Tag: Jordan Hunt

2021 NZNBL team review: Hawkes Bay Hawks

IN the wake of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) coming to a close over the weekend, Draft Central will run through each of the 10 competing sides to look at the key stats and players of the 2021 season. The series continues with Hawkes Bay Hawks.

SEASON SUMMARY:

Position: 2nd
Wins: 14
Losses: 6

KEY STATS:

Points: 92.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 37.7 (3rd)
Assists: 18.3 (2nd)
Steals: 8.0 (4th)
Blocks: 3.1 (2nd)
Field Goal %: 47.4 (4th)

KEY PLAYERS:

Devondrick Walker

A shooting machine, Walker was a sensational and reliable player throughout the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, putting up 21.6 points, 5.0 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.7 steals throughout the year. Walker led his team in points, and was second in both assists and steals, showcasing his ball-handling skills. Nailing 70 of his 164 three-point attempts, the long-range shooter averaged 42.7 per cent from beyond the arc, always dangerous when lining up for the jumper. When he did occasionally get to the free throw line, he converted 84.6 per cent of the time. Walker put up double-digits in all bar two games he was on court, and amassed 20-plus scores in 11 games. In his last three outings, Walker had his most prolific games of the year – two of which were finals – in his final three matches to put up an average of 33 points and six rebounds across the three games.

Hyrum Harris

The well-balanced talent had another strong season backing up his 2020 year by leading his team in rebounds (8.1), assists (4.0) and steals (2.1), being the key facilitator for the Sharks like he was for the Jets last season. Again Harris fell short of a premiership medal, finishing runner-up for the second consecutive season, but he did everything he could during the year. He shot at 55.4 per cent from the field, and whilst his free throw shooting was down (just 66.7 per cent efficiency), he was still able to contribute across the court. Harris ended the year with 12 double-digit points games, including a run of five consecutive matches mid-season. His two finals saw outings of 19 and 22 points, both being double-doubles. In total, Harris managed six double-doubles, and stepped up when needed.

Ethan Rusbatch

The ever-reliable Rusbatch played all bar one game, and started in each of them, averaging 16.8 points per match to be second in his team behind Walker. He also managed the 4.2 rebounds, 1.6 assists and 1.1 steals. Rusbatch shot at a high 38.7 per cent from long-range to combine well with Walker from beyond the arc, and he managed an 81.8 per cent efficiency when he got to the charity stripe. His consistency was remarkable, with a run of 15 consecutive games in double-digits. Unfortunately his grand final (four points) was a quiet one, but overall he contributed to the team with seven rebounds. At one point in the season he had a five-game streak of 20 or more points, with his season high of 36 coming against Otago Nuggets on June 12, with a whooping nine of 15 triples in that game.

Rhys Vague

Whilst Vague played a few less games than the others (16, including 15 starting), he still did his part off the boards to be second overall behind Harris in rebounds (7.0), and fifth overall for points (12.0). He played his role each and every week, and shot at 36.8 per cent from outside the arc and 48.6 per cent overall, though support off the boards was his main job. When he got to the line, Vague hit three quarters of his free throws to be a reliable option there. Of his 16 games, 10 were in double-figure points, and he had the one double-double against Manawatu Jets on June 20, when he picked up 11 points and 12 rebounds, though he had an outlying 25-point game (the only match about 20 points) along with eight rebounds and five assists, against Otago Nuggets on June 12, dominating with Rusbatch.

OTHERS:

He was one of the more dominant players in 2020, and whilst Derone Raukawa was not as dominant in 2021, he still contributed 12.3 points, 3.6 assists, 2.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals. The two players coming off the bench with good numbers were Jonathan Janssen (8.6 points, 6.2 rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (11.2 points, 4.2 rebounds).

SUMMARY:

The Hawkes Bay Hawks came within a basket of winning the overall prize, having the better of the Wellington Saints midway through the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final, but could ultimately not finish the job. Nonetheless they can be proud with their efforts after not dropping a game at home all season.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

2021 NZNBL Semi-Finals preview: Final Four tips off tonight

TEN teams started in the 2021 New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL), and just four remain after 13 weeks of top notch basketball action decided the final four which tips off tonight. Held at Te Rauparaha Arena over two consecutive nights, the four semi-finalists will face off in two do-or-die matches tonight, with the winner of each semi-final progressing through to tomorrow night’s grand final. The four teams in contention are Wellington Saints, Hawkes Bay Hawks, Southland Sharks and Auckland Huskies who remain in the hunt for premiership glory.

