Tag: Josh Bloxham

2020 NZ NBL: End of season stats leaders

WITH the NZNBL season done and dusted Draft Central takes a look at some of the top performers throughout the season. Taranaki Mountainairs, Manawatu Jets and Otago Nuggets have quite a few players that feature within the top five areas in focus given their impressive 2020 campaign.

AVERAGE POINTS:
Taranaki Mountainairs star, Derone Raukawa leads all comers when it comes to points with an average of 23.7 a game. Raukawa was a commanding presence for the Airs and was a key reason his side got as far as they did with his ability to find the basket and score. Hot on his heels was teammate Marcel Jones who also impressed throughout the season averaging an impressive 22.8 points thanks to his tenacity and drive to the rim. MVP winner Thomas Vodanovich also had a commanding influence on the scoreboard with the Manawatu Jets bigman leading the way for his side and hitting the scoreboard regularly to register an average 22.4 points. Although the Auckland Huskies had a challenging year it did not seem to faze Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa who proved to be the go to when it came to posting a decent tally single handedly influencing the outcome of games with his average of 20.7 points a game. Rounding out the top five is Jordan Hunt who managed 19.6 points a game for premiers Otago Nuggets.

AVERAGE ASSISTS:
Topping the table for points, Raukawa also took out top spot for assists with the Airs playmaker amassing an average of 7.4. Classy with ball in hand, Raukawa was both a threat on the scoreboard and in transition constantly dishing off dimes to his teammates to create attacking forays. Jets player Hyrum Harris also impressed throughout the season racking up 6.4 assists a game thanks to his vision and execution while Mauriohooho Le’Afa showcased his strength with ball in hand to record 5.4 a game. There is no denying that premiership player Jarrod Kenny was electric with ball in hand, able to slice through the full court press and release the rock with confidence racking up 5.2 assists a game as Taylor Britt closed out the top five with 4.6 assists for the Canterbury Rams.

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:
Frequently hitting the scoreboard, Jones also showcased his firepower and strength off the backboard with a whopping 13.1 rebounds a game. Jones was an integral member for the Airs with his ability to gobble up anything that came his way. Not far behind him was Harris with the Manawatu Jets representative proving to be a menace for opposition teams with his rebounding position to pick up an average of 11.6. Coming in at third on the leaderboard, Leon Henry had a solid season for the Huskies dragging down 10.9 rebounds while Vodanovich showcased why he was MVP featuring in the top five for rebounds with an average of 10.2 thanks to his commanding frame and read of the play. Although he did not get as much court time as his counterparts Alexander Talma secured fifth spot on the tally with a season average of eight rebounds.

AVERAGE BLOCKS:
When it came to defensive pressure and blocks Samuel Timmins led the way not only for his side but for the competition with the Franklin Bulls player notching up 1.7 a game testament to his impeccable foresight and elevation to get hands to ball. Shane Temara was not far off the pace with 1.1 blocks a game while Joshua Leger recorded an average of a block a game. Both Dane Brooks and Henry managed just under a block a game sitting at 0.9 blocks a game highlighting their defensive pressure for their respective teams.

AVERAGE STEALS:
Harris had a hand in just about every facet of the game with the Jets star taking out top spot for steals with a competition high 2.7 highlighting his ability to cleanly attack the ball and most importantly succeed. Similar to Harris, Mauriohooho Le’Afa had an impressive season featuring highly in most areas with an average of 2.5 steals while Jayden Bezzant also starred for the Jets with his speed to dart around the court and get a hand in at every opportunity that came his way with 1.9 steals a game. Henry amassed 1.6 steals a game as Josh Bloxam completed the top five with 1.5 steals.

