Tag: Josh Aitcheson

2020 NZNBL 3×3 Cup: Men’s preview

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

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

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

GROUPS:

Men’s Pool A:

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

Men’s Pool B:

Auckland Huskies
Canterbury Rams
Franklin Bulls
NZ Select
Southland Sharks

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

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

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

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

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

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

TEAMS:

Auckland Huskies:

Jordan Hunt
Chris McIntosh
Sean Murphy
Dru-Leo Leosogi Ape

Canterbury Rams:

Mason Whittaker
Jack Exeter
Ben Carlisle-Smith
Ben Hall

Franklin Bulls:

Marcel Jones
Nikau McCullough
Isaac Davison
Joel Vaigangina

Hawke’s Bay Hawks:

Derone Raukawa
Ethan Rusbatch
Everard Bartlett
Taane Te Kira Samuel

Manawatu Jets:

Kalib Mullins
Jayden Bezzant
Haize Walker
Matangirei Hipango

NZ Select:

Dane Karel Brooks
Denhym Brooke
Pafe Momisea
Samuel Aruwa

Otago Nuggets:

Sam Timmins
Kane Keil
Josh Aitcheson
Richard Rodger

Southland Sharks:

Hyrum Harris
Dom Kelman-Poto
Alonzo Burton
Alex Pledger

Taranaki Mountainairs:

Aaron Bailey-Nowell
Karl Noyer
Tai Wynyard
Thomas Allan

Tasman Suns:

Sam Dempster
Tom Ingham
Tysxun Aiolupotea
Bronson Beri

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Otago Nuggets

OTAGO NUGGETS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Nuggets had a season to remember returning to the competition, finishing on top of the table at the end of the 14-game regular season and then going all the way to premiership glory. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 12
Lost: 5

KEY STATS:

Points: 92.6 (3rd)
Rebounds: 40.6 (6th)
Assists: 20.2 (1st)
Steals: 9.2 (2nd)
Blocks: 3.0 (4th)
FG%: 47.4 (2nd)

BEST WIN: defeated Manawatu Jets by 2 points

What else could it be? The match that guaranteed Otago Nuggets premiership glory. It was far from a straightforward win though despite beating the Jets on the previous four occasions. In the tightest match between the teams, fitting for a grand final, the Nuggets had to fight back from a four-point deficit at half-time to cut it to three by the final break and run over the top of their opponents thanks to a 27-22 final term to win, 79-77. Jordan Hunt topscored with 21 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals, as five players recorded six or more rebounds. Josh Aitcheson (16 points, six rebounds, three assists and two blocks), Kane Keil (15 points, seven rebounds, three assists and one block), Jordan Ngatai (11 points, six rebounds, four assists and two blocks) and Jarrod Kenny (six points, seven rebounds, eight assists and two steals) were phenomenal on a memorable night for the organisation.

WORST LOSS: lost to Auckland Huskies by 12 points

While the final day of the regular season was by far the worst loss in terms of points, considering the obvious man management factor and that top spot was secured, you have to wind back to when the Nuggets went down to the Huskies on July 7 in a 12-point defeat. Trailing at every break and losing each quarter – albeit by no more than five points, it was just one of those games where the opposition team was better on the night. The usually accurate Nuggets were simply terrible from the field, shooting at just 32.4 per cent, including Kenny (30 per cent), Ngatai (22.7) and Richie Rodger (22.2). Meanwhile the Huskies were led by Taine Murray (19 points, five rebounds and three assists), Tohi Smith-Milner (17 points, 10 rebounds), Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa (12 points, six rebounds, three assists and six steals) and Leon Henry (11 points, 14 rebounds, four assists and two steals) on a big night for them.

TOP PLAYERS:

Jordan Hunt 19.6 points, 6.1 rebounds 0.9 assists, 1.0 steals
Jordan Ngatai 18.2 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Kane Keil 11.7 points, 5.4 rebounds, 2.6 assists, 1.0 steals
Jarrod Kenny 11.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, 5.2 assists, 1.4 steals
Josh Aitcheson 10.9 points, 4.8 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

Everything if you look back in hindsight. That is not to say they did not have their challenges, but in terms of their list, they predominantly had their best team out on the court each night, they followed team structures and just did all the team things perfectly. From the start to finish of the season, they were consistently in the top few teams and deserved the title by season’s end. While not many top teams end up following through after winning the minor premiership, the Nuggets did just that, and can celebrate their first ever franchise title.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

In the counter opposite to the above, nothing that could be considered serious enough to derail a season. They can look back and be proud of their year, because aside from the odd hiccup here or there in terms of losses, they legitimately were one of the contenders all season.

SUMMARY

Otago Nuggets were the premier team of the 2020 Sal’s NBL and were well coached by Brent Matehaere to lead his team to a memorable title. They had first pick in the Player Draft, and Ngatai paid them back in spades, with their second choice who slid in Kenny, also paying dividends. What a year to remember for the Nuggets.

2020 Sal’s NBL review: Manawatu Jets

MANAWATU JETS are next up in our team-by-team review series of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The Jets finished second on the ladder and backed up their regular season with an impressive finals series to reach the decider and only agonisingly fall short of glory. We take a look at their season.

