the paint, dwarfing the Jets’ trivial 18 points in the area.

Notable contributors to Franklin’s night include Samuel Timmins, who grinded away to get his 17 points and eight rebounds. Whereas three other individuals in the starting five collected double-digit point totals, with Kelman-Poto securing 15, Everard Bartlett’s 13 and Isaac Davidson who scraped away with 10. Lastly, it is worth noting Nikau McCullough’s 11 points and six rebounds.

Bezzant’s 20 points and two steals were the biggest eye-catchers in Manawatu’s performance, while Taane Samuel’s 17 points and eight rebounds encapsulated a solid night’s work and Vodanovich falling one basket short of a double-double (eight points and 12 rebounds) might have been different if he was not ejected minutes prior to the final buzzer.

The Jets are yet to secure back-to-back wins up to this point in the season, but perhaps they can bounce back with a win over Taranaki later tonight. Meanwhile, Franklin too face the Airs come Tuesday night and can start to take control of the rest of the League as they eye down a fifth straight win.