LEADERBOARD:

AVERAGE POINTS:

Derone Raukawa: 23.7
Marcel Jones: 22.8
Thomas Vodanovich: 22.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 20.7
Jordan Hunt: 19.6

AVERAGE ASSISTS:

Derone Raukawa: 7.4
Hyrum Harris: 6.4
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 5.4
Jarrod Kenny: 5.2
Taylor Britt: 4.6

AVERAGE REBOUNDS:

Marcel Jones: 13.1
Hyrum Harris: 11.6
Leon Henry: 10.9
Thomas Vodanovich: 10.2
Alexander Talma: 8

AVERAGE BLOCKS:

Samuel Timmins: 1.7
Shane Temara: 1.1
Joshua Leger: 1
Dane Brooks: 0.9
Leon Henry: 0.9

AVERAGE STEALS:

Hyrum Harris: 2.7
Izayah Mauriohooho Le’Afa: 2.5
Jayden Bezzant: 1.9
Leon Henry: 1.6
Josh Bloxam: 1.5

Rams survive first challenge with thrilling win over Giants

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

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

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Airs keep top two hopes alive with win over Giants

TARANAKI Mountainairs have kept their dreams of finishing in the top two of the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown alive after downing Nelson Giants by seven points last night. In what was a team effort – five players scored double-figure points – the Airs reached the hundred mark yet again in the 102-95 win.

TARANAKI MOUNTAINAIRS 28 | 20 | 26 | 28 (102)
NELSON GIANTS 24 | 27 | 16 | 28 (95)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Both teams were able to gets shots off early, but back-to-back threes by Thomas Ingham and Dane Brooks gave the Giants an early advantage. Denhym Brooke countered with a triple of his own for the Airs, and the big guns in Derone Raukawa, Mika Vukona and Mike Karena all got on the board with some points. Trailing by as much as six, the Airs drained three consecutive treys – one to Marcel Jones and two to Shane Temara – to hit the front themselves. They did not lose it again for the rest of the quarter as both teams share the points around.

The Airs long-range shooting was a huge feature of the opening term as the Giants looked to get as close to the basket as possible. The teams traded baskets in the last couple of minutes as Nic Trathen had a late triple to follow on from Mitchell Dance, but it would be Zach Easthope who had the last say with a layup as the clock ticked down to four seconds for Taranaki to lead by four at the first break.

The second term opened with Ken Tuffin scoring his first points of the game with a jump shot after missing his earlier three-point attempt, as the Giants kept in touch with the third placed Airs through another Trathen triple just two minutes into the game. Raukawa and Jones scored the next seven Airs points, but then their side went three minutes without scoring. Despite the long period, Nelson did not fare much better with a Karena driving layup a minute earlier the first time the Giants had been in front since midway through the first quarter.

The teams traded buckets in the second half of the term, as the Giants through Ingham and Karena built a handy lead. Temara scored five late points for his side to cut the deficit to three points by the main break. Having had a break later in the term, Raukawa returned to the court for the second half to try and spur his team on after conceding the lead in the second quarter.

Just nine seconds into the quarter and Tuffin got to the rim with a nice layup and Vukona fouled Jones on a three-point attempt to send the big man to the line which he duly delivered to give his side a two-point advantage. Vukona soon made up for his error with a two-pointer of his own, and the teams again traded passes. Josh Bloxham cleverly picked up a steal off a Raukawa pass and Karena fed the ball to Ingham for a triple to hit the front. No sooner had the Giants went ahead, and Raukawa quickly drained a triple of his own to give his team the advantage.

The Airs maintained that advantage throughout the term, as the Giants got as close as three points with 2:22 left in the quarter. However the last two baskets – to Raukawa and Tai Wynyard – extended the lead out to seven at the final change, with no score added in the last 74 seconds of the game as the Giants kept having chances but not nailing them. Four consecutive shots resulted in three offensive rebounds for Nelson, before Wynyard finally grabbed a defensive board, only for Jones to turn the ball over again. Not long after the siren sounded with the Airs up by seven.

Still within striking range, the Giants continued to push as Karena, Trathen and Ingham all scored early baskets. Temara produced an entertaining dunk, while Raukawa was still making life difficult for the opposition with his shooting. Midway through the term, the game was well and truly alive with the Giants drawing within a point on a number of occasions. Vukona capitalised off an and-one chance with two minutes and 43 seconds remaining and the scores 89-88 in favour of the Airs.