Played: 17
Won: 9
Lost: 8

KEY STATS:

Points: 94.6 (2nd)
Rebounds: 43.3 (4th)
Assists: 18.2 (3rd)
Steals: 8.7 (4th)
Blocks: 2.5 (6th)
FG%: 45.3 (3rd)

BEST WIN: defeated Taranaki Mountainairs by 10 points

There were plenty more wins that might have been better in terms of quality difference, but the win against the Airs was one that would have been relieving for the side that lost the last three games heading into the do-or-die semi-finals clash. A topsy-turvy contest, the Jets led by 11 points at quarter time, but found themselves trailing by three at the final break, before steadying with a dominant 38-25 final term to win 105-95. Tom Vodanovich stepped up to record 28 points, seven rebounds and an assist, with Taane Samuel’s 23 points, five rebounds and four assists also impressive. Hyrum Harris did his thing in a clear standout performance of the night though, almost picking up an unheard of quadruple double thanks to 17 points, 11 rebounds, seven assists and seven steals. Jayden Bezzant (17 points, five assists and three steals) and Ashton McQueen (11 points, three rebounds and four assists) were also busy.

WORST LOSS: lost to Otago Nuggets by 2 points

There was only one it could be, and it was not for lack of effort nor intensity, but rather the stakes and knowing they came so close to taking home the 2020 Sal’s NBL title. Entering the grand final against Otago Nuggets, the Jets were 0-4 so not many expected them to change that, but they showed up on the night, turning it on from early to lead by two and four points at the first couple of breaks. The Nuggets stayed with them and cut the deficit to three by the final change, then the ladder leaders finished stronger with a 27-22 final term to win 79-77. Jordan Hunt (21 points, seven rebounds), Josh Aitcheson (16 points, six rebounds), Kane Keil (15 points, seven rebounds) and Jordan Ngatai (11 points, six rebounds) helped the Nuggets dominate off the boards, as Vodanovich (24 points, 10 rebounds and four steals) and Harris (19 points, 12 rebounds, four assists and three steals) did all they could to sway the momentum.

TOP PLAYERS:

Tom Vodanovich 22.4 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 1.1 steals
Taane Samuel 17.9 points, 5.7 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.7 steals
Jayden Bezzant 17.4 points, 3.2 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.9 steals
Hyrum Harris 14.9 points, 11.6 rebounds, 6.4 assists, 2.7 steals
Nelson Kirksey 11.3 points, 3.4 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.3 steals

WHAT WENT RIGHT?

The Jets put themselves in a title-winning position with a fairly consistent season, always being thereabouts. They had the point-scoring and rebounding machine in Vodanovich who won the league’s Most Valuable Player (MVP) award, as well as Harris who was the only player to pick up a triple double in the competition. The late inclusion of Kirksey was a good one, and they almost went all the way to the title, but could not quite get there.

WHAT WENT WRONG?

Realistically, they just could not beat the Nuggets. While they were strong against all the other sides, no matter the lineups, the Nuggets had them when it counted. Five matches, five losses, and it was arguably the one side the Jets did not want to face in the final. They got close and almost upset them, but were pipped at the post.

SUMMARY

Manawatu Jets can be proud of their efforts in 2020, especially considering they have struggled in recent years. They drafted well, used the combinations effectively, and the key will be whether they can keep these combinations together in future years when the other teams return. If they can, then watch out, but the Jets have some quality coming through for the future years as well.

2020 Sal’s NBL Grand Final preview: Otago Nuggets vs. Manawatu Jets

THE conclusion to an entertaining and seesawing season is here, with the top two teams in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) going head-to-head for the chance to claim this year’s title. What makes the decider even more intriguing is the fact that both competitors – the Otago Nuggets and Manawatu Jets – are yet to win a New Zealand (NZ) NBL title. The Jets came closest back in 1992 when they went down to Canterbury Rams in the grand final. With the Nuggets’ win over the Rams, Manawatu avoid lightning potentially striking twice, but have their own troubles overcoming a Nuggets team this season. Otago has won all four previous encounters, and in its first season for six years, already making an impact in the league.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

There is no turning back for either side in a clash that has witnessed the two best teams of the season reach the decider in the Nuggets and Jets. The Nuggets have accounted for the Jets on all four prior occasions, and only once was the margin in single digits, with two wins 25 points or greater. The most recent clash was on Tuesday when Otago got up 105-80, though once the result was decided, both teams rested their key starters, and the Jets were also without Tom Vodanovich. In the other heavy loss, 130-94, the Jets were missing Hyrum Harris who is equally as key to their chances. So in the two matches at full strength, the Nuggets have still won, but by an average of eight points.

 

PAST MATCHES:

Manawatu Jets 24 | 33 | 16 | 27 (100)
Otago Nuggets 25 | 26 | 27 | 26 (104)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS …]

The match was neck-and-neck for the most part, and the Jets even raced out to a six-point lead at half-time. The Nuggets fired up in the third term to regain the lead, and held on in the final term to record a big win. Otago marginally won the rebound game (35-34) as well as the assists (20-18), but crucially had less turnover (10-16).

Jayden Bezzant top scored for the game in an ultimately fruitful effort with 30 points, five rebounds, five assists and four steals, as Vodanovich (28 points, 14 rebounds) and Harris (nine points, 11 rebounds and seven assists) had big games, as did Taane Samuel (20 points, four rebounds). Despite the quartet’s impressive numbers, just 13 of the team’s 100 points came outside them, whilst for the Nuggets, they shared the ball around.

Jarrod Kenny had what would be a season-high 28 points in the Nuggets’ return game, also picking up six assists, while Jordan Ngatai went on a tear with a double-double (19 points, 10 rebounds and five assists). Jordan Hunt (14 points, seven rebounds) and Josh Aitcheson (12 points, seven rebounds) were influential off the boards, while Kane Keil (12 points) also reached double-figure points.