WELLINGTON SAINTS vs. AUCKLAND HUSKIES
Thursday, July 22 @ 6pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Up first are the minor premiers, Wellington Saints taking on fourth placed Auckland Huskies for the opening spot in the 2021 NZNBL Grand Final. The Saints finished on top with 16 wins from 18 matches, clearly the benchmark team ranked first in overall points and first in least points conceded making them an easy favourite for the overall title. In nine matches at home, the Saints did not lose, and their 7-2 record on the road was pretty imposing as well. For the Huskies, they secured their final four spot in the penultimate round, winning 11 games from 18 matches, including a 5-4 record at home, and a 6-3 record on the road, making travelling no fear for the side.

Fans do not have to look too far back to see the last time these sides faced off, with the Round 12 match just five days earlier and the Saints coming away with a 24-point win, 85-61. Captain and League Most Valuable Player (MVP) Dion Prewster went to work putting up 23 points, nine rebounds and eight assists in that game, well aided by Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds and two assists). For the Huskies, Justin Bibbs (18 points, nine rebounds and four assists) and Tom Vodanovich (17 points, 10 rebounds and two assists) were the two key players. In their only other encounter back on May 28, Wellington Saints easily accounted for the Huskies by 31 points in a 107-76 victory.

In terms of the key statistics, the Saints average almost 11 points more per game (97.1 to 86.2) and concede nine points less (76.7 to 85.4). Their shooting percentage is higher from inside and outside the arc, and from the free throw line, they have more rebounds and assists per match. In particular, the Saints are great at second chance opportunities, grabbing an average of 11 offensive rebounds per game. They can also win the ball back in transition, recording nine steals per game to the Huskies’ 7.2. In saying that, the Huskies are generally good with ball-in-hand, only committing the 11.8 turnovers per game, less than the Saints’ 12.9.

With Chris Johnson back in the United States and teenage talent Dontae Nance injured, the Huskies have looked to Bibbs and the returned Vodanovich as the key players. Vodanovich has averaged the 20.3 points and 78 rebounds per game, teaming up well with Bibbs (18.0 and 5.3) in that sense. Brook Ruscoe-Taiaroa (10.6 points, 2.9 rebounds and 2.5 assists) and Zach Riley (10.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 2.2 assists) are others who have stepped up in the absence of key players. Riley in particular has had a memorable season, winning the Youth Player of the Year.

The Saints on the other hand have no shortage of stars, with Prewster (18.7 points, 4.8 assists and 5.3 rebounds) voted the best player in the NZNBL this season. Kerwin Roach Jr (17.4 points, 4.2 assists and 5.8 rebounds) has also been outstanding, whilst Samuel (16.6 points) is also an All-Star 5 this season, and Tohi Smith-Milner (13.9 points, 6.9 rebounds and 2.7 assists) has been outstanding throughout. When weighing up the two sides, it is hard to look past Wellington Saints who have been the best side all year, have very few flaws and an outstanding starting five that should get the job done yet again.

HAWKES BAY HAWKS vs. SOUTHLAND SHARKS
Thursday, July 22 @ 8pm
Te Rauparaha Arena

Once the winner of the first semi-final is decided, it is straight onto the other match with a blockbuster second against third clash. Hawkes Bay Hawks and Southland Sharks both come in with 13-5 records from this season, and were as evenly poised as any to go head-to-head in this match. The Hawks did not lose a match at home in nine outings, including toppling both the Sharks and Wellington Saints, whilst their road record was a little more shaky with a 4-5 record. The Sharks were not as dominant at home but still recorded seven wins from nine matches, whilst also having six from nine away from home.

The most recent encounter between these sides was not so close, with the Hawks coming away with a comfortable 97-71 win on the road. In what was only the Sharks second loss on the road – after a one-point overtime defeat at the hands of Auckland Huskies in the last match at ILT Stadium – the Hawks stormed to a 26-point victory. In an even team performance, five players had double-figure points for the Hawks, with Jordan Hunt (21 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Derone Raukawa (17 points, four assists and three rebounds) leading the way in the win. For the Sharks, Dom Kelman-Poto was a one-man wrecking ball with 27 points, four rebounds and two assists, whilst Joshua Cunningham put up 13 points, eight rebounds and two assists. In their earlier encounter back on May 8, the Hawks came away with a closer 12-point win at Pettigrew Green Arena, 85-73.