That seemed to wake the third placed team up a little as Jones and Brooks both contributed with jumpshots to push it out to six points and the Giants never got closer. Karena’s basket with 56 seconds on the clock put the Giants to within six, but then the deliberate fouling was on and the Airs made sure to get the ball in the hands of Raukawa who delivered from the charity stripe. An Ingham turnover in the last 38 seconds resulted in a Tuffin basket, and while Theo Johnson nailed a late triple, it was too little, too late for the Giants who went down 102-95.

Raukawa finished with a double-double of 15 points, 11 assists and two rebounds, while Jones picked up 23 points, eight rebounds and five assists in another big performance. Temara had 20 points and eight rebounds coming off the bench, while Dance (13 points) and Brooke (10 points, three rebounds) also reached double-figure points. For the Giants, Ingham top scored with 24 points, six rebounds and three assists, while Trathen came off the bench for 20 points of his own to accompany five rebounds, three assists and three steals. Karena (18 points, six rebounds and two assists) and Brooks (12 points, seven rebounds, two assists and two steals) both picked up double-figure numbers while Vukona aided his teammates well with five rebounds, three steals and two assists to go with eight points.

Taranaki takes on Franklin Bulls tomorrow in a must-win clash if the Airs are to secure a top two spot, while Nelson plays its final game on Saturday against Otago Nuggets knowing it is set for the first elimination final on Tuesday.

Nelson’s giant third quarter puts down Huskies

NELSON Giants’ big third term saw them accelerate away from Auckland Huskies and ensure they won back-to-back games thanks to an eight-point win last night. The Giants scored 28 points, but held their opponents to just 11, handing them a 23-point lead at the final break, enough to hold off a fast-finishing Auckland side that won the last term, 29-14. There were some big outs for either side with Mika Vukona still sidelined following appendix surgery and Leon Henry serving his one-game suspension he suffered in the Huskies’ solitary win against Taranaki. In the end, the Giants were a touch better for longer winning 91-83.

AUCKLAND HUSKIES 20 | 23 | 11 | 29 (83)
NELSON GIANTS 20 | 29 | 28 | 14 (91)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Continuing his hot form since his return, Mike Karena won the tip for the Giants and found himself with the ball inside where Henry’s replacement starter Nathan Wilson met him at the cup with a big block, although Karena recovered it and scored the game’s first points with a baseline jumper. Building some momentum in his first start on the season, Wilson would make his away inside with a silky drive which drew the foul and his one for two makes at the line would be the first for Auckland.

Having shaken off his quarantine rust in his last game, Izayah Mauriohooho Le’afa would open his scoring account with a pretty floater which would ignite the spark on his incredible first half of play. Not so prettily, however, Karena would find himself with two fouls early as big man Tohi Smith-Milner would draw the charge on the next play, with some Karena displeasure with the official drawing a technical foul next to his name. After just two minutes of play, Nelson’s star player would find a spot on the pine.

Back-to-back triples from Mauriohooho Le’afa and young gun Taine Murray saw the Huskies gain an early lead, as a smaller and more athletic starting five inevitably resulted in faster transitions from Auckland. The Giants would slowly start to claw their way back into the game through Josh Leger – who came in for Karena – and his seven-point opening term. He kept his spot in the team despite Thane O’Leary returning from injury, with the decision paying off for Mike Fitchett and his Giants.

A Mauriohooho Le’afa steal would lead to a huge baseline cut and slam for Wilson on the back of a no-look pass from Marvin Williams-Dunn, a beautiful highlight play in what was otherwise a quiet night for him. Trading buckets for the remainder of the term, Smith-Milner made a tough finish inside which finished the quarter with the scores tied at 20. Poor shooting from Nelson allowed the early deficit, but some rigid defence kept them in the game as they forced six turnovers from Auckland early.

Dane Brooks would start the second quarter athletically with a big block, a steal and a layup setting the tone for the Giants’ next two quarters. With small ball paying off early offensively for the Huskies, the Giants knew they had to take advantage of the absence of Henry on Auckland’s defensive end. Zeb Lovell targeted a leaner Wilson in the post on multiple occasions, a clear indication of the Giants desire to attack the paint going forward.