 

Otago Nuggets 28 | 29 | 38 | 35 (130)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 30 | 23 | 15 (94)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After a tight first half with the Nuggets up by a point at the main break, Otago went berserk piling on 73 points in the biggest half to-date, completely dominating the Jets who could only manage the 38 points in that half. It meant the final margin blew out to 26 points as the Nuggets also tallied the highest score of the year. They shot at a remarkable 57.3 per cent from the field compared to the Jets’ 48.1 per cent, including 42.4 to 30.6 per cent from long-range. They almost had half the amount of turnovers (11-20), and more than double the steals (17-8), whilst winning the rebounding statistic (42-34) and assists (25-15) in a one-sided thumping.

Keil led the way with 29 points, six rebounds and four assists, not that far ahead of teammates, Ngatai (23 points, nine rebounds, four assists and four steals) and Hunt (22 points, two rebounds and three assists). Kenny had a handy 13 points and three rebounds to go with a game-high seven assists and four steals, while Aitcheson notched up 10 points, three rebounds, four assists and four steals in a strong effort.

In a dirty night for the Jets, Vodanovich (18 points, eight rebounds and two assists) and Bezzant (18 points, six rebounds and five assists) were the best, though Samuel (14 points, four rebounds and two assists) tried hard. New face, Nelson Kirksey picked up 11 points, five rebounds, three assists and three steals in defeat, while Ashton McQueen had 11 points and three rebounds.

 

Otago Nuggets 23 | 29 | 28 | 17 (97)
Manawatu Jets 26 | 22 | 16 | 21 (85)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

After trailing by three points at quarter time, the Nuggets blasted away yet again to secure a 12-point victory over the Jets in the final round of the season. The 97-85 triumph earned the Nuggets top spot on the NZNBL table heading into the finals series, but realistically both teams knew they would face off again the next Tuesday. Once again the Nuggets dominated the assists (20-13), but only had one more rebounds, as the Jets made good on some second chance opportunities. Neither team’s shooting was anything to write home about, but the Nuggets marginally shaded the Jets from the field, 46.7 to 42.3 per cent.

Ngatai was the difference between the sides, putting in one of the greatest performances of the season on his way to 37 points, seven rebounds, five assists, two steals and two blocks. He was one of four Nuggets to reach double-figure points with Keil (16 points, six rebounds and five assists), Hunt (15 points, eight rebounds and two blocks) and Aitcheson (14 points, five rebounds and two assists) all busy. Kenny only had the seven points, bur amassed nine rebounds, seven assists and three steals in a real team game.

Vodanovich was the key scorer for the Jets, posting 28 points, six rebounds, two steals and one block, while Harris had 20 points, 12 rebounds, five assists and two blocks in the loss. Bezzant helped out with 13 points, five rebounds, two assists and two steals, while Samuel had the nine points and 11 rebounds in the loss.

 

Otago Nuggets 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
Manawatu Jets 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

In the latest one-sided contest, the Jets struggled from the get-go without Vodanovich on court as the newly-crowned MVP was missing for the qualifying final clash. The Nuggets bolted out of the gates and never looked back, piling on 80 points to 52 in the first three terms to end the contest and rest up for the semi-finals. Both teams knew they would make it through to the semis, and looked to manage their stars accordingly. The Nuggets smashed the Jets off the defensive boards (41-26), whilst also had their measure in assists (26-20) and again dominated the scoring accuracy with 53.2 per cent from the field to the Jets’ measly 38.1 per cent.

Hunt was the top scorer this time around, picking up 23 points as others were managed for minutes. Ngatai (11 points, nine rebounds and six assists) and Kenny (eight points, five rebounds and three assists) had an easy day at the office with plenty of rest, particularly for the last 15 minutes of the match. Instead, every Nuggets player scored at least four points on the night in a stunning team effort, as Jack Andrew came off the bench for 16 points and three rebounds. Keil (nine points, 12 rebounds), Darcy Knox (eight points, three rebounds) and Richie Rodger (eight points, three rebounds) also contributed.

Samuel recorded the most points coming off the bench with 17, as well as five rebounds and two assists. Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) was busy, as was McQueen (13 points, five rebound, three assists and two steals) and Nick Fee (11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals).

 

THE STARTERS – HEAD-TO-HEAD STATS:

Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 22.5 points, 8.8 rebounds, 5.0 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 14.0 points, 4.5 rebounds, 5.8 assists, 2.5 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 16.5 points, 6.5 rebounds, 16.1 assists
Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 18.5 points, 4.8 rebounds, 1.0 assists
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.3 points, 5.0 rebounds, 2.3 assists, 1.5 steals

Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 15.7 points, 4.0 rebounds, 3.5 assists, 1.7 steals
Tom Vodanovich (Jets)** 24.7 points, 9.3 rebounds
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 10.7 points, 9.7 rebounds, 5.3 assists
Taane Samuel (Jets) 15.0 points, 6.0 rebounds, 1.3 assists
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.5 points, 2.8 rebounds, 1.8 assists, 0.8 steals

** Only played three games

THE STARTERS – SEASON STATS:

Jordan Hunt (Nuggets) 19.5 points, 6.0 rebounds, 0.8 assists, 0.9 steals
Jordan Ngatai (Nuggets) 18.6 points, 5.7 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1.5 steals
Jarrod Kenny (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 3.8 rebounds, 5.1 assists, 1.4 steals
Kane Keil (Nuggets) 11.5 points, 5.3 rebounds, 2.5 assists, 1.1 steals
Josh Aitcheson (Nuggets) 10.6 points, 4.7 rebounds, 2.2 assists, 1.4 steals

Tom Vodanovich (Jets) 22.3 points, 10.2 rebounds, 2.1 assists, 0.9 steals
Taane Samuel (Jets) 18.4 points, 5.9 rebounds, 1.9 assists, 0.6 steals
Jayden Bezzant (Jets) 17.9 points, 3.3 rebounds, 3.6 assists, 1.8 steals
Hyrum Harris (Jets)** 14.5 points, 11.5 rebounds, 6.6 assists, 2.7 steals
Ashton McQueen (Jets) 6.7 points, 2.6 rebounds, 1.3 assists. 0.7 steals

TEAM STATS: Otago Nuggets | Manawatu Jets

Points: 93.4 | 95.7
Rebounds: 48 | 57
Assists: 20.2 | 18.6
Steals: 9.3 | 8.2
Blocks: 2.8 | 2.5
FG%: 47.4 | 45.4
2P%: 56.8 | 56.1
3P%: 35.4 | 33.8
FT%: 69.7 | 68.4
Turnovers: 13.6 | 14.3
Personal Fouls: 16.9 | 19.4

WHAT DOES EACH TEAM NEED TO DO TO WIN?