In terms of individuals, Kelman Poto is the sole member of the All-Star 5 in this match, with the Hawks having an overall balanced lineup. Looking at the key team stats, the Hawks are marginally ahead in points per game (93.2 to 91.3), and have conceded marginally less points to their opposition (83.4 to 84.3). The Sharks are a marginally better shooting team from inside the arc (56.1 to 55.7 per cent), though neither team could be split from outside it, with 36.9 per cent, and the Hawks hitting 1.3 additional three-pointers per game. Off the boards it is the Hawks who lead the way (37.7 to 36.9), whilst the Sharks are ahead in the assists (19.8 to 18.7) and steals (8.3 to 8.2), whilst also having less turnovers (12.0 to 13.1).

Having played every game for the Hawks, Hyrum Harris has been a rock across the court, able to impact in a multitude of ways on his way to an average of 12.3 points, 7.8 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.1 steals. Leading the team for points, Devondrick Walker has put up 20.2 points. 4.9 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 1.9 steals in an impressive effort, whilst Ethan Rusbatch managed the 17.8 points, 4.0 rebounds and 1.1 steals per game. The depth of the Hawks is ultra-impressive, with Hunt (12.7 points, 4.6 rebounds), Raukawa (12.5 points, 2.6 rebounds, 3.8 assists and 1.1 steals) and Rhys Vague (12.2 points, 6.9 rebounds) also averaging double-figure points.

Kelman-Poto’s All-Star 5 season came about from his 17.6 points, 8.2 rebounds, 3.1 assists and 1.3 steals per game, shooting an a high 57 per cent from the field. He worked well starting every game with Cunningham (14.7 points, 8.1 rebounds and 2.6 assists), whilst three others reached double-figure point averages. Courtney Belger (12.3 points. 5.7 assists, 3.6 rebounds and 1.7 steals), Brayden Inger (14.2 points, 4.6 rebounds and 1.3 assists) and Alonzo Burton (13.1 points. 2.8 rebounds, 2.4 assists and 1.6 steals) all played 17 or games this year showing great durability.

This game is hard to split, but with the Hawks having won both their previous encounters, the scale tips in their favour, but it could genuinely go either way given the stars on display in this contest.

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Picture credit: PhotosportNZ via NZNBL

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Photo credit: Joe Allison/Getty images via NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Sunday

THE Auckland Huskies continued their winning ways in their second outing of the round in the New Zealand National Basketball League while the Hawks bounced back after a loss earlier in the round.

Manawatu Jets (66) defeated by Auckland Huskies (75)

In their second game of the round it was the Huskies that made it two from two with a hard-fought win over the Jets. The Huskies asserted themselves nice and early on the contest establishing a handy six-point lead credit to some late free-throws. Scoring was hard to come by in the first few minutes of the second term as the ball ping-ponged up and down the court before the Jets hit back to get within two points and then steal the lead. This seesawing affair continued until once again it was the higher placed Huskies that kicked things up a notch. Only two points separated the two sides at half time and within the blink of an eye the Jets were level once again and had the lead in a complete replica of the second quarter. Manawatu started to motor, pouring on the scoreboard pain and creating an eight-point lead but it was not enough to worry the Huskies who fought back in the dying stages. With the lead chopping and changing the final quarter was always going to be a heart in your mouth finish and it certainly was. Auckland quickly tied things up as the intensity in the game steadily lifted and they eventually stole the lead. the buffer grew from two points to four before blowing out to the winning total of nine.

The Jets had two predominant scorers with Daishon Knight and Deandre Daniels leading the way. Daniels was the topscorer for Manawatu producing 23 points in his 40 minutes out on court while also racking up nine rebounds, two assists and two steals. Knight finished with a double-double to his name credit to his 21 points and 10 rebounds all of which were defensive. Jayden Bezzant was the only other player to have a real impact on the scoreboard credit to his nine points and three rebounds. For the Huskies it was the work of Chris Johnson that stood out as he sunk 25 points but also amassed a staggering 20 rebounds with 16 of them defensive. Bigman Tom Vodanovich was also in strong form producing 20 points, two assists and four rebounds in the win. Justin Bibbs and Zach Riley were the other two that had a notable impact for Auckland draining 14 and 10 points apiece.