Nelson come hard out of the gates despite another athletic defensive play from Wilson. Their scoring continued to come from inside the paint as the Huskies were playing too tight defensively on the perimeter despite Nelson’s inefficiency from deep, with the Giants blowing past the defenders. The start saw them get out to an eight-point lead, with the return of Karena leading you to believe it would get worse for the Huskies. Mauriohooho Le’afa did not care for that as he would steal the show, scoring on the Huskies’ next four possessions which included three triples and a long two. The game began to heat up physically alongside the scorching hot Mauriohooho Le’afa who would end the first half with a whopping 26 points, courtesy of six threes.

The two teams would continue to trade baskets down the last stretch of the first half, although some Brooks hustle with the Giants small ball would end the half and the second quarter the way he started with a big swat, a steal from the inbound and an assist to a Josh Bloxham layup taking us into half time. Despite Mauriohooho Le’afa, the Giants would lead 49-43 with 20 points from the bench no doubt a contributing factor, as well as attacking inside as they got to the line and earned 22 points in the paint for the half.

A one-man show for the first half, the Huskies needed more contributions in the absence of Henry, but contributions from anyone was scarce for the third quarter. Karena would start the quarter having just played three and a half minutes in the first half and his impact was on display immediately with a steal and assist leading to a Bloxham three. A nine-point scoring run would take the lead out to 15 before a Murray triple would settle things down. The settling was only momentary, however, as their next score would not come for another three minutes.

The Giants played deny ball defence on Mauriohooho Le’afa early as the performance of the two teams went in opposite directions. Nelson’s active ball movement was quick and efficient as Auckland’s one-on-one offense was not paying dividends.

Leger’s five points and a corner three from Johnson down the stretch would give Nelson a near insurmountable 23-point lead heading into the last break, ending an abysmal 28-11 quarter the Huskies would rather forget.

Mauriohooho Le’afa missed his only two shots for the quarter as Williams-Dunn remained scoreless on the game. The Huskies were beginning to wonder where their next points would come from as Karena would re-enter the game – an even more worrying sign for them.

Needing to throw whatever they had left at the Giants if they wanted to have any chance of coming close, the Huskies got the start they were after with Nicholas Brophy getting to the line, and a Wilson steal following that and resulting in a Mauriohooho Le’afa three. Their newfound momentum was quickly halted with Brooks being fouled on a three-point attempt, as the Huskies struggled to string together consecutive stops.

Trading baskets for most of the final quarter, the Huskies found a final gear as they managed a 10-0 run within a minute, but it was too little too late. Despite the single digit loss, it was a convincing win for the Giants as they now find themselves third on the ladder at the conclusion of week two having won 83-91.

Leger (14 points) and Tom Ingham (14 points, two steals) were among the best for the Giants as Karena (10 points) was kept quiet due to foul trouble.

Mauriohooho Le’afa was fantastic with 32 points at 50 per cent from the field, while Wilson (10 points, seven rebounds) and Murray (16 points) were also serviceable. The return of Henry will be welcomed for their match against the Nuggets on Tuesday as they will look for more performers to scrape them off the bottom of the ladder.

Bulls book back-to-back wins with Giant triumph

FRANKLIN Bulls have moved to an even win-loss record in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown after downing Nelson Giants in a low-scoring, tight tussle. The Bulls survived a second quarter surge by the Giants to win three of the four terms and get up by six points, 75-69.

NELSON GIANTS 14 | 21 | 18 | 16 (69)
FRANKLIN BULLS 21 | 15 | 20 | 19 (75)

[ … FULL MATCH STATS … ]

Isaac Davidson kicked off proceeding with an early hot hand, draining a triple 21 seconds into the contest. For the Giants, Mike Karena looked busy early with a couple of two-pointers including an impressive fade away jumper, while Jackson Stubbins and Sam Timmins were also getting involved for the Bulls. After the Giants hit the front three minutes into the quarter, Timmins and Davidson helped the Bulls go on a nice little run with eight consecutive points, and then Joel Vaiangina joined the party once he came into the action.