The Nuggets need to do what they have done four times before because it has worked each time. They know it will not be easy with the Jets team at full strength pushing the top team on both those occasions. With an ability to share the points around both on the court and coming off the bench, the Nuggets can rely on anyone on their roster coming in and playing a role. Their shooting accuracy is terrific, particularly from inside the arc, whilst their assist game is the best in the competition.

The biggest strength of the Nuggets is that they do not really have a weakness in their game, and that the opposition has to play incredibly well to beat them because Otago does not just give up games. Their rebounding numbers might look low in comparison, but they do so well on the court to limit the opposition putting up shots, they play possession basketball and can dominate from the outset.

For the Jets, when at full strength, they can be a real danger. But unlike the Nuggets, they have had some unbelievable performances, and then they have had some games to forget. Their top four are high-volume shooters who can easily share between 20 points a game, whilst Kirksey has shown to be very capable coming off the bench – though could even get the start in this one. The issue with the Jets is that they struggle with points off the bench, and tend to fade out of games late with a lot of fouls – 19.4 per game is the worst in the league – which does not help.

You could make a case for having the best 1-2 combination in the league with Vodanovich and Harris, but if you are conceding points while they are having a breather, it is hard to play out four quarters of basketball. What the Jets really need is at about 15-20 points off their bench so it can keep the score ticking over while the starters are resting. Because the Nuggets are so deep, they are hard to matchup on for four quarters, so getting a strong start is crucial and then if the Nuggets start to get a roll on, the Jets cannot afford to let their frustrations show, and just try and stem the flow until they can grab the momentum back.

WHO WINS?

The clash looms as potentially the closest contest these teams have fought out, or at least something similar to their four-point thriller back in week one. If the Jets can get off to a good start and really apply scoreboard pressure, then there will be a game. But if the Nuggets can start strong, fans have come to know just how good finishers the Otago-based side is, and they have really slammed home the point in the second half. Neither of these teams have won a championship title, so no matter what happens, history will be made. Good luck to both teams and may it be a thriller.

Nuggets justify top seed with big win over MVP-less Jets

OTAGO Nuggets have justified their top seeding from the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) regular season with a vital 25-point qualifying final win over a Manawatu Jets side missing the league’s best player this season. Otago went in full strength for the top of the table clash, and came out with its fourth win in as many attempts, dominating the opening three terms to rest up in the final term ahead of the semi-final. With Sal’s NBL Most Valuable Player (MVP) Tom Vodanovich a late out of the contest, life was always going to be difficult for the Jets, who struggled to have the same scoring output without their number one big man, going down 105-80.

OTAGO NUGGETS 30 | 23 | 27 | 25 (105)
MANAWATU JETS 19 | 16 | 17 | 28 (80)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Once word that Vodanovich would miss out got out, the Nuggets went from favourites to raging favourites, but they still needed to get it done on the court. Knowing that the top ranked side in the semi-finals would play the lowest ranked remaining team, posting a win in the qualifying final became important. With all their big guns in the line-up, the Nuggets hoped to get off to a strong start, and that they did.

Jordan Ngatai and Jordan Hunt had a couple of baskets on the board in the opening minute, as a couple of missed shots and then a turnover by the Jets already had them on the back foot. Ashton McQueen quickly came to the party with five points of his own off Hyrum Harris assists for the Jets to regain the lead, only for Josh Aitcheson to take it straight back. The teams traded blows in those opening few minutes, before the Jets started to make some mistakes through turnovers and fouls.

Otago took full control of the moment, piling on nine straight points to lead 16-7 with less than five minutes to play. Taane Samuel finally broke the drought for the Jets with a couple of free throws, but a layup from Akiva McBirney Griffin followed by a Richie Rodger triple – off a Jets turnover – extended the lead out to a game-high 12 points. McQueen and Samuel seemed to be the biggest resistance from the Jets, as they and Jayden Bezzant got the second placed side back within eight points. Six consecutive points to the Nuggets – four from Kane Keil and two from Jarrod Kenny – blew the lead out to 14 with 37 seconds to play, but a late Nelson Kirksey trey helped draw his side within 11 at the first break.

The second term did not give Jets fans much more hope as the Nuggets piled on the first five points of the quarter to build a handy 16-point lead and each time the Jets trained a shot, the Nuggets responded, both from the inside and outside. The top two teams have not been afraid to register points from beyond the arc, and that was on show again, while Harris was producing some nice dimes throughout the first half to keep his team alive. Then the facilitator got his first points with an important triple with four and a half minutes left on the clock, countering that of Darcy Knox moments earlier, but the Jets were still 14 points in deficit.

Following a Nicholas Fee three-point jumper with 3:43 left on the clock, the Jets trailed 35-46 and needed a spark. Instead, this was where the game was won, as the Nuggets piled on the last seven points of the quarter to blow the half-time margin out to 18, with a Kenny layup in the last few seconds exemplifying why the top side was in firm control of the contest with a 53-35 advantage at the main break.