Southland Sharks (71) defeated by Hawkes Bay Hawks (97)

The Hawks reversed their fortunes from earlier in the round with a resounding 28-point win over the Sharks last night. Taking the court for the second time in as many days the Hawks managed to string together some clever basketball to outsmart the Sharks and get the win. They burst out of the blocks in the opening quarter piling on a whopping 37 points while keeping Southland to 18 at the first break. Their accuracy and proficiency was on full display as the visitors continued to put the foot down in the second, extending out to as much as 28 points at halftime. While the Sharks upped the ante somewhat in the third term the Hawks never lost control, able to consistently ride the wave and withstand any type of pressure thrown their way. The fourth quarter was much the same as the Hawks remained in the driver’s seat, controlling proceedings and finding easy avenues to the rim to keep the scoreboard ticking over and the Sharks at bay.

It was a tough day at the office for the Sharks but Dominique Kelman-Poto was up to his usual tricks scoring 27 points in his 29 minutes out on court. Kelman-Poto also managed two assists and four rebounds in the loss while teammate Joshua Cunningham was the next cab off the rank when it came to scoring with 13 points at 55 per cent from the field along with eight rebounds. Brayden Inger was the only other player to hit double figures for the Sharks with 10 points. For the Hawks, Jordan Hunt was the man proving to have the hot hand as he dropped 21 points at 44 per cent from the field. Hunt did not stop there as he also recorded four assists and two deflections as Devondrick Walker also found himself in the thick of things with his 17 points, four assists and three rebounds. Both Deone Raukawa and Ethan Rusbatch showcased their class with 12 points apiece as the latter also walked away with four assists and a steal.

Photo credit: NZNBL

NZNBL Round 10: Saturday night

SATURDAY brought a couple of exciting match-ups in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) as the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls notched up wins. It was a close encounter in both matches as the two sides showcased their ability to fight back when down to clinch victory.

Otago Nuggets (94) defeated Hawkes Bay Hawks (88)

The fourth placed Nuggets showcased some real grit and determination against the third placed Hawks in what was an enthralling contest that saw them get over the line. Neither side was willing to give an inch as they engaged in a hard-fought battle filled with plenty of excitement and lead changes. It was level pegging to start the game with both the Nuggets and Hawks heading into quarter time on 11 points each. Thing started to open up in the second quarter as the Nuggets generated some real scoring momentum to create a 10-point buffer. But the Hawks found a way to stay in the hunt reducing the deficit to eight at the main break. Their high tempo continued into the third quarter draining the first six points thanks to back-to-back triples before rounding out the term in style with only one point separating the two sides. It was an action packed final quarter but it was the Nuggets that found their groove as the clock ticked down to steal the win.

Isaiah Moss was the most damaging player out on court for the Nuggets sinking 31 points and while he could have been more accurate from down town, still had an impact with his five triples from 10 attempts. It did not stop there for Moss as he walked away with three assists, nine rebounds and four steals. Gerasimos McKay was firing on all cylinders producing 17 points at 58 per cent from the field while also accumulating six assists, eight rebounds and two steals. Luke Aston and Samuel Timmins also featured highly for the Nuggets with 14 and 12 points respectively, with the latter also amassing six rebounds. Devondrick Walker caused all sorts of havoc for the Hawks piling on 23 points, five rebounds and two assists while Jordan Hunt was the next best for the Hawks with 14 points. Derone Raukawa showcased his class credit to his 13 points and five rebounds in 30 minutes of play while Hyrum Harris also got busy with 11 points at 42 per cent from the field.

Franklin Bulls (101) defeated Taranaki Mountainairs (99)

Only two points separated the Bulls from the Mountainairs as Franklin just scraped over the line. Having already played on Friday night the Mountainairs looked slightly fatigued against a fit and firing Bulls side who did the job to create some more ladder separation. It was a heart in your mouth match as the two sides traded blows with the lead chopping and changing. Taranaki held the lead for a large chunk of the opening half in what was a high scoring affair. Up by 14 points at the main break it was time for Franklin to hit back and put some respectability back on the scoreboard and that they did. They steadily chipped away at the scoreboard as the lead went from 14 to nine and so forth. Although the Mountainairs still managed to find a way to score the Bulls continued to charge ahead. It all came to the final quarter with the Mountainairs staring down a potential second win of the season, but it was not to be as Franklin gelled together to pull off an almighty comeback.