Sensing the urgency to turn things around, Nic Trathen nailed two free throws to keep his team in the contest, as the Bulls had chances but missed a number of jump shots both inside and outside the arc. A Riley Bensemann attempted triple was made good thanks to a double chance points rebound and lay up by Josh Leger with just over three minutes left on the clock in the first term. Dom Kelman-Poto got his first point of the night with one of two successful free throws upon returning to the court from substitution.

Just as the Giants got close, Adam Dunstan decided to take matters into his own hands and add five consecutive points to stretch the lead to nine with 29 seconds to play, before a Dane Brooks jump shot late in the peace brought the quarter time margin back to seven.

The early going was all the Bulls as the Giants could not seem to buy a basket, with Franklin adding the first six points of the term to move 13 clear of their opponents. But then the range issues hit the leading side as well, with 90 seconds going by before Karena made good on a jump shot for the Giants for their first points of the quarter, and a minute later Kelman-Poto was fouled and successfully dropped two free throws.

The Giants started to turn it around after a slow start to the term, trailing 19-34 with three minutes and 14 seconds remaining. Then everything started to click into place. Theo Johnson and Tysxun Aiolupotea dropped back-to-back triples as the usually reliable Everard Bartlett missed his chance. Timmins produced a statement dunk with just under two minutes remaining to settle the team and ensure they held a 10-point lead, but it would be the last points of the quarter for the Bulls.

Johnson sank another triple, Thomas Ingham converted two free throws, and then Karena and Ingham both added a couple of extra points to game in the last minute. In that time, the pairing of Stubbins and Bartlett could not seem to find the accuracy from long range, and the Bulls’ lead had been cut to just one at half-time.

The Giants momentum continued after the main break with Karena immediately showing why he was so dangerous, getting close to the basket with a great lay up, and then draining a two-point jump shot. The hot hands flowed onto Ingham – who was fouled by Timmins – and Brooks as the Giants had piled on 17 consecutive points across either side of the break for a seven-point advantage.

Kelman-Poto broke the five-minute scoring drought for the Bulls with an important jump shot – and the and-on conversion from the foul line. Karena was making life difficult for Franklin however, slamming home another dunk at the two-and-a-half minute mark of the term. Chris McIntosh relieved some pressure with a triple midway through the term to cut the Bulls deficit to three, but Zeb Lovell soon increased that back up by answering that with a two-pointer. The teams traded blows late in the term with Bartlett finally nailing a triple, and his second triple – with 51 seconds remaining – saw the Bulls find the form of the first term.

Trailing by four points with just over a minute remaining, Kelman-Poto, Bartlett and Connor Woodbridge added a combined seven points to regain the lead at the death by three points. It set up a huge final term between the teams with everything on the line and the crowd on the edge of their seats.

It was the Bulls who struck first blood in the final stanza with Kelman-Poto and Timmins both impressing to give Franklin a seven-point advantage. Bensemann cut that back with a triple, but Nikau McCullough responded with a nice lay up. Neither team could seemingly hit a shot over the next couple of minutes until McCullough broke the drought, this time with a triple and the Bulls were out to a nine-point lead with seven minutes to play. Karena again stood tall with a fade away jumper, but as soon as he had cut the deficit back to seven, Davidson responded with a double of his own.

Each time the Giants were in trouble, it was Karena who stepped up as he continued to drain baskets and seemingly do it all in a desperate bid to haul his team over the line. With three and a half minutes to play, he earned one last rest after the last six points for the Giants. When he returned, there was two-and-a-half on the clock and Davidson drained a jump shot to stretch the Bulls lead to five.

There was no way Karena and his side was going to fade away – apart from his jumpers – as Lovell drilled a triple, and Karena quickly added a layup after Davidson missed a two-point jumper. The Bulls looked to be struggling to find avenues to the basket with a 24-second shot clock violation expiring and the ball handed back to the Giants as they trailed by two with 44 seconds remaining. The ball landed in the hands of Ingham who took a chance at the long-range jumper but missed, and Kelman-Poto got it to Stubbins who was quickly fouled to ensure the Bulls could not take time off the clock.