The Nuggets showed no signs of slowing down in the third as they pushed the lead to beyond 20 thanks to baskets from Kenny, Hunt and Ngatai, and answering each of the Jets’ makes with one of their own. Manawatu was rattle and it showed when Kalib Marsich-Mullins fouled Keil from outside the arc midway through the term and then the long-range shooter drained all three free throws for his team to hold a 24-point lead.

Each time the Jets would score, the Nuggets would answer, as Jack Andrew came off the bench to string a couple of baskets together including an impressive dunk, as Samuel was trying all he could to get his side going. By this time, the Nuggets trio of Hunt, Kenny and Ngatai would rest up with Coach of the Year Brent Matehaere confident his chargers would finish the job off in the last 15 minutes.

Six straight points to the Nuggets leading into the final minute of the quarter had a game-high lead of 27 points, something that went out 28 not long after with Kirksey’s layup matched by Rodger’s long-range bomb just two seconds remaining in the term. The final break had the Jets leading 80-52 and in complete control with the game’s largest margin.

The game was done and dusted by then, with the Jets making the decision to sit both Harris and Samuels out of the contest for the entire quarter in readiness for Thursday night’s semi-finals. To the losing side’s credit, they managed to chew back some of the deficit as the bench players came to the party, though it was always going to be a case of too little, too late, with the Nuggets rotations holding off Manawatu enough to record an impressive 105-80 victory to advance through as the top ranked team in the semi-finals.

The Nuggets were more deadly from the field, with less attempts, but more makes, shooting at 53 per cent efficiency compared to the Jets’ 38, including a 66 to 52 per cent differential from inside the arc. Whilst the Jets had more steals (11-6), the Nuggets recorded the only four blocks of the game, as well as dominating the rebounds (52-39) and winning the assists battle (26-60). Both teams had 15 turnovers in what was a fairly solid performance, but the class of the Nuggets and the loss of Vodanovich proved key in the end.

Hunt top scored in the match with a remarkable 23 points off less than 18 minutes, including 10 of 14 from the floor. Keil stepped up with the most minutes of any player – 27 – just missing out on a double-double with nine points and 12 rebounds. With just 20 minutes, Ngatai still recorded 11 points, nine rebounds and six assists, which equates to a triple-double if you factor in 40-minute averages, while Kenny spent more time on the bench than on the court, for eight points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals. Andrew off the bench amassed 16 points and three rebounds in a really handy performance.

The Jets had four players who recorded double-digit points, led by Samuel off the bench with 17 points, five rebounds and two assists, while Kirksey (15 points, three rebounds, two assists and four steals) and McQueen (13 points, five rebounds, three assists and two steals) also tried hard. Harris only played the 18 minutes in readiness for the semi-finals, but had six rebounds, four assists and two steals to go with his one trey, while Fee finished with a solid 11 points, six rebounds, two assists and two steals.

The next matches for both sides are uncertain at this stage, with the elimination finals tonight to determine the winners. If favourites win, then the Nuggets will look to take on Taranaki Mountainairs, while the Manawatu Jets face Auckland Huskies, though nothing can be certain with both Franklin Bulls and Canterbury Rams both in contention.

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.

FRANKLIN BULLS vs. TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS

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.

 

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. MANAWATU JETS

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.

Nuggets reverse Huskies first quarter fortune, cruise to 109-83 victory

OTAGO Nuggets gave Auckland Huskies a taste of their own medicine with a huge first term to set up an impressive 109-83 victory to maintain top spot on the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown ladder. After a mammoth 45-point opening term in their last game, the Huskies were considered a danger early, so the Nuggets went to work from the first tip-off and came away with the win.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 23 | 21 | 18 | 21 (83)
OTAGO NUGGETS 34 | 25 | 31 | 19 (109)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

A few loose possessions started the match before a Reuben Fitzgerald three opened the scoring account, with Jarrod Kenny driving down low to lay it in making it a basket each.

The Huskies’ first quarter on Sunday set up their win with a prolifically efficient shooting performance. Because of this, the Nuggets knew they had to fire early, and they did, scoring seven three-pointers from ten attempts through the first 10 minutes of action. Auckland seemed to lack that flow offensively that they had in abundance on Sunday.

Kane Keil was at his best early on knocking down two of those seven shots from deep with Jordan Hunt, Josh Aitcheson and Kenny stepping in with triples of their own. The lead was suddenly at double digits, a lead the Nuggets held until the first break, but was also a lead that threatened to explode with Otago’s offensive efficiency and Auckland’s offensive deficiency (36 per cent shooting). Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa’s 12 first quarter points and Aaron Bailey-Nowell’s hustle on both ends kept the deficit at bay, while preventing its extension.

Most teams would be content with the 23-point first quarter the Huskies had; however, Otago’s hot hand ensured a 34-point first quarter as they enjoyed an 11-point lead at the first break.

Some easy fixes for the Huskies on the offensive end seemed to be tweaked at the break as they come out on an 8-0 run to start thanks to five Tohi Smith-Milner points and a Jaylen Gerrand three. Having a chance to tie the game, an Isaac Miller-Jose offensive foul stopped the momentum, and Aitcheson free throws stopped the scoring run. Aitcheson would get to the line again and hit some corner threes as he was on his way to 18 first half points.

Despite Smith-Milner’s best efforts, a Matthew Bardsley layup gave Otago a double-digit lead again, another one they wouldn’t squander, but this time for the rest of the game.

Defying the Huskies low shooting percentage was Fitzgerald whose four makes from as many attempts helped him to 11 points, thriving in Taine Murray’s absence. Jordan Ngatai’s first points came with a minute and a half left in the second quarter as Aitcheson fittingly ended the half’s scoring. The Nuggets led 44-59 at the main break with many thanks to their 61 per cent shooting from beyond the arc and 17 assists from 21 makes on the floor.