Manel Ayol impressed with his ability to find the rim and apply scoreboard pressure for the Bulls as he piled on 31 points in 35 minutes out on court. He found his mojo off the boards too, with six rebounds and three steals in an all-round dominant performance. Jayeln Gerrand imposed himself for the Bulls with his 20 points at 44 per cent from the field plus his two rebounds as Denhym Brooke also chimed in with a handy double-double credit to his 17 points and 11 rebounds. Isaac Davidson and Jett Thompson did enough to get their side over the line producing 11 and 10 points respectively for the Bulls. When looking at the Airs it is once again hard to deny the influence of Marcel Jones who starred with his whopping 39 points at 57 per cent from the field. Jones also inflicted pain off the boards with his 15 rebounds, 12 of which were defensive. Tai Wynyard continued his form draining another 16 points and six rebounds as teammate Dru-Leo Leusogi-Ape was the next cab off the rank with his 15 points as his 100 per cent accuracy from beyond the arc took centre stage.

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Saints shine in high-scoring overtime thriller, as Huskies grab second big win of weekend

WELLINGTON Saints have returned serve on Hawkes Bay Hawks to post a thrilling overtime win in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) last night, as the Auckland Huskies drew level with Otago Nuggets on eight wins following a memorable weekend of basketball. Whilst both contrasting results – the Saints winning by seven points after not being able to be split for 40 minutes and the Huskies dominating the second half to win by 23 – both were equally important for the Final Four calculations.

In the Saints-Hawks game, it was the visitors who raced off to a strong start in a high-scoring first term with 60 points on the board and a 32-28 lead in favour of the Hawks. They were hoping to win against the Saints for the second time in two weeks, but Wellington – despite playing in front of no fans – were not going to spoil their perfect home record thus far in 2021. The Saints quickly hit back with a dominant 30-17 second term to regain the lead by nine points and look to be in control. That was quickly whittled down by the Hawks who won the second term by seven, and they hit the front by three points in the last 10 seconds of the match.

Back-to-back Ethan Rusbatch free throws handed the Hawks a three-points lead, which meant Wellington needed a saviour. That came in the form of Tohi Smith-Milner who drained the three-pointer to level the scores at 98-apiece. The extra period was just as exciting, with the first eight points – including two triples to Taane Samuel – going the way of the Saints. From there they traded baskets, with Rusbatch and Jarrod Kenny both lively for the Hawks, though the Saints had the better composure as the experience of Kerwin Roach Jr and Dion Prewster to nail the free throws off the deliberate fouls handed them the seven-point win, 119-112.

Prewster won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) honours for a massive 34 points, nine assists and eight rebounds, coming agonisingly close to a huge triple-double in the win. Smith-Milner picked up a double-double of 21 points, 10 rebounds and four assists, but it was the deadeye long-range shooting of Samuel – 12 of 14 from the field and six of eight from beyond the arc – who recorded 33 points, four rebounds and two blocks. Roach Jr (16 points, five rebounds, four steals and two assists) and Kenneth Tuffin (10 points, four rebounds and two steals) also hit double-figure points.

Rusbatch had a team-high 27 points as well as two rebounds, whilst Hyrum Harris was a master thief on the night, racking up 10 steals, eight rebounds and five assists to go with 16 points. Devondrick Walker (19 points, three rebounds and three assists) and Derone Raukawa (16 points) reached double-figure points, as Kenny hit four of four from long-range on his way to 18 points and two steals, and Jordan Hunt managed 11 points, three rebounds and two assists.

Meanwhile in the more one-sided game, the Auckland Huskies overcame a one-point half-time deficit to post a big 23-point win. The visitors led by two points at quarter time, but lost the second term by three to head into the main break 40-39 down. The second half was a different story, piling on 30 points to 23 in the third term, then completely dominating the final one with 24 points to seven, and running out 93-70 winners.

Tom Vodanovich picked up another MVP with a huge 24 points, 12 rebounds, three assists and two blocks, scoring four of 10 from beyond the arc. Chris Johnson (23 points, 11 rebounds and four assists) continued his wonderful season, whilst Justin Bibbs (16 points, six rebounds and four assists) and Zach Riley (11 points, two rebounds) also reached double-figure points in the victory.