After missing his first free throw, Stubbins converted the second and the lead was three with 35 seconds remaining. Ingham again had the chance for redemption, but again missed it. This time it was Davidson collecting the defensive rebound and was immediately fouled. He too went at 50 per cent from the charity stripe, but it was enough to make it a two-possession game with a four-point lead.

The pressure was now getting to the Giants with Josh Bloxham called for ball handling and turned it over, with Stubbins getting fouled and making both free throws to put the result beyond doubt – barring a miracle – with 15 seconds remaining. Ingham tried to slice up the defence with a pass but Davidson picked his pocket and with nine seconds remaining, it ensured the Bulls would get up in a massive edge-of-the-seat contest, 75-69.

Whilst Karena was the star off the boards across the game with 26 points – at 70.6 per cent efficiency – as well as seven defensive rebounds – it was the even spread of the Bulls that got them home. Davidson recorded a team-high 15 points, as well as four rebounds and two steals, whilst McCullough (11 points), Kelman-Poto (10 points, six rebounds and three assists) and Timmins (10 points, three rebounds, two assists and two steals) also reached double figures. Whilst Stubbins only shot one from four from the field, he still nailed some important free throws and had 10 rebounds to go with his five points and two assists.

Other than Karena, Ingham (eight points, nine rebounds) and Lovell (six points, six rebounds) were prominent off the boards, but the former could not find his range with just one from 13 from the field, and five turnovers. The Giants will now take on the Canterbury Rams tomorrow night, whilst the Bulls play in the earlier game against Otago Nuggets.

Nuggets bury Giants with final term flurry

OTAGO Nuggets found an extra gear when required in the final term to storm past an understrength but gallant Nelson Giants in the 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Showdown clash last night. The Nuggets pulled all the strings throughout the game, and were in control to the extent that Wednesday night’s top scorer and Most Valuable Player (MVP) Jarrod Kenny did not even attempt a shot. Instead, it was Jordan Ngatai who led the way with 23 points, as well as three rebounds, three assists and three steals, supported well by a host of teammates.

OTAGO NUGGETS 26 | 30 | 20 | 31 (107)
NELSON GIANTS 19 | 26 | 21 | 16 (82)

[ … FULL GAME STATS … ]

Despite some whispers that star Giant and Tall Blacks legend Mika Vukona might take to the court during the match, Nelson opted to let their first pick sit out and instead return for Sunday night’s clash with Manawatu Jets. Given the Giants were still missing other top three draft selections, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks, the firepower was severely impacted. Not so much for the Nuggets, fresh off a win against the Jets 24 hours earlier, as they raced away to a 26-19 lead at quarter time.

Kane Keil score the first points of the night, as he and Jordan Hunt went to work early with four points apiece leading the Nuggets to an 8-2 advantage five minutes into the term. Whilst many expected Kenny and Ngatai to do all the damage early, it was the former who opted to use his slick passing to advantage to dish off dimes to teammates, whilst the latter had just four points in the term.

Young gun Tysxun Aiolupotea was doing what he could in the first term, forcing fouls from the opposition and scoring four consecutive free throws to cut the nine-point deficit into a five-point one late in the term. Thomas Ingham‘s desperate attempt to score in the last few seconds saw him finish the term with a couple of free throws himself and his side headed in seven points behind.

Ngatai soon made his intentions known with the first five points of the second term, whilst Hunt completed the alley oop from Kenny, earned the foul and then sank the and-one opportunity. When Ngatai made it eight points for the term in less than two minutes, he and his side were in complete control and the margin had blown out to 18 points. Ingham and Nicolas Trathen tried their hand to get the Giants back into it with the next five points, but another clever layup after a steal from Keil piled on more pressure for the trailing side.

Without the Giants’ big three, Ingham and Trathen were left to pick up the slack in the first half as the pair almost exclusively piled on the points scoring 34 of the Giants’ 45 points. Trathen had 19, as well as five rebounds and an assist at the half, whilst Ingham had 15, seven and three in an equally big performance. Ngatai had started to get his hot hands going with 14 points in the term to move up to 18, as he became the predominant score alongside Hunt who had 12.