Otago boasted many scorers but for the Huskies, it was Mauriohooho Le’Afa and Smith-Milner leading the way with 12 and 11 points, respectively. Leon Henry was down on his usual efforts with just two points until half time.

The second half begun the same way the first half ended with Aitcheson laying it in, setting the tone for another dominant Otago quarter with Kenny and Keil scoring from three-point territory early in the third. Not to be outdone, Mauriohooho Le’Afa replied after being held scoreless in the second quarter. More players stepped up for the Nuggets despite him to stretch the lead to 30 which they managed to hold on to for much of the game. The point of difference was Hunt whose three-pointer ended the third quarter in which he scored 14 points.

Auckland’s physicality picked up with their bench unit towards the end of the quarter which provided a positive to coach Kevin Braswell, but physicality is far less valuable than points on the board. They trailed 62-90 heading into the last break with the game all but over.

Both teams put their key players away after a couple of minutes of fourth quarter action, giving an opportunity for some bench players to stake their claim in the rotation as we approach the business end of the competition.

It was almost an end-to-end scrimmage as the Huskies won the quarter 21-19. Marvin Williams-Dunn took the opportunity to gain some confidence offensively as the Nuggets boasted 10 individual scorers on the night.

The final score was 109-83, an emphatic win to keep Otago at the top of the ladder with Manawatu.

The Nuggets shot 54 per cent from the floor including 57 per cent from deep with Hunt (31 points, five rebounds, six three-pointers) playing a big part in both percentages. Aitcheson (22 points, six rebounds) slowed down after half time while Kenny was named MVP with his 20 points, four rebounds and seven assists. The microwave Keil missed his first shot in the last quarter as he made his way to 16 points, while Ngatai was kept quiet while playing a role with two points, six assists, four steals and five turnovers.

The Huskies missed Murray’s offensive output tonight as the reliable Mauriohooho Le’Afa led the way with 17 points and four assists. Fitzgerald did his best to fill Murray’s shoes with 13 points on five for five shooting while Smith-Milner put up 13 points and five rebounds in just under 20 minutes of play. Bailey-Nowell (12 points, two steals) has proved a valuable addition to this Huskies line-up as Henry (four points, six rebounds) just couldn’t get it going.

Auckland will look to move on with a much better performance Wednesday night against the last-placed Canterbury Rams while Otago get ready for a mouth-watering top-of-the-table clash with the Manawatu Jets on Thursday night.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 21: Jets v Bulls and Huskies v Nuggets

THE final frontier is here and there is no turning back after the next five days of action with matches galore from Tuesday through until Saturday in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown. The first night of week five sees genuine title contenders going at it as they attempt to jostle for a top two spot.

MANAWATU JETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

Manwatu Jets can go a long way to securing a top two spot and a qualifying final if they can get up over Franklin Bulls in what is anticipated to be a thrilling contest. In a battle between the second best offensive side and the best defensive one, it is sure to be a thrilling battle. While the Jets are in pole position to maintain a spot inside the top two, the Bulls can snatch it with a win in the game and put pressure on the top sides in the final round. With the second match of the night also paramount in determining the make up of the finals series, every win counts starting with this game.

The Jets average 98.2 points per game compared to the Bulls’ 82.6 which ranks the latter sixth overall in the competition for offensive scoring. The Bulls are by far the top defensive side, conceding just 80.5 points per game to the Jets’ 93.7. In other words, the Bulls like a low-scoring encounter, whilst the Jets back themselves to win in a high-octane shooting frenzy. The Jets are fresh off just that, outscoring the previous top of the table Taranaki Mountainairs 118-103 in a big win, after just escaping with a three-point triumph over Canterbury Rams. The Bulls notched up an 82-70 victory over the Nelson Giants, before falling to the Nuggets, 89-83. If the Jets can score more than 90 points, it is likely they will win, while if Franklin can keep their usually high-scoring opponents to sub-80 then the Bulls will go a long way to victory.

The last time these sides met, Franklin Bulls got up by 11 points courtesy of a strong start and equally impressive third term. In what was a seesawing contest, the Bulls won 83-72 keeping the Jets big scorers to 20 points or less, with Hyrum Harris still out of the Jets’ side. Tom Vodanovich managed just seven points in an off night for the power forward, but he still racked up 12 rebounds to have an impact off the boards. Jayden Bezzant was the top scorer for the Jets with 20, while also having three rebounds, two assists and two steals. Taane Samuel (17 points, eight rebounds and two assists) was busy, while Ashton McQueen stepped up to contribute 13 points, three rebounds and two assists.

For the Bulls, Sam Timmins top scored with 17 points and eight rebounds, while Dom Kelman-Poto was also solid with 15 points and seven rebounds. Everard Bartlett showed his experience and accuracy to shoot 57.1 per cent from the field, the highest on his side to collect 13 points – including 3/4 from long range – as well as six rebounds. Isaac Davidson (10 points, five rebounds and two steals) was not quite as accurate from the field, though Nikau McCullough (11 points, six rebounds and three assists) was strong off the bench in the win. If the Bulls can repeat the dose in this match, then they should go well, but the Jets are in ripping form of late.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES vs. OTAGO NUGGETS

The second match is just as crucial as the first with the hunted in Otago Nuggets – sitting top of the table where everyone wants to be – going up against the most improved team in the competition in recent weeks in Auckland Huskies. While the Nuggets control the top spot, they are still only a win ahead of the Huskies and Bulls in fourth and fifth respectively, so the top five can change drastically in the lead up to the finals. If the Nuggets win, they realistically need one win in their final two games to secure a qualifying final spot, whilst if the Huskies win, they will likely still need to win both, though depending on results.