For the Nuggets, Sam Timmins crashed the boards as expected, finishing with 21 points, 16 rebounds – 13 defensive – and seven assists, whilst Isaiah Moss helped out with 19 points, seven rebounds, three assists and three steals. Luke Aston (13 points, two rebounds and two blocks) and Richie Rodger (10 points, three rebounds and two assists) both providing some scoring assistance on the night.

Wellington Saints will play the Nelson Giants in a rescheduled clash on Wednesday night, before a second clash with Taranaki Mountainairs on Friday. Auckland Huskies also take on the Giants, on Friday night, whilst the Otago Nuggets host the Hawkes Bay Hawks on Saturday night.

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Huskies stun Sharks, Hawks topple Bulls and Jets bounce back against Rams

THREE games of single-digit results including one overtime match has seen one of the nights of the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) season. The Auckland Huskies needed extra time to shake off a fast-finishing Southland Sharks for the Sharks’ first loss at home of the year, Hawkes Bay Hawks did enough through the middle two quarters to down the Franklin Bulls in a closer-than-expected five-point win, and Manawatu Jets bounced back from their disappointing loss to last placed Taranaki Mountainairs the night before to win by seven over Canterbury Rams.

The match of the night belonged to the Huskies-Sharks, with the game going right down to the wire. Yet to lose at home, the Sharks lead by a narrow two points at the first break. That turned on its head as Tom Vodanovich stepped up a gear and the Huskies won the next two terms by a combined 12 points to lead by double digits at the final break. Southland roared back to life in the last term, levelling the scores by the final buzzer, with a Tom Cowie layup in the final minute ensuring the teams finished at 83-apiece. The overtime period saw both teams trading blows, with Justin Bibbs turning up the heat for the Huskies and scoring the last seven points for his side to come from four points down, to hit the front with less than a minute left courtesy of a three-point jumper.

Vodanovich had some kind of night, nailing five of 11 from long range on his way to 33 points, 13 rebounds – six offensive – and two assists. He teamed up well with Bibbs who also lit up from long-range putting together five of 13 from beyond the arc to finish with 27 points, five assists and three rebounds. Chris Johnson (11 points, eight rebounds, five assists and two blocks) and Dontae Nance (11 points, three rebounds and three assists) also hit double-figure points in the win.

Josh Cunningham was the standout for the Sharks, shooting at 72 per cent, picking up 28 points, 10 rebounds and two assists, whilst Brayden Inger (20 points, five rebounds) and Alonzo Burton (19 points, five rebounds and two steals) both stood tall. Dom Kelman-Poto also impressed off the boards with seven points, 11 rebounds and three assists, whilst Toby Gillooly (nine points, seven rebounds and three assists) was strong.

Hawkes Bay Hawks came from 12 points down at quarter time to win the next two quarters by 11 and eight points respectively and lead Franklin Bulls by seven with a term to play. Whilst the visitors did cut into the lead by two points in the final term, the Hawks won 95-90 overall to maintain their good form in the top two.

Devondrick Walker was phenomenal with 21 points – five of 13 from long-range – seven steals, four assists and four rebounds, whilst Ethan Rusbatch had 21 points, three assists, two rebounds and two steals. Jordan Hunt came off the bench for 20 points and two steals, whilst Rhys Vague (12 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Hyrum Harris (10 points, nine rebounds, four assists and two steals) were also impressive.

Kyrin Galloway had 20 points and 13 rebounds in a big double-double for the Bulls, as he and Isaac Davidson (21 points, six rebounds and three assists) did the bulk of the scoring for the losers. Jett Thompson (12 points, four assists and two rebounds) and Adam Dunstan (10 points, six rebounds) also worked hard.

After losing to the last placed Airs the night before, Manawatu Jets got the better of Canterbury Rams by seven points. Trailing by six points at the first break, and seven by half-time, the Jets dominated the third term to score 26-14, then finished off strongly to win 92-85 and bounce back from their defeat.

Daishon Knight was unbelievable with the best games of the year, putting up 30 points, 16 rebounds – 11 defensive – and 11 assists, as well as three steals in a full 40 minutes of court time. Also spending 40 minutes on the court, Deandre Daniels managed the 22 points, five rebounds, four blocks and three steals, whilst Nikau McCullough had 25 points, two rebounds and two assists off the bench.

EJ Singler had a team-high 26 points, as well as eight rebounds and two steals for the Rams, with Deshon Taylor (23 points, five rebounds and three assists) also stepping up. Max Darling (15 points, nine rebounds and two blocks) contributed off the bench, whilst Sam Smith (eight points) and Jack Salt (six points, three rebounds) also shared in the points despite the loss.