Coming out after half-time, Kenny’s refusal to put up a shot continued as he provided a neat assist to Ngatai for a layup. Otago had led by 11 at the main break thanks to a Jack Andrew buzzer beating dunk, but were not out of the woods yet. Nelson could not quite find the right formula to score enough. The game looked all but over in the third term when Richard Rodger drilled a three-point jumper with seven minutes remaining after the Nuggets had gone on a tear, scoring nine of the first points for the term.

A late inclusion into the Giants squad and wearing the injured Thane O’Leary guernsey, Josh Leger tried all he could getting into the post, visibly frustrated by the Nuggets’ defence, but he was forcing them to be accountable on that end. To that point earlier in the term, the Giants defence around the perimeter had been lax which let the Nuggets free reign at times shooting from long-range. Both Leger and Zeb Lovell were starting to work their magic and then came Riley Bensemann.

Trailing by 14 points, the Giants shooter shot back-to-back three-pointers, then handed off an assist for a Josh Bloxham three minutes later. In a remarkable turn of events, the Giants were within five points and it was a ball game. Sensing the importance of the moment, Nuggets coach Brent Matehaere called a time out and questioned the communication of his side. The pep talk worked for the last 90 seconds as they scored seven of the last nine points of the quarter to lead 78-68 at the final break.

The teams traded blows early in the final term, but once the Nuggets got going thanks to a Ngatai triple with six minutes remaining, they had control. Scoring 22 of the last 32 points, it was party time for the undefeated side as their 17-5 run in the middle of the term from that Ngatai triple ended any doubt about the winner of the contest. For the last few minutes the Nuggets starters were on the best enjoying the show as the bench players went to work padding some of their stats and working hard both defensively and offensively to send a message to the rest of the competition.

Whilst Ngatai was the star, the Nuggets had a huge amount of contributors, with Hunt (19 points, two rebounds) and Keil (11 points, four rebounds) impressing from the starting line-up. Off the bench, it was Aicheson (13 points, two rebounds) and Rodger (11 points, two assists and two steals) who scored a fair chunk of the points. The likes of Darcy Knox (eight points, six rebounds, five assists and two steals) and teenage wrecking ball, Akiva McBirney-Griffin – who claimed as many bodies on the court as he did points – played strong roles across the game.

For the Giants, Trathen (21 points, seven rebounds) and Ingham (17 points, eight rebounds) did not really add too much to their first half domination, with Bensemann’s nine points, and Aiolupotea and Lovell’s eight each the next highest for the side. Lovell also finished with seven rebounds and three assists, but it was the team turnovers that cost the Giants with 22 to 12, and whilst they had a plus six in rebounds, were minus eight in assists.

Sunday could not come fast enough for Giants fans who will welcome back Vukona with open arms. The side has been gallant without him and the other injured stars, but did not have enough class to really run out four quarters. For the Nuggets, they rest up for the week and have certainly earned it, heading 2-0 to start their 2020 campaign.

2020 Nelson Giants season preview: Triple threat Giants excited about depth

MUCH talk has been about Nelson Giants’ top three players snared in the recent 2020 Sal’s National Basketball League (NBL) Player Draft, but it is the depth in the final few rounds that head coach Mike Fitchett is just as excited about.

Mika Vukona, Mike Karena and Dane Brooks have joined forces for a formidable triple threat as the Giants stand as a clear title contender with that experience and ability both on the point-scoring and rebounding fronts. Whilst Fitchett said those three were superb players, he was astounded that he was able to pick up a couple of diamonds in the rough late in the draft.

“I didn’t expect either Thane O’Leary or Theo Johnson to be available at the 10th and 11th rounds,” Fitchett said. “To me that was crazy to be able to get them there. “I was happy to grab them though, I think they will really help us.”

The duo will join the top three with NZNBL experience, something that will be huge in the stretch considering the modified season.

“That was something we were looking for in the draft – guys with NBL experience. Mika, Dane and Mike come with that experience,” Fitchett said. “We were able to select Thane and Theo as well who also bring NBL experience. “Theo was with the Saints last year, so he brings some championship experience too.”