The Huskies are coming off a huge win over Nelson Giants, 96-67 which saw the Huskies sink the first 17 baskets without a miss on their way to a 45-point opening term. If they have a hot start like that they will be hard to beat, though their opponents Otago Nuggets are coming off a couple of hard-fought wins over Franklin Bulls (six points) and Canterbury Rams (one point). Prior to that the Nuggets lost to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, so no doubt the fingernails of Nuggets fans are wearing thin. Prior to the win against the Giants, the Huskies upset the Airs by three points in a thrilling 102-99 victory, whilst overcoming Franklin Bulls a couple of days earlier by four points.

It was not that long ago that the Huskies and Nuggets faced off, with Auckland topping the favourites in a memorable 81-69 triumph. The Huskies had a strong start to lead by five points at the first break, and then had one of those rare games to win all four quarters and emerge victorious by 12 points. Young gun, Taine Murray had a day out with 19 points, five rebounds and three assists, sinking three of six from long-range. He was well aided by Tohi Smith-Milner and Leon Henry who both recorded double doubles in huge performances. They combined for 28 points and 24 rebounds, shooting 5/12 from three-point range, whilst dishing off six assists. The other player to reach double figures was Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who pick-pocketed his opponent a remarkable six times and added to his all-round game of 12 points, six rebounds and three assists.

Jordan Ngatai unsurprisingly led the way for the Nuggets in defeat, picking up 19 points, eight rebounds, three assists and three steals, but shot at only 22.7 per cent from the field. Josh Aitcheson played a memorable game with a double-double of 10 points, 10 rebounds and five steals to be his side’s best overall, while Jordan Hunt was busy with 12 points and seven rebounds. It was a disappointing night from the Nuggets who shot at just 32.4 per cent from the field as the Huskies defence forced them into errors with Ngatai and Jarrod Kenny having an uncharacteristic 13 combined turnovers for the match. Auckland will want to do much of the same in this encounter tonight, though the Nuggets will no doubt put up a better show than their previous game, and it shapes as a blockbuster.

2020 Sal’s NBL night preview July 18: Giants v Rams and Nuggets v Bulls

A BOTTOM two clash between the most out-of-form sides and a battle between two title contenders is what confronts teams in a big Saturday night of action in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

NELSON GIANTS vs. CANTERBURY RAMS

To say the first match of the night is a must-win for both teams is an understatement, with a combined 12 games losing streak between them. Luckily for the Giants, they only share in four of those 12 straight losses, having last won back on July 5 over the Auckland Huskies. Since then, they have fallen to the top four sides consecutively, and by an average of 14 points, with the eight-point defeat to Otago Nuggets the closest. The Rams have now eight straight losses to their name after three initial wins, but their last four games have been agonisingly close. Since losing the Bulls by 25 points back on July 8, their last four defeats have been by an average of four points. The fact that they have gone down by seven, five, three and one, the pattern tells us the Rams could be in for a win.

Taylor Britt has been the standout player this season for Canterbury, adding 21.3 points, 4.2 assists and 6.6 rebounds per game, ranked first, first and second in those areas for his side. Alex Talma has been really impressive off the boards with an almost double-double average of 10.6 points and 8.2 rebounds, while Sam Smith (12.6 points, 4.5 rebounds and 3.6 assists) has stepped up in the average of Toby Gillooly since the early rounds. Reuben Te Rangi is starting to head up for the Rams, and when the Tall Blacks talent really gets going, he will be crucial to their success as they try and make up some ground on the other teams.

The Giants have missed the influence of Mike Karena (17.0 points, 5.7 rebounds and 1.9 assists) of late, while Thomas Ingham and Nic Trathen have stepped up to average double-figure points and more than four rebounds per game. throughout the season. The Rams are a strong rebounding team with four players totalling more than five rebounds per game, but need to build their assist tally with just one player – Alexander McNaught – averaging more than 2.2 assists per game.

Nelson’s best has been very impressive, but the Rams have been better in their defeats of late. The last time these teams faced off the Giants won 97-90 in a tight contest off the back of a 39-22 first term, which is why the Rams must try and restrict the scoring early and it will go a long way to finally breaking the losing drought.

OTAGO NUGGETS vs. FRANKLIN BULLS

The second match of the night has finals ramifications in the scheme of things with a second and third clash between the Otago Nuggets and Franklin Bulls. Both are level on 6-4 in the top three, with the winner to move ahead of the other clearly. The Nuggets fans may not have any nails left after their last two clashes – dropping a game to Taranaki Mountainairs by a point, before bouncing back to defeat Canterbury Rams y the same margin. Overall, the Nuggets have been in great form, completely dismantling the Manawatu Jets a week ago to win by 36 points on their way to a season-high 130 points. The Bulls went on a four-game winning streak at one stage, but have had a yo-yo last couple of weeks with two wins and two losses rom their last four games. They have a real balanced squad and will be keen to make it two consecutive wins for the first time since early week three.

Jordan Ngatai is maintain a massive 20 points per game average for the Nuggets, also putting up 3.5 assists and 6.0 rebounds to sit second in those areas for his side. Since his massive first day out with 28 points, Jarrod Kenny has been the facilitator for his teammates, leading the side in assists with five per game to accompany his 12 points. Jordan hunt has stepped up as that second scorer with 16 points and six rebounds, but it is the work of underrated talents like Kane Keil and Josh Aitcheson who both average double-figure points, two assists and four rebounds, which has helped the Nuggets remain successful.

The Bulls have a side where all of their players can step up and be a scoring threat on their day, with Isaac Davidson averaging a team-high 16.8 points, 4.2 rebounds and 2.3 assists, as big men, Dom Kelman-Poto and Sam Timmins have dictated play off the boards. Kelman-Poto (15.5 points, 7.5 rebounds) and Timmins (13.1 points, 6.4 rebounds) have been prolific at the four and five spot, while captain Everard Bartlett, and fellow three-point shooter Nikau McCullough are no stranger to coming on and having bursts of impact throughout the match.

The last time these teams went head-to-head, Bulls got up by six points in an important win in the scheme of things. This clash has all the hallmarks of a thriller that could again go down to the wire, and possibly into overtime, with a flip of the coin as good a way as any to try and guess who takes out this match.

Nuggets win by one, sentence Rams to eighth straight loss

AFTER a glacial first half of play between the Canterbury Rams and the Otago Nuggets, the effective defence of Brent Matahere’s side and Jordan Ngatai’s player of the game performance was enough to earn their side the gutsy one-point win in last night’s 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown.

CANTERBURY RAMS 14 | 13 | 20 | 27 (74)
OTAGO NUGGETS 13 | 14 | 26 | 22 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Knowing they needed some answers if they were to end their seven-game skid, the Rams needed to attack the rim early with Reuben Te Rangi looking to aid Taylor Britt from the field.

This became evident, as the Rams opened up a 9-3 start six minutes in, with each of the two getting on the scoreboard early. But with neither side able to convert consistently in the first quarter, there were few highlights in the opening 10 minutes.

A pull-up three from Josh Aitcheson at the top of the key put the Nuggets ahead with a less than thirty seconds to play. But a nifty layup from Alexander Talma would give the Rams the minimal one-point lead heading into the second. As a result of this, neither side managed to shoot 40 per cent from the field or turn the ball over less than five times in a scrappy first period.

An ideal start to the second quarter thanks to Te Rangi and Samuel Smith, earned Canterbury some breathing room, leading by eight points at one stage early on in the second.

After a well-executed charge foul by Kane Keil gave the Nuggets some momentum,  as the following play Keil would nail an off-balanced floater forcing the Rams to lack solutions in the second quarter. A couple minutes later, in what was another low-scoring quarter, a contact layup each from Jarrod Kenny and Aitcheson trimmed the deficit to two points.

Following the trading of baskets in the last couple of minutes, layups by Kenny once again and first round draft pick Ngatai, tied the contest up by the end of the first half 27-27, one of the lowest scoring first halves in the NZNBL this season.

At the conclusion of the first two quarters, the shooting struggles improved slightly for both sides. The Nuggets earned the majority of their points (six) from the free-throw line, indicating a more aggressive brand of basketball. Meanwhile, the Rams led in virtually all categories including rebounds, assists and steals, despite giving up 12 turnovers in the process.

A tidy 6-2 start to the second half for the Nuggets, put Otago in the driver’s seat thanks to Ngatai and Kenny kickstarting what would be a more action-packed quarter.

With individual players starting to knock down shots and accumulate double-digit totals, the floor would start to open up gradually. In particular, this included a monstrous slam dunk by Ngatai, which was followed by a contact layup by Akiva McBirney-Griffin forcing Canterbury to call a timeout.

After converting both of his free-throws, Samuel Aruwa would aid his side to a four-point lead. This preceded another Ngatai layup to give the Nuggets a six-point edge at the final break 51-45, as Otago started to threaten the Rams with a possible eighth loss in a row.

The Rams got off on the right foot, knocking down their opening three attempts of the final quarter. But initially, it failed to create a foothold in the deficit, as Otago consistently bounced back with field goals of their own.

Heading into the halfway point of the final term, Canterbury’s Smith contributed back-to-back-to-back-to-back layups in a bid to help his side draw even with time to spare. But again, the Nuggets frustratingly continued to keep the Rams at arm’s length.

Eventually, Canterbury finally started to make some headway off the back of Bailey’s floater with two minutes yet to be played trailing by one point, but Keil’s layup displaced the Rams further by two points, leading 72-69.

A three-pointer by Aitcheson followed by a block from Jordan Hunt all but sealed the game with 48 seconds remaining. A last second three-pointer by Rams’ guard Smith cut the deficit to a point, but it came too late, as time would expire on the Rams for the eighth consecutive time, falling to the Nuggets 74-75.

In what was only a one-point loss, the Rams would leave the floor knowing that it was their game to lose, as they accumulated a debilitating 21 turnovers. This was easily the standout statistic for the Rams, despite managing to shoot an efficient 46 per cent of their field goal attempts and lead in almost all categories across the board.

While the turnovers came in droves for the Rams, certain individuals had respectable nights on the whole. Smith, who finished his night with 22 points, four assists and four rebounds, was one of those players. Whereas, Talma submitted 14 points, eight rebounds and four assists, next to Britt who added just 12 points and five rebounds.

For Otago, it was a grinded out effort for Ngatai, who finished with man of the match honours. Amassing 25 points, five rebounds and four assists, while Aitcheson slotted in 12 points next to Kenny’s 11 and five rebounds.

The Nuggets improve their record to six wins and four losses in a much-needed win after their depressing one-point loss to the Airs on Tuesday. Meanwhile the Rams’ losing slide increases to eight games, pulling their record down deeper and deeper in the league’s standings, with a record of three wins and eight losses.

Otago line up again on Saturday, this time against the Franklin Bulls in what will be a battle of second and third. The winner of the contest will also tie with the Airs on top of the ladder in a match full of meaning this late in the season. On the other hand, it will be a battle of the two worst performing teams in the NZNBL, as the Rams face the Giants, where we will see one of the two teams’ losing streaks come to an end. Will it be Canterbury’s eight-game slide or Nelson’s streak of four? We will have an answer on Saturday night.