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Hawks, Nuggets and Rams all produce huge wins

THE bottom three sides in the New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) were all on the receiving end of some hefty losses, as Hawkes Bay Hawks, Otago Nuggets and Canterbury Rams all staked their claims for a Final Four finish. The second placed Hawks shot down the Manawatu Jets by 28 points, the fourth placed Nuggets produced the most dominant performance of the year to win by 40 against Franklin Bulls, and the fifth placed Rams kept in touch with the top four courtesy of a 24-point win over cellar dwellers, Taranaki Mountainairs.

Hawkes Bay Hawks were red hot from the opening tip-off, putting up 28 points to 13 to race out to a 15-point lead. Whilst the second term was even in a high-scoring affair, the Hawks once again took control in the third to all but end the contest as it pushed the difference to beyond 30 points. A rallying effort in the final term cut the Jets back to within 28, but they were no match for the Hawks, going down 61-89.

Devondrick Walker won the Most Valuable Player (MVP) on the night for his 25 points, eight assists and six rebounds, ahead of Jordan Hunt (17 points, three rebounds and two assists) and Hyrum Harris (10 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and five steals. All five starters hit at least one shot from long-range, as Rhys Vague also picked up a double-double of 11 points and 12 rebounds. Ethan Rusbatch (10 points, two rebounds) was the other Hawks player to hit double-figure points.

For the Jets, Daishon Knight stood tall with 20 points, five rebounds, four assists and three steals, leading the way from Jayden Bezzant (16 points, two steals) and Deandre Daniels (12 points, 10 rebounds and five blocks). Tukaha Cooper came on for less than 11 minutes and contributed eight points – including a triple – in that time.

In the Otago Nuggets’ complete domination of Franklin Bulls, the home team never looked like losing, piling on 23-9 in the opening term. The high-scoring second term of 34-28 showed perhaps the game might get back on even terms from that point, but it was not to be as Otago again put the defensive pressure on, scoring 26-9 in the third term to lead by a whopping 37 points with a quarter to play. The final term was tighter, but the home team still won it by three, notching up a massive 40-point win, 104-64.

Sam Timmins won another MVP award for his effort, notching up 24 points and a massive 19 rebounds – 17 defensive – whilst recording two assists and two steals for his troubles. Isaiah Moss provided the long-range daggers with six of 13 from beyond the arc on his way to 23 points, four rebounds and three assists. Both players spent less than 28 minutes on court in the win. Gerasimos McKay (14 points, eight rebounds, seven assists and two steals) and Richie Rodger (11 points, three rebounds were productive, whilst the lopsided scoreline allowed five bench players to spend more than 10 minutes on court, and six of the seven coming on to score.

For the Jets, Kyrin Galloway did all her could with a massive 17 rebounds – 13 defensive – to match his 13 points, while Denhym Brooke (12 points, two rebounds and two assists) also tried hard. Coming off the bench, Nicholas Fee (11 points, three rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (10 points, three rebounds and two steals) notched up double-figure points.

In the third game, Canterbury Rams kept their finals hopes alive with a solid 24-point win over last placed Taranaki Mountainairs. The Rams produced the goods early in front of home fans, applying 26 points to 16 to lead by 10, then extended that margin out to 16 by half-time. The Airs cut into the deficit by two heading into the final term, before the Rams stepped up to produce an identical quarter to the first one (26-16) to win, 92-68.

EJ Singler took the MVP honours with 24 points, 13 rebounds, four assists and two steals on the night, just ahead of Deshon Taylor (21 points, five assists, four steals and two rebounds). Alex Talma (12 points, 10 rebounds and three assists) also recorded a double-double, whilst Sam Smith (12 points, eight assists and four rebounds) and a returning Max Darling (10 points, four rebounds) both hit double-figure points in the win as well.

Marcel Jones was back to his double-double best in a hard working 16-point and 10-rebound effort, shooting three of six from long-range and also collecting a couple of steals. Tai Wynyard (16 points, four rebounds) and Carlin Davison (14 points, three assists and two rebounds) also reached double-figure points, as Francis Mulvihill (seven points) and Deu-Leo Leusogi-Ape (six points, three rebounds and two assists) were the next best.

Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams tip-off the next round of action on Thursday, with a battle between the Taranaki Mountainairs and Manawatu Jets on Friday. The Hawkes Bay Hawks host the Franklin Bulls on Saturday, whilst the Otago Nuggets rest up until a home game against Auckland Huskies on Sunday.

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Jets destroy Bulls as Hawks grab narrow Huskies win

TWO very different New Zealand National Basketball League (NZNBL) games played out last night, with the Hawkes Bay Hawks winning in a tight one against a fast-finishing Auckland Huskies outfit, while Manawatu Jets pounced on a wounded Franklin Bulls team to win big. Just five points separated the Hawks and Huskies, whilst the Jets won all four quarters on their way to a massive 32-point victory in a high-scoring encounter.

In the tight encounters, Hawkes Bay Hawks started off strongly to win the first three quarters. The home team scored 18 points to 15 in the first term, and 14 points to 12 in the second to lead by five points at the main break. They extended the advantage into double-digits by the last change, before Auckland made its move. Despite the Huskies chipping away at a lead that got out to as much as 20 points during the third term, they could not draw closer than four, eventually going down by five, 80-75.

There were positives from both sides as the Hawks shot at a higher clip of 43 to 41 per cent from the field. They won the points in the paint battle well (34-26), as well as the points from turnovers (21-12) given both sides committed the 15 turnovers apiece. Across the board all the stats were either even or separated by a narrow margin, including the rebounds, assists, steals and blocks, with only the Huskies’ bench points (26-18) creating some separation on the Hawks.

Devondrick Walker was the standout shooter on the night, recording 25 points – five of nine from long-range – eight rebounds, four assists and three steals. Ethan Rusbatch (14 points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double-figure points, while Derone Raukawa (eight points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals) Hyrum Harris (eight points, two rebounds, two assists and two steals) and Rhys Vague (seven points, seven rebounds) all contributed to the starting side. Off the bench, Jonathan Janssen (six points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Hunt (six points, six rebounds) were influential.

For the Huskies, Chris Johnson (20 points, nine rebounds, three assists and three blocks) and Zach Riley (15 points, eight rebounds and four steals) teamed up well from the starting side. Teenager Dontae Nance came on court to drop 20 points, four rebounds, four assists and two steals in an all-round effort, while Takiula Fahrensohn had a solid performance with seven points and five rebounds.

The other match was not nearly as competitive, with an understrength Franklin Bulls outfit feeling the wrath of a red-hot Manawatu Jets side. The Jets were on from the opening tip-off, racing out to an eight-point quarter time lead, before making it 14 by half-time. Not willing to let it slip, Manawatu won the third term by another five, then completely put the foot down and piled on 31 points to 18 to run away with a massive 118-86 win. The 118-point tally was the largest any team has scored this season.

The Jets unsurprisingly won every key stat from field goal percentage (48 to 36 per cent) to rebounds (57-49) and assists (28-18). The game was dictated by long-range shooting as the Jets nailed a massive 19, while the Bulls still had a huge 17, contributing the majority of their points. Manawatu also controlled the paint with 42 points to 24, had more second chance points (27-9) and more points off the bench (28-14).

Unfortunately without Josh Selby, Zane Waterman and Matt Freeman, the Bulls have been struggling in recent times and will need to find an answer if they are to turn around their season. In the loss, it was up to Denhym Brooke (23 points, five rebounds) and Kyrin Galloway (22 points, 14 rebounds and four assists) who both shot four triples, while Nicolas Fee (13 points, eight assists and four rebounds) and Jaylen Gerrand (11 points) had the three triples apiece.

The Jets had no shortage of stars, as Shane Temara racked up a massive double-double of 34 points – five of six from long-range – 13 rebounds and three assists. Daishon Knight came within a whisker of a triple-double, pulling out a 16-point, 10-assist and nine-rebound performance. Deandre Daniels hit four of eight from long-range for 22 points, five rebounds, three blocks and two assists, while Nikau McCulloch came off the bench for 17 points – four of seven from three-point range – in 21 minutes. Jayden Bezzant (13 points, six assists and three rebounds) and Jake McKinlay (seven points, 13 rebounds and two assists) were others who shone on the night.

Manawatu Jets are the first side to front up of these four sides, taking on Southland Sharks next Friday, as the Hawkes Bay Hawks host Otago Nuggets, and Franklin Bulls travel to Auckland Huskies on Saturday night.

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