NELSON GIANTS TRIPLE THREAT:

Mika Vukona

The biggest name when it comes to talking about New Zealand basketball, the 38-year-old power forward is a massive influence both on and off the court for any side he represents. Vukona has a long history in both the NZNBL and Australian NBL, most recently representing the Brisbane Bullets after crossing from the New Zealand Breakers. He has represented a number of NZNBL sides, but four stints with the Giants has the club legend closely attached to the place. He will be a massive influence off the offensive boards.

Mike Karena

Joining Vukona as a dual big man threat, fellow Tall Black Mike Karena will play out of the center position and be very hard to stop standing at 210cm and 122kg. Still only 26-years-old, Karena has plenty to offer for many years to come. In the 2019 NZNBL season, the Canterbury Rams big man averaged 13.8 points and 5.4 rebounds – 3.8 of which came off the offensive boards. For the Giants to pair Karena up with Vukona allows them to have two quality big men that will be incredibly hard to move and make life difficult for opposition defences.

Dane Brooks

After playing six seasons with the Taranaki Mountainairs in the NZNBL, Brooks had opted to sign on with the Southland Sharks ahead of the 2020 season. When the Sharks announced they would not compete this year, it left the 190cm guard without a team. The Player Draft came along and somehow Brooks was still available at the Giants’ third pick which they subsequently snaffled him up. Whilst he does not have the size of his two teammates, Brooks still represents a danger across the court, averaging 12 points, 4.3 rebounds and 1.4 steals per game.

HEAD COACH MIKE FITCHETT ON HOW HE ENVISAGES THE TRIO WORKING TOGETHER:

“Mika and Mike will be great to play through in the post, they are both good scorers and facilitators inside. “Dane gives us more athleticism on the wing and also adds to Mika and Mike’s ability to crash the O (offensive) boards.”

Whilst the triple threat will be a huge concern for the opposition sides, Fitchett said monitoring the health and recovery of players with up to three games a week was key to success in the 2020 Sal’s NBL competition.

“Health is going to be a huge factor through this competition,” he said. “I anticipate changing starters, resting guys here and there and generally experimenting with line ups throughout the first half of the league, and then starting to focus in on the playoff rotation as we get closer to the end of the regular season.”

As for a few ones to watch, Fitchett said there was some promising young talents who might surprise this season with more experience in the NZNBL.

“We have a few local Nelson guys that haven’t played a huge amount in the NBL yet, so I am really looking forward to seeing what Riley Bensemann, Nic Trathen and Tysxun Aiolupotea can do in this league,” he said.

Nelson Giants tip off their season in the first game of the year against Taranaki Mountainairs from 5.30pm local time next Tuesday, June 23.

2020 SAL’S NBL NELSON GIANTS INFORMATION:

FULL LIST:

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

FIXTURE:

Tuesday June 23 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Thursday June 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm
Sunday June 28 vs Jets @ 7:30pm
Tuesday June 30 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Thursday July 2 vs Rams @ 7:30pm
Sunday July 5 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 8 vs Jets @ 5:30pm
Thursday July 9 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 12 vs Nuggets @ 7:30pm
Wednesday July 15 vs Bulls @ 7:30pm
Saturday July 18 vs Rams @ 5:30pm
Sunday July 19 vs Huskies @ 5:30pm
Wednesday July 22 vs Airs @ 5:30pm
Saturday July 25 vs Nuggets @ 5:30pm

2020 Sal’s NBL Team-by-team lists

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

Check out the full team lists below.

Auckland Huskies

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

Manawatu Jets

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

Taranaki Mountainairs 

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

Canterbury Rams

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

Nelson Giants

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

Franklin Bulls

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

Otago Nuggets

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

NZNBL Player Draft: Team-by-Team picks

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

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

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

TEAM-BY-TEAM:

Auckland Huskies:

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

Canterbury Rams:

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

Franklin Bulls: 

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

Manawatu Jets:

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

Nelson Giants:

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

Otago Nuggets:

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

Taranaki Mountainairs